The Importance of Support Systems - By Liz Liano

What is a support system?

A support system is the people you know you can rely on for emotional support in times of stress or tension in your life. These people can be anyone in your life - your parents, best friend, people in a support group, classmates, cousins, etc. The main thing is that both parties are mutually in belief that them supporting you is useful for you. If both parties mutually support each other, that’s wonderful- but necessary for your entire support system. For example, it is not necessary that you equally support your therapist, but might be helpful if you equally support your best friend.

To utilise support systems to the best of your ability, openness is crucial. if you are willing to be open and honest with your support system about your situations. This is important so they know best how to approach the situation. It is also helpful to be open with them about what exactly it is that you need from them; how can they best support you?

For many people, part of their support foundations are either their parents or best friend. it would be common for a crisis to occur and ask primarily for a listening ear, so that they can verbally process the situation. one of the best ways, for many people, to process situations is to speak about them and find sense along talking.

What else can a support system do?

In times of more extreme crisis, you might need a more specialised support group. if one is thinking about suicide, or has been through a sexual assault, or another crisis situation that is less common for ‘most people’ (or at least less common for most people to talk about) then perhaps it might be helpful to engage in a support group or talk therapy. This kind of support can help to spurn the kind of deeply negative thinking that may happen as a brain struggles to make meaning and attempts to cope through an incident. One’s best friend or family member might mean well in giving advice in crisis situations, but might accidentally exacerbate such negative thought spirals in saying something from a normative perspective. For example, in a case of depression, a friend trying to be helpful might offer the advice to ‘exercise more’. and though this is helpful on some level, it might not quite get to the core of the issue that their friend is facing, so then might not truly be adequate support.

So many people have benefited greatly from talk therapy or group therapy. this kind of specialised support can provide a kind of solidarity that may not always be experienced with other parts of a support system. It is not a necessity, but is helpful when your foundational support system does not have both the experience in what you are facing and the knowledge on how to cope with it in the most healthy way.

Why do we need support systems?

Is it possible to be just independent and face things on our own? absolutely. The question behind that is, why would we choose to? Studies show that collectivist societies show less stress and depression than individualistic societies. This might be because they allow themselves to be more open with a collective, and therefore feel less alone and less like they have a mountain of problems that they must face on their own. More-so, when we have pain that doesn’t get talked about, it is logical for us to think that there is something wrong with our pain- that there is something shameful and that is why it is not being talked about. Talking about things with other people helps us stay free of shame and maintain a clarity and comfort within ourselves.

If you don’t have a support system, how do you create one?

Hmm, how do you connect to other people in a way meaningful enough for you to feel supported and less alone? The easiest answer is to start talking with someone you know and take the risk of being vulnerable. Not everyone can be a part of your support system. and if people are a part of your support system, they should know and be consenting of this (not necessarily explicitly so, but they should be consenting of spending time and listening to you). This is not always easy, but with every worthwhile task, you have to start somewhere.

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