***Due to the lengthy nature of this month’s exercise blog, we will be splitting it up into two distinct posts. The second half will post on 7/24. ***
Support can mean many things to people, but a commonality is a desire to feel included and valued by those we love and society. When we feel pain or fear, it is human nature to crave love and encouragement. People with a history of trauma are in greater need of external sources of empathy to help jumpstart our own abilities to cultivate that loving-kindness for ourselves. Sadly, the depths and complexity of our experience can make it difficult for people, even those to whom we are most bonded, to understand and subsequently assist us during our hardship.
At the beginning of the month, four types of support systems, and one nonsupporter, archetypes were highlighted ranging from the most passive type of involvement to the most active. When you understand the mindset of someone who you might be seeking advice or support from, you can ensure that you set healthy boundaries and expectations. This will be essential for you to maintain thriver mindset and continue your path in reclaiming your going-forward story. However, it is always helpful to have a few tools to assist you in navigating these relationships. In this blog, we will cover a few exercises to help you gain more clarity and peace on how to interact with each of these supporters who might be involved in your life.
“If I can’t see it, it’s not my problem”
An ostrich is a person who may prefer not to see, let alone understand what is going on around them. This may be due to such an intense focus on their personal life, they are unable to see the struggles and needs of others. This tunnel vision may be due to an unwillingness or inability to address their pain or shortcomings and cannot thus acknowledge the hardships of anyone else. By creating a life of self-protection, they have crafted a cocoon of safety and a myopic focus that helps navigate their daily life. This exercise will work to help you make peace with their inability to sit with you during your times of need and cultivate a sense of empathy for them being haunted by their limiting beliefs.
Readings to help you understand your Ostriches
Take your journal and find a quiet space where you can read the following quotes and reflect on what they stir within you.
“Most ignorance is (culpable or obligatory) ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Aldous Huxley
“Ignorance is always afraid of change.” Jawaharlal Nehru
Think about the Ostriches in your life. Consider why they are unable to respond to your need for support. Think about the following:
· What might they be seeking to avoid in addressing this hardship?
· What might they be afraid to see if they tried to sit with you in your times of strife?
· How else does their need for self-protection effect your dynamic?
· Take a breath and consider the importance of these relationships in your life. If an ostrich is someone you can minimize contact with, you might want to choose to end this relationship. However, if an ostrich is a central figure in your life discover ways to set more effective boundaries within yourself.
· Is there any opening you can use to help gently expand their field of vision?
· What is the most important aspect of your trying moments that you would like to share with an ostrich?
End by reviewing your journal a second time, and consider what boundaries you might want to set going forward to help improve your relationship and maximize your well-being.
The person who either walks away from turmoil or feels at a loss on how to help
A bystander can cause immense sadness and frustration for a survivor during a moment of need. Although you crave a more direct response, this individual lacks the ability to provide concrete assistance. Instead of feeling rejected by them, use the following exercise to bridge the disconnect by understanding what areas of support they are most prepared to help you with and cultivating grace to ensure you don’t’ delay your path towards wholeness.
Find your voice and enunciate your needs to Bystanders!
This is an exercise that needs to be done far away from people, so take yourself to the most private space possible. When you feel comfortable that no one is around, let out a huge yell. It might seem weird, but chances are you have been holding a lot in recently. After you feel ready to stop your primal scream, take a breath, and shake out your body. Let the tension ease up from your body. Notice which areas feel looser and which areas might need more release.
Next, think about and visualize the bystanders in your life. Allow yourself to freely vent out loud the concerns you have about your dynamic. Let your subconscious flow out of you and identify areas you both need to work on. From these streams of insight write down some of the key points and clear steps your bystander can take to meet your needs. For example, if your boss continues to overlook your coworker making inappropriate comments despite your repeated complaints consider reframing the situation in a way that could better resonate with them. A bystander is often only capable of assisting in small ways, at least at first. Therefore, be clear on what needs are most important to you and vocalize simple comforts your bystander can provide. By giving them an “easy win,” a bystander can feel less intimated by your difficulties and become confident that their assistance is beneficial for you.
Driver / Passenger dynamic
The individual(s) who takes your request for assistance to a place where they attempt to solve your hardship for you on their terms, instead of creating a path forward with you.
Finding yourself in the role of passenger in navigating a hardship can trigger a sense of being victimized all over again. The person you ask to help you process your situation never intended to cause you this distress. Frequently, their anxiety stems from seeing a person they care about in pain, causing them impulsively act to create a solution that aligns with their perspective. By practicing the exercise below, you can find a sense of peace and objectivity, and help prevent unnecessary strain on the relationship like an argument or lingering resentment.
Visualize shifting gears of perspective and driving your car by controlling the controllables.
Find a space where you can be alone with your thoughts and journal. Take a breath and visualize your most pressing concerns as a vehicle. Allow yourself to picture yourself and one of your more domineering supporters going on a trip.
Begin by seeing how you both negotiate handling the trip logistics. How do you split mapping out the route? Who will pay for the gas? How will you split taking breaks along the way? Who will be the first to drive and at what point will you both swap seats? Do you have a concept of how you will handle entertainment or conversation during the journey?
How do you feel during these initial negotiations? Do you feel valued and heard, or strong-armed into a role? As you embark on the journey, do you find you are compromising more? If so, are your compromises being honored by your supporter? Continue breathing and maintain an objective lens.
When your supporter is driving the vehicle, what does your role become? Notice how respectful they are acting and what things might be coming up in conversation. Just because you happen to be a passenger right now, does not mean you have to be passive. When driving a car or boat, a pilot has to rely on others for assistance with navigation or potential hazards. In your visualization, what role do you play as a passenger? Is your supporter respectful of your insights or is there a way you can become more involved with your journey together?
Use this opportunity to highlight the ways you can create more action during your trip. This is indicative of the theme control the controllables. While you are in this passenger seat, look around and identify all the aspects you can manipulate. You might notice that you have a greater ability to improve this situation than you believe. In this dynamic, how often do you provide feedback to this “driver” about their insights on your life? Remember you don’t have to take their every suggestion. This is your life and you have the free will to tell them when its time for you to drive the vehicle!
This driver, might not be taking the route you intended, but try to see things from their viewpoint instead of your own. Just like on a trip, things don’t always go according to plan and multiple people means multiple motivations. What might be the motivations and concerns of your supporter? This person might be acting as a driver in your life because they are seeking not to control you, but control the disruption in your life. By acting as a driver, they might feel that they are helping you be less overwhelmed and able to rest a bit. During these moments as a passenger, consider bringing up these concerns in conversations. Listen to the insight your supporter shares with you and honor any images that might arise for you.
End your exercise by noting down all the impressions, images, and messages you gained during the visualization. Write down the areas you can control even when you don’t feel like you are in the driver seat. Remember when you can control the controllables, you can gain the strength to gain a more active role in this dynamic. Finally, write down the areas where you are grateful for the effort and perspectives of your driver. It is important to reinforce the ways they give you helpful support so your relationship can flourish and avoid any sense of resentment.
Again, due to the weighty nature of understanding and better engaging with all types of supporters, we separated this month’s exercise blog into two posts. In this half, we focused on nonsupporters and more passive archetypes. Handling challenging support systems can be incredibly stressful. Thankfully there are individuals that we can find more reliable. We are excited for you to visit us again on July 24th to learn more about active supporters and how you can get more involved with people and causes that matter most to you. In the meantime, reach out to us via email, our social media channels, or leaving us a blog comment on how you are working to strengthen relationships with your difficult supporters.