Life is really tough! It is vital to each of us to build an emotional support system or team to help us get through hard times.
What an Emotional Support System Looks Like
A couple of times a month, I have the opportunity to get together with a group of really great teenagers to discuss living a better life and lifting those around us as we are lifted. Does that sound deep? Well it is. I learn a lot from these amazing folks.
A few weeks ago we were discussing building unity within our families and community. We started by carefully choosing a block from a box. Some of us changed our minds several times before settling on the shape and color that suited us.
Then we set to work building together. We each gave up our block to build our masterpiece. It turned out fantastic!! Each person could readily identify their own block within our creation because we had spent so much time picking it out. We talked about how the solid red block forming the base was just as important as the fancy one on the top.
We compared the block that we had chosen to our personal set of gifts that make up who we are. They are the talents that we share with one another to support each other. From those folks in our family and community, we gain support in one way or another.
Who is Your Emotional Support System?
Here at Montana Bowl of Cherries, we also recently began to put together a phone list of people in our life that we can call on when depression and anxiety are winning. Here is how we determined that list;
- They are people that we already interact with regularly.
- We chose people who are already aware of the issues that we are facing.
- Each person was specifically asked if they were all right with receiving a text or call when or before a situation became desperate. If that thought was scary for them, we didn’t add them to our list.
Not all the people on this list are family, many are friends. We have found that most on our emotional support system don’t wait for us to initiate the contact. They check in several times a week, making us part of their support system as well. Not all of the folks on our list live in our area. We are building an emotional support system that has many layers.
Understand the Role of Each Member of Your Support System
Just as each block was different and held a different place in our masterpiece, each person in our support system has a different role. It is important to understand that role and those gifts of the people we surround ourselves with.
Some people are just fun to be around. They aren’t necessarily the people who would be safe with our really personal issues but we need the people who make us laugh. Don’t discount those folks; they are the ornamental blocks on top of our masterpiece.
We also need people who are rock solid. Some keep confidences. Others “listen without fixen”. Many have had experiences that allow them to relate to our issues. One or two give useful advice to problems or in some cases parrot our advice back to us. That is a valuable gift and allows us to see a problem from the outside. A different perspective is important.
Many times the people in our emotional support system need to be professionals, health or legal or ecclesiastical. If one or more professionals are part of your life, consider sharing with them the fact that you are building an emotional support system.
Know the role that each person in your emotional support system plays. It breaks relationships to expect someone to share a gift that they don’t have. At the same time, putting someone in a category and not allowing them to grow out of that category also breaks relationships. Relationships grow and change. People move in and out of our lives. Allow change.
Build an Emotional Support System That WORKS
One question that I often think about is “How will we measure success?”. We set goals, evaluate often and change goals as needed. Sometimes the goals are almost impossible so we set goals to get us to those goals and we try again. We share those goals and the measurements for them with different members of our support system.
Evaluating daily, even hourly on hard days, helps us to know how well our support system is working. It helps us keep on track with our goals and to learn how to measure progress, success and even failures.
We all need one another. In our post Helping an Older Person Live Independently, I referenced John Donne’s 1624 poem entitled “No Man is an Island.” Mensa for kids does a good job of interpreting this poem here. I really like how this writing, which is actually a part of a series of essays, explains how we need each other. We can grow and heal only with help and by help from those around us. Building an emotional support system that works depends on choosing to surround ourselves with people who can find value in us. We all need each other to build our masterpiece. Who is on your team?