I just read a beautiful post on Sober Mommies about the value and importance of reaching out for support, and the way that in sharing your own struggles, you can help and inspire others as well.
So many people think they shouldn’t share their problems, or reach out to ask for help, especially when it comes to addiction and stress. We live in a society that promotes mindless consumption as an economic model, where alcohol is promoted as a wonderful stress reliever and social lubricant, and life is fast paced and frantic for many. Admit that you have a problem with alcohol, or stress, and it feels like you are failing and somehow not living up to society’s standards.
A society that thrives on pain
Society’s standards are, let’s be honest, a little messed up. When we are encouraged to work mind numbing, soul crushing, energy stealing jobs so we can pay for things we don’t need, that are destroying the planet’s finite resources, ruining our health and happiness. We are told that happiness is always just out of reach, we have to buy this one more thing…then the next…and the next…
Relaxation is presented to us in the form of more consumption, ‘unwinding’ at the end of the hard day with a bottle of wine (or more), staring at the TV or Facebook and numbing the pain away.
Surely that is a sign of a society in crisis, not standards we should be living up to.
Suffering has been normalised and commodified in the modern world, and we are not meant to admit that we are struggling. The shame that is heaped on alcoholics, or people with mental health disorders, is shocking and distressing. People who are in pain and suffering should never be made to feel bad for their pain. Support and empathy is what is needed, not derision and shame.
In this lovely post, this contributor shares how seeing a friend reach out, share her pain and ask for help, helped her as well.
Can you meet vulnerability with empathy
We are meant to support and care for one another. That means listening and empathising when someone is suffering. Sitting with someone, hearing their words and letting them know that you care, that you are willing to be with them in their suffering. It is not about trying to solve their problems, it is about being with them, not judging them, and simply supporting them as they move through their pain, and work out their own solutions. As the writer of this post says “I don’t need anyone else to clean up my mess or put me back together again. I just need to allow people to love me where I’m at, help prevent me from going backwards, and stand by me as I get myself to where I need to be.”
Brene Brown teaches us that empathy is not trying to fix a person or feeling sorry for them, which, while well meaning, can be demeaning and unempowering, empathy is saying ‘I get it, I will be with you while you work this out’. It is empathy that people are seeking when they share their problems, and it is why 12 step fellowships work, because in a meeting you are surrounded by people who can hear your story and say ‘yeah, me too‘. We know from the recent Hollywood sex scandal that there is tremendous power in those words, that hearing ‘Me Too’ empowers other to speak out, to look at their lives, and to feel safe to share their story.
When you see your friend sharing their problems on social media, don’t roll your eyes and think ‘oh look, they’re complaining again’. Stop and think. They might be in pain and seeking someone to be with them in that pain. And they might, in their sharing, be helping others who are suffering in similar ways, but haven’t found the courage to share. Finding the courage and vulnerability required to share your fears, pain and self doubt is no small feat, as the increasing number of people blogging about their struggles with addiction, mental illness, domestic abuse and much more will testify.
Self compassion, the magic ingredient
Brene Brown tells us that we can only ever love or feel compassion for another as much as we have it for ourselves. So self love and compassion is the vital first ingredient in the development of compassion for others.
In this free training webinar, I share 5 ways you can develop greater self compassion and forgiveness. This is crucial first step for all healing and growth, and the foundation to healthier relationships.
The webinar is available when you are ready to watch it, to access the training, you simply need to register below.
Thanks for the cover image to rawpixel.com