What does it mean to be supportive?
Life threw me a pretty big curve ball this past week…the way life is apt to do. And for a few moments I got caught in my tornado again. That feeling of being tossed about and everything is spinning and you’re trying desperately to hold on, but you can’t find the ground beneath your feet. I felt that panic attack coming on and I did everything in my power to fend it off. I just needed some space from everyone and some quiet time to process it all.
I fought my mind that wanted to just get caught up in the storm and reminded it of what Andrew Kun, a wise teacher of mine once said… “Find the eye of the storm and take refuge there.” (Eternal gratitude for that wisdom Andrew) I don’t think he realizes how much his words have helped me over the years. For I force myself to stand still amidst the chaos that arises and I take stock of what’s flying around and then I start anchoring things down. I create a plan. And as I do… The winds start to die down and the storm abates.
That’s support… Simple words spoken with the intention of giving a different perspective. Not direction. Not obligation. Not instruction. Not judgement. Not trash-talking. But rather an alternate option that I might consider should I choose to. Words that turn into a resource if applied.
I have had friends call and ask what they can do. And there’s really nothing that they can do. But that call is support. That call is often enough… Knowing I’m loved and cared for is support. This is my storm. I have to weather it. But knowing that there is shelter available is comfort enough. They didn’t tell me what they think I should do. They didn’t tell me what they think I did wrong or why the situation was messed up… They just offered to stand there, ready, should I need them for anything.
We often want to be supportive. We don’t like seeing our loved ones hurt. But we offer support from our own perspective for that is what we know. What would we want in this situation? What do we think is supportive? It would be more impactful if we asked them what they needed. Everyone processes life differently. Someone might need a hug. Someone else might need to be left alone. Someone else might want to talk about it. Sometimes we might want to do all three… But at our own pace. When we feel ready.
So if you have a loved one who’s going through a tough time… Be supportive by asking them what they need. And be respectful of that response. If they don’t want your hug when you first offer it, don’t take it personally. You’re supporting them. It’s about what they need, not what you think they need. They may still want that hug… Just at a later time. Just be unconditionally ready for when they do.