August 2, 2009
One of the factors that determines how well we cope with stress is the extent and connection of our support system. Family, friends, co-workers,mentors, and health professionals (spiritual, mental, and physical) all provide the assistance we need to deal with life's daily upsets as well as with major traumatic events and personal grief. The level to which we unburden ourselves on others can become unhealthy if taken to either extreme. While relying too much on the web of caring indivudlas who make up our community can leave us unpracticed in making our own decisions, feeling insecure, or out of control of our own lives, not taking the time to confide in another person puts us at greater risk for mental and physical health concerns, a sense of isolation, and limits our ability to truly develop sympathetic relationships with others. Finding a true balance will allow us to gain strength from those who hold our best interests at heart, who may be able to approach our own volatile emotional situations more dispassionately and provide us with much-needed objectivity. The best support comes from relationships that allow individuals the opportunity to make their own decisions but honestly reflect back the consequences of those decisions, for good or ill.
As a member of someone else' s support network, it can be challenging to provide love and support without judging, without overstepping boundaries in an attempt to help and without taking their problems on yourself or seeing them through the filters of your own subjective experiences. In many ways, though, having an opinion or a past experience that colors your interactions can be a positive thing, if you are able to frame your conversations in a way that best benefits the person seeking your advice and you don't get caught up in your own issues. Bringing a calm, nonjudgemental but differing viewpoint to the table can offer wonderful insights to the person struggling with the problem. In the end, everyone has to make their own decisions, in their own time. Just as you could not force someone to take care of themselves physically, you also can not force them to take care of their heart and soul, no matter how pure your intentions. The best you can do is to provide the support and unconditional love that will help them make the deicions that are right for them as you maintain a healthy distance that is right for you.
Seeking balance is never easy and there are many opportunities to fall out of equilibrium, many issues of our own that we deal with when watching a loved one. However, the perpetual exercise of returning to center ourselves strengthens our ability to take care of those around us when they need us most.