Resiliency Blog Part 5: Social Support
One of the 5 Core Resiliency Factors
Written by Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP
Drawn from Dr. J. Eric Gentry’s Professional Resiliency and Optimization Training and used with his permission.
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong; And I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on; For it won’t be long; ‘Til I’m gonna need; Somebody to lean on”
It never ceases to amaze and humble me how much I need other people. I am a fairly independent woman and I also identify as an introvert. As much as I sometimes try to convince myself that I would be happiest if I lived alone in a cabin deep in the woods when I feel overwhelmed with life, I know that this is false. I would be desperately miserable and lonely.
We humans are hard-wired to need and provide connection, love, and support. Whether you believe we are a result of creation or evolution, the outcome is still the same in this particular debate. World religions all place value on relationships that we have with our fellow man and woman and provide philosophies for how to treat each other. In the field of mental health, studying relationships and how they work is largely built on the idea of attachment. Simply put, attachment is another word for relationship. (If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out the work of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, and Stephen Porges. If you want to specifically learn about intimate relationships, I recommend looking at the research put out by John and Julie Gottman and Sue Johnson).
As a counselor, I spend a good chunk of my work day talking about relationships and assisting my clients bolster secure and healthy attachments. When I leave my office, I continue to engage with my personal relationships. Relationships are everywhere and important, but, you may be wondering how relationships fit into the concept of resiliency.
Life has its ups and downs. We will all experience heartache, pain, set-backs, and loss along the way. We do not have to go it alone. It can be incredibly cathartic to share our pain with another or simply be held when the tears keep pouring out. Often times, when someone we love is experiencing pain, our first reaction is to try to take their pain away or to offer advice about how to eliminate it. This is where our good intentions often go wrong. Unfortunately, we cannot remove emotional pain. We, can, however, offer comfort. One of the best ways you can support others is to simply be there in a self-regulated body and communicate your love. If you are ever not sure how to be most helpful, just ask.
When we are the ones who need to be supported, we have the tough job of training others how we can best receive it. Do you need practical help to accomplish household tasks or chores? What about a fun distraction, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on? I encourage you to identify what you need when you are hurting and to be explicit about asking for it.
Additionally, relationships can help hold us accountable when we are trying to create meaningful and sustaining changes in our life. Try identifying a few people in your life whom you trust and ask them to serve as an accountability partner (Hint: they may be the same people who you shared your Mission Statement with!). Give these folks permission to call you out when you are acting out of alignment with your values and principles. And, even harder, when they do so, remember that you asked them to! (J. Eric Gentry offers additional insight in his book “Forward Facing Trauma Therapy: Healing the Moral Wound.)
We are all in this journey called life together. May you gain strength from others as well as offer comfort and love to your companions along the way.
Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP has over a decade of experience working in the mental health field. Her professional interests include: promoting resiliency, trauma recovery, anxiety, depression, and couples counseling. Following her passions, she completed advanced training to become a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional (CCFP). As a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling at the University of Montana, she balances her studies, a part-time private counseling practice, and psychometry work. Additionally, Julie facilitates parent education and compassion fatigue seminars. She can often be found along a mountain trail with her beloved husband and dogs.
Missed some of our resiliency series?
Bonus content: "Just Breathe"
Stay tuned for the final piece coming 9/21/17