Supportive Relationships: Tag, you’re it!

Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

In my study of resilience I found 3 core themes: 1. Internal – sense of self-mastery and transcendent connection, 2. External – supportive relationships, and 3. Process – the practices, habits, etc. We ALL need supportive relationships, so how do we become the best we can be for others when they need us?

I have spent many hours in counselling over the years and a few of them were excellent, though not all.  Excellence aside, there can never be enough counsellors employed to deal with the real pandemic that is growing under the surface of society today: mental health. Recent stats suggest 1/2 of us are wrestling these days, thats a big number.

I don’t think I have all the answers here, but I’m willing to start the discussion by relating a few experiences. In the work I have done to coach resilience in others, the following basic principles have proven to be invaluable:

  1. Freedom – We often lose hope when we feel that are backed into a corner and/or have lost power over our circumstances. However, Viktor Frankl  (Jewish Psychologist and Auschwitz survivor) reminds us that there is a final human freedom, and that no one can take it away from us: our ability to respond to life. This freedom to choose removes the victim mindset that often leads to despair and even suicide.
  2. Transcendence – Anyone that feels alone in their struggle is going to be less resilient than if they understand their connection to something / someone larger themselves. In AA tradition this can even be achieved through placebo effect of any identified higher power – but it need not be placebo. The detail evident with design elements throughout creation points to intentionality. Therefore connection to something larger is very real, all that lacks is an awareness of it.
  3. Acceptance – Denial of the circumstances that exist is not helpful in creating real, workable solutions or alternatives. If choices can be made based in an acknowledgement of the truth that is, then the outcomes have a chance of achieving meaningful change. In other words, Bad data, bad decisions.
  4. Ownership – We should refrain from making decisions for others; from telling them what they should do. We can’t own the consequences of their decisions, only they can. If I have coached you, you most likely have heard me speak this very thing to you. I believe that it is a matter of respect. Whenever I cross that line I realize that I have taken ownership of someone else’s life and situation, and that is not helpful to either of us.
  5. Listening – This might sound cliche, and you may be thinking, “of course”, but it is a skill to develop deep listening. More often than not we are forming responses so that we are ready to fill any awkward spaces that might pop up in the discussion. Listening to understand and then affirm understanding (active listening) does not come naturally optimal to any of us.
  6. Hope – Inspire it through truthful encouragement, never flattery. There is a gap that exists between expectation and reality, and that gap is called dissonance. We don’t do well with dissonance. The bigger the gap, the more discouraged we can be. I think that we often set expectations that transformation of any can can be more instant that what is truly possible. Miracles aside, I have experienced transformation to be more incremental than instant.
  7. Love – Unconditional, and without judgment. We can’t take ownership of another’s life, but loving support is hard to beat, and why do we hold back from telling people we “love” them? It’s a biblical commandment, but if you speak it people get squirrely and uncomfortable as if you just asked them on a date. 🙂
  8. Prayer – Either there is a Creator that has provided us the ability to love and care for us that flows from the SOURCE, or we are on our own. For a bit more on this check out my recent post on Truth (and love) HERE. If their is, why wouldn’t we pray?

We all need it; supportive relationships — 1/2 of us need it right now. If you don’t need it today, chances are you will soon. That’s the beauty of reciprocity in community. There need be no shame or pride – just service.