Building Community can be hard when you are in the broken space, but community is another piece needed for healing. Many things that break us, tend to isolate us. Secrets we are told to keep from abuse. Separation from others in domestic violence. Relationships torn from addiction. Shame, blame, guilt are things that keep us from having open health relationships.
Even small changes can create drastic changes in our support system. A job change can change the people we are used to sharing life with. As children grow up, the parents that we were often connected with over our children can grow more distance. Parent’s illnesses, memory and death can create a separation from our normal support. As families grow, just the business of life can make the support system we grew up with more segregated due to distance and busy schedules.
With all of the things that compete against connection, how do we build community, especially a healthy one? As a social worker, I immediately think of a tool called an Ecomap that I would often do with people to help the really look at their support system. For a brief moment, grab a piece of paper and in the middle write ME. If you want to right under your name, add the area that you need healing to come (You don’t have too, but it can be an added step to help in healing.) Circle your name and if you added the healing area make the circle big enough to include that.
Then on the same page, start writing down the names of those that you turn to most often. Include friends, family, coworkers, classmates writing them around the ME circle, Be specific if you can. Then add places you frequently spend time where there are others, like work, school, church, the gym, the bar, etc. Add professional and community support – counselors, lawyers, probation officers, sponsors, case worker, and support groups. Include anyone or any place that is part of your life. You can put a circle around each of these too.
If you don’t have many circles on your page. It is okay, do not let your mind tell you that it isn’t okay. Sometimes having too many people on the page doesn’t mean you have any better support than someone who has it filled. If you want more supports, than make that a goal you work towards, but don not turn it into a negative right now. You are working on your healing!
The next part can take a little more time and thought. Don’t rush it. You want to really think about your relationship with each of the people or groups listed in the other circles. You can look at it generally, or if you are ready to start making changes towards healing can look at the relationship and how each of the circles supports your healing goals. If you feel like the name in the circle is a strong support of you healing draw a solid line between the ME circle ——- and that name. If sometimes it is a support and sometimes it is not draw a dotted line between ME – – – – – – and that other name. If the relationship is a source of stress or lacks support for your healing draw a /\/\/\/\/\/\ line between the ME circle and the other name.
If you don’t have any solid lines between you and any of the supports you listed, are there any that are dotted that could be strengthened? Maybe it is not a solid support because the business of life, maybe you need to be intentional in that relationship. If you don’t feel they can be strengthened, where might you find people who could support your healing? You may need to start with a professional counselor in your area or a support group, like Celebrate Recovery (It is not just for addicts!) to get you on the right path. People in your area can help connect you with other health support systems because professionals are there for a short period and are not meant to be your long-term support.
The other thing to ask about the people that you have a dotted line relationship with, is are there things that you are doing that foster the change in support. I will give an example, I have a tendency to have very strict boundaries, I am very private (Except when I am not – usually because I am meeting someone where they are trying to help), and I can tend to drain myself with giving which causes me to retreat more that I should. In addition, I have a hard time expressing my needs in the moment. This can certainly cause issues as others can interpret those behaviors that I don’t need or want their help, or that I don’t want a supportive relationship with them. Another example would be a person who wants too much from a single person, where you expect all your needs (Orthe majority of them) to be met by one person. If you see your part in why a relationship is not as strong as it could be, acknowledge your part, apologize, and work to do better. If you are not able to do this yet, talk to a counselor and start working through those behaviors so that you can learn new coping skills.
Those relationships that are a source of support or lack support need to be evaluated closely. Some you may need to end. Others you may need to distance yourself from until you can determine how to handle the relationship. It may be that you need to heal before you can decide what to do in that relationship. Still other relationships you may just need to discuss in love how you feel and seek support in learning how to rebuild that relationship in a healthy manner. There is no right answer for those relationships. I have had to do each of those at time through my healing process, and sometimes I have had to go back an undo wrong decisions. I have thought I needed to break off a relationship and what I needed was time to heal so that I could have good boundaries in my interaction with another.
You may have some relationships that you feel are neutral. It is okay you have whatI would call acquaintances that you have relationship with but where your problems, nor thiers are really the focus of the relationhsip. We were made for community. We were made to need others. Even if you are by nature more of an introvert, you still need people. There is strength found in numbers.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
In building your community it is helpful to explore what you already have. Cultivating what is already a support for you is a great place to start. Then focusing on what relationships can be strengthened taking intentional action or looking at your own actions to see how you might be contributing towards the level of support you have. At times, you may need to engage professional support through your community in building your community. Professinals can help you explore what other resources you may have available, but may also help as you work towards evaluting the relationship you have that are stressful or completely lack support for your healing. The goal is to build a community that helps strengthen you as you heal.
This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.