One of my favorite types of movie magic formulas is when the protagonist decides he or she needs to form a team. We get a slick montage where all of the different elements are layered on- the muscle, the brains, the face, and not to be undervalued- the humorous yet slightly unstable member. I have always loved the concept of organizing a group of specialists to tackle a problem. Having others with abilities that fill the gaps in ours. With an elite super force you can vanquish any foe (we are talking internal here) or overcome any challenge. When you are assembling a support network- the same formula works. Get excited about the process. Chart it out. Use Dry erase boards, set up a situation room with maps, anything to make you feel like you are unveiling a master strategy.
When I began my first calls were to 2 friends. One who was my oldest friend in life, not necessarily closest at that time. However I knew he had been through a situation as challenging and similar as mine, and had values I could trust. My friend was sympathetic and immediately wanted to help. He tried to remember things that had helped him, promised to remember others, and was a confidant. Perhaps the most important feeling this provided me was that finally, someone knew I was in trouble. That I was in a situation that I did not know if I could fully deal with. Occasional check in calls became the norm, and they were always perfectly timed. Next was a college friend whom lived nowhere near me. This was vital because it was another connection I could open up with that was not in my immediate space or community. They could see it from a larger perspective, without having to be active participants in what I was dealing with daily.
Now with these initial contact being met with compassion and sympathy, I felt safer but was still for all intents and purposes alone. My sister became my truest source of stability. To be clear, she was the muscle, the B.A. Baracus of the team, who pities the fool who messed with her brother. Now this was trickier because she was more present in my life and community. Bringing her into my troubles had an interesting effect that I saw other times as well. Being good humans who care about you, they hate knowing you are in pain. This begins a process within them of discomfort, possible hurt, even rage at times. They are showing empathy, but it might be a lot for them to handle even if it is indirectly. By no means am I saying that you should not go to those close to you with your problems because it is too much for them. These individuals are hopefully people who love you and would in fact be more offended if you did not go to them for help. What I am implying, is that you need to recognize this can cause a shift in their realities and worlds so be compassionate. If they do not react the way you intended, understand that. Bring more people into your inner circle so that not only one person has to shoulder the emotional energy of supporting you. Have 3,6,9- however many you feel comfortable with and rotate your support among them.
This is your team and you need to MANAGE your support network. If you called your best friend to connect for 2 days in a row, now plan a day with a family member. Spent most of the weekend with a certain couple that supports you? Change gears and take a colleague up on the offer to take you out to lunch. Spread the support around so that your system stays fresh. Use their specialties. If someone in your network has a deeper understanding of addiction, go to them when you have feelings associated with that relationship. If someone else words in the medical field- go to them when you have health questions or concerns. People like being helpful. Identify their strengths and let them help you in the fields they feel comfortable in. If you know an educator, trainer – let them teach you; a lawyer- let them counsel you; an artist- let them help you express and create. Put them in the best position to help you. Don’t go to your stoic sibling and be surprised when he or she is sympathetic but unemotional about your situation. Have a few team members that are there to provide pure fun. However here is a caution. If you are going through a troubling time and reach out to a friend, even a great one, who solves his or her issues at the bar do not be surprised when they suggest helping you with their coping methods. This may be done with every good intention, However you need to be very aware of who or what you bring into your foundation when you are not at your peak. These are guidelines, however there is one monumentally important rule- be open to surprises. If that one friend who never opens up about anything surprises you with how deep they are willing to discuss emotions with you, accept it as a gift of humanity. Crisis creates change. For all the damage it can cause it also forces evolution. You will evolve as will those with you on the journey. Be open to what you see.