Month: February 2019

7 Guidelines when Choosing Your Support System

We go on and on about support systems – the people who help us stay upright and heal when we would rather lie down in a dark room and disappear from life’s unceasing glare.

But WHO are these people? HOW are we supposed to pick the best for us?

Have you heard that we evolve – change almost completely – every 7 years? Well, obviously our core does not change unless we conciously decide to change it. But imagine yourself at age 7, then compare to age 14, and compare 14 to 21. 21 to 28, 28 to 35. See!

Then imagine you need totally different things and people during each period.

I have found myself looking for support many times through the course of life. Here are 7 things I have learnt about support systems.

1. Should know and seek to understand you

To start with, we should know ourselves so well, we can recognize those who truly like us as we are. Those who respect our boundaries. And those who trust our intentions.

An understanding friend will heal you quicker than a constant judge.

I once knew someone who interpreted all my dysfunctional actions and words in the most un-generous terms. It almost pushed me into a mental breakdown. It eventually triggered me to start working on myself to avoid future misunderstandings. You see, when you grow up or share a home with dysfunction, you become a little ‘weird’. Dysfunctional, to say the least.

Be aware that you will do or say things, that other people will have a difficult time understanding because they do not understand your ‘ways of hiding in plain sight’. Especially those who have not experienced your variation of dysfunction and trauma.

Those who know you, like you, respect you and trust your intentions will understand that you don’t mean harm. Especially when your actions and words can easily be misinterpreted as danger by the ever watchful and fearful amygdala.

If you are unlucky, you will be surrounded by people who use your dysfunctional words and actions to trigger you into more of the same negativity. Tragically, this would make you even more dysfunctional.

2. Should allow you space to grow

You will change, make decisions, and most importantly, you will make mistakes. Find people who allow you to do so without encumbering you with judgement, shame or guilt.

We all have that bestie, BFF from nursery school who loves us to bits and knows everything about us. Or about the person we were during the teenage years? Avoid those besties who say “YOU HAVE CHANGED SOOO MUCH!” as if change was a bad thing. Your support system should be evolving with you. Otherwise, set them free to evolve with someone else. If you don’t, you will be feeling like you used to be a good person and are becoming a bad person as you mature and evolve. Not a good recipe for growth!

3. Should not constantly give you unsolicited advice

Yes, you heard right. As an adult, if you do not ask for advice, it means you do not need it. If you need advice, you ask for it. Simple equations that don’t need Einstein.

You know when you are an adult? And you are blessed with that wonderful mother? Bless her heart, she always knows best what you are supposed to be doing? With whom, at what times? Be wary of that! It can keep you stagnating for the best part of your twenties.

The best support systems trust and believe in your ability to make decisions for yourself. Of course, a good support system will ask you questions. Challenge you to provide scenarios that confirm to yourself that you are thinking right. They will give you tips. Connect you with those who may support your decisions and goals.

All, without hijacking the plan or the process. They support you to figure it out by yourself, while keeping an open-door-policy. For when you will surely need someone to tell you that your heart was in the right place. Even though the result did not turn as expected.

Because acting on our decisions, and failing sometimes, is the only way we learn to trust ourselves and to own our journeys.

4. Should have your best interests in mind and at heart

I wish we all had this friend. The one that searches you out after a particularly bad episode of whatever it is you have done. They sit with you alone. Discreetly. Without informing the whole ‘friends-gang’. The friend who asks you if you may need some help. Because they felt that you were going through a hard time. And they knew where you could get some help. That he/she had already checked, and the help you needed was available.

This is the person you want in your corner – once you forgive them for their audacity.

5. Should already have forgiven you

A support system that has forgiven you for those mistakes you have already made. And for the mistakes you are going to make in future.

Don’t misunderstand me, they hold you accountable. They are up-front when you cross lines. But they are not judging you, and making you live in constant apology and self-defense.

If you find yourself with people to whom you must defend yourself for every little thing. To apologize for every miss-step. You are in trouble because this can consume so much of your energy, it makes you unable to spend energy on the important things in your life. Like healing.

6. Should not be competing with you

They are walking beside you, supporting you on your journey as you support them on theirs. You are happy for each other when things go well. And supportive when things go awry – as they will sometimes do.

The ones competing with you will display jealousy, envy and will be your worst judges and critics. They will parade your mistakes, describing them as your character. Or use your weakest moments against you, to win small battles. They may even use your need for healing in their popularity contests, where they show themselves to be better than someone else. You in this case. And they will do it whichever way they can.

7. Should respect you

Obviously, to be able to respect you, they have to have some respect for themselves. Duh!

Remember :

If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s

and

Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.

Miguel Angel Ruiz’s

Where respect is lacking, there can be NO:

  • love.
  • support.
  • healing.
  • growth.

Chasing un-available people? It can stress you into a depression!

There is this thin line between regular positive stress, chronic stress and depression. Positive stress can egg you on to positive action. Chronic stress can paralyze your ability to make decisions and depression definitely blinds you to your options, making it impossible to make a decision. Usually, we do not even notice when we cross from the one to the other. Which is dangerous because we then could miss critical signals that are meant to remind us to slow down, back off or seek help.

A friend narrated how his journey to depression began and escalated without him noticing.

He fell in love.

It was like a storm. One day he was happily enjoying not being in love, living for himself, having no plans – the next week he was planning for 30 years ahead. But the woman was not making the same plans – at least not with him.

She had been married before, an abusive marriage according to her. They had recently separated. He felt she was a little insensitive and lacking in empathy. He thought she was being cautious. Abusive relationships can do that to the best of us.

The relationship started with warmth, laughter and chemistry. And it ended within weeks – with silences, unanswered messages, ignored calls and dates that were not kept.

“Let’s meet tomorrow!” She would say.

And then she would not answer his messages or calls for 3 days.

He thought she needed support – after all, she had gone through a lot in her abusive relationship. So he kept reaching out. And she kept ignoring him.

He became stressed out. Had difficulties focusing on anything else. Kept checking his phone. Started stalking her online. Became sad when he saw she was still updating her social media

If she has time to post a photo on social media, she would have time to reply to ONE of my messages; right?

When she posted a photo with her ex, he started feeling the rejection. Became sad and cried himself to sleep. No, of course not, men do not cry. He did not fall asleep at all. Or, he fell asleep and woke up at 4am – the mind working through the whys.

He talked to his friends – without telling them all he was feeling. They told him to forget her.

“There are many fish in lake Victoria!”

The thing is, he did not love her that much at all. But the way she treated him triggered the fears and sadness only rejection can trigger. And because he did not recognize this, he went on thinking he was in love and he wanted her – her and nobody else.

It ended with him focusing a lot of his mental energy and emotions on her, and she continued rejecting him even more. Sometimes she spent the night with him, only to leave the next morning and continue ignoring him. He started to miss work. Or leave work early. When he stayed at work, he performed half-assedly, because he could not focus. Especially if she had taken the 2 minutes it took to reply to his message and hinted that she may be able to drop by his place. He did not want to miss the chance. Maybe this was the chance for him to get her to commit to him.

All this time, she was strategizing on how to get back to her abusive dysfuntional marriage. He was just a distraction. 10 months later, when he learnt she had gotten back together with the guy who ‘abused’ her, he was crashed.

He couldn’t get out of bed to get to work. He lost his job. In Kenya, you loose your job without notice. There are many others waiting for that job.

He went out with his friends to have a drink though. He was angry, confused, bitter and he needed answers. No answers were forthcoming. She had blocked him so he could not even contact her anymore.

“Women are horrible!” He told himself and his friends. They agreed. But that did not heal his hurt heart.

A little stress had turned into chronic stress and worry and into deep sadness. 6 months later, he was drinking too much and unable to find another job. He moved back to his parents house, aware that this was not a move that would win her back. Even if she was available. He was a looser, he told himself. That is why she had not wanted him in the first place.

Depression set in.

When do you think he should have realized that this relationship was a dead end? What should he have done at that time? Why didn’t he realize it in time, or at all?

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