When times are tough do you tend to want space and time alone to process, or do you want to be surrounded by your people?
I think it’s a really interesting concept – what is the best way to be supported?
We know self support and community support are both very important, I heard on a podcast recently that being lonely is worse for your health than smoking 17 cigarettes a day?! I was blown away by that. At the same time if we rely too much on others we can feel like a buoy in the ocean being tossed about depending on other’s ability to hold space, their schedules and emotional states, rather than finding our own anchor.
Over the years in the therapy and personal development world there was a lot of emphasis on ‘doing it yourself’; healing, growing and evolving by yourself. However, since we have understood more about trauma and how nervous system regulation affects our emotional and physical states, this view has been updated. We now know that co-regulation is crucial to regulate our emotional states and nervous system. Co-regulation means ‘sharing your state with another’, for example I lean my head on my partner’s shoulder and feel his breath and heartbeat, which makes my body relax and calm down in response.
My experience with self and community support
Previously I would rely hugely on others for support and guidance. I would poll people when making an important decision (asking them what they think I should do) and when I was going through a hard time, e.g. relationship issues, I would discuss it with my people, one after the other for hours and hours. This was exhausting and unhelpful; it was a clear sign I didn’t trust my own judgement or intuition. The result was I kept reliving the problem, I kept the stress hormones flooding around my body and my nervous system remained dysregulated while I was trying to access support.
More recently I’ve found myself leaning in the other direction, when hard life stuff happens I sometimes choose not to share it with many people and rarely discuss it. At this stage in my life I intuitively know what’s best for me and I am not available for the emotional rollercoaster that opening my toughest challenges up to many people can involve. I’ve also developed lots of tools to take care of myself, reparent myself and I am my own best guide and biggest supporter.
These are two quite extreme examples, I’ve had a whole world of support experiences that include very positive community support, and times when I have tried to support myself too much and suffered feelings of isolation. Like most things it seems to be a balance.
Depending on what challenges you are dealing with, and the network of people you have around you, I think there is a path that gives you the benefits of both self support and community support. However I do think it’s important to develop both parts, to learn how to deeply support yourself and to build a network of safe people that you can turn to.
Can you guess what my suggestions on this topic are going to be?….You got it, listen to your own inner guidance to show you what you need, and it will probably be different for each life challenge you face.
Points to consider:
- If you are relying heavily on your community for support, check in with yourself to see if you are creating a cycle of nervous system activation by repeating your issue on a loop. This is very common when you have experienced trauma and, in my experience, it is not very helpful over time.
- If you are a fan of self support, check in with yourself to ensure you are not isolating in a way that adds to your challenges. Do you have at least 1 or 2 close confidents who you can call on for support when needed? If not, I highly recommend creating a trusted group, and/ or working with a therapist or coach.
- Know you may need different kinds of support depending on what you challenges you are facing, so be flexible.
- If you are going through a really hard time right now, do not use this information to judge yourself negatively. When the time is right these ideas may help to make adjustments to improve your experience – that is all, you are doing your very best and I applaud you!
As always, I’m sending you so much love xx
From my heart to yours on the blog
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