Thursday, July 23, 2015

Miserable Comforters vs. Healthy Support

Who do you turn to when you need a friend? A confidante? Encouragement? Love? The answer to this question is important for your life. Who you turn to for comfort makes a huge difference in the path you take and ultimately, your own self concept.

In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, Job is riddled with maladies. He loses his fortune, his family and his health. His wife betrays him. He is miserable. According to the story, God had given the devil free reign to test Job. Once he was covered in boils and sitting in exile, his so-called friends came along to help him out. These so called friends were quick to judge Job and give reasons as to why he was experiencing what he was experiencing, and what he should do to turn things around. Job called these folks "Miserable Comforters." It is a testament to the judgments of people who have no compassion or insight into the plight of another.

We are social beings. We all need to be comforted and supported by those around us. We are hardwired for connection. If we were raised in functional homes, then we likely have an internal working model of healthy external comfort. When we're feeling down, we have someone to turn to, and that someone will not use our weakness to try to control us or put us down. If, on the other hand, we were raised in homes that were dysfunctional, by parents who were also raised in less-than-nurturing environments, we may not know how to be comforted properly. We may be drawn to people who manipulate us when we turn to them for help, or those who use our misfortune to build their own weak sense of self.

The people in your midst are generally at your same level of psychological maturity. If you grew up in a dysfunctional home, you were not likely able to mature psychologically or emotionally. If you are immature or undeveloped, when you're an adult, you're likely to be attracted to people who are at your same level, or worse--you may be attracted to people who exploit those with lower-level functioning. This is what happened to me.

Along my healing journey, I found that as I grow, I also have to replace people in my life who used to comfort me with people who comfort me properly. Some of the people I turned to in the past supported my fragmented identity and my low self esteem. The truth is, who we turn to for comfort says much about our level of healing. The more healthy a person is, the less they need support, and the more adept they are at seeking out support that will gently support their authentic truth.

Here are the qualities you want to avoid in your external comforters:
  • Tells you what to do. 
  • Criticizes you.
  • Shares your issues with other people.
  • Reminds you of past mistakes.
  • Reminds you of how bad things are.
  • Tries to manipulate you and/or exploit you.
  • Gloats in your weakness.
  • Tells you to "get over it."
  • Acts like your needs for comfort are a burden.
  • Makes you feel worse.
  • Kicks you when you're down.
  • Makes you feel guilty or ashamed for needing comfort.
  • Compares you to other people.
  • Tries to solve your problems.
  • Wishy-washy. One way one day, another way the next.
  • Flaky - Not dependable.
  • Negative and pessimistic in the area you need comfort. 
  • Overly helpful and smothering.
  • Focused on their own problems.
  • Envious.
  • Speaks in cliches, antidotes, platitudes.
  • Know it all.
  • Rigid and legalistic.
  • Needs answers and definition of circumstances (to maintain semblance of control).
Why do people do these things? All sorts of reasons. If you turn to someone who has a low self esteem and poor self worth, then they will do all sorts of things that may seem like comfort, but leave you feeling worse than before. If you turn to someone for support who is insecure, he or she may use your weakness to their own advantage by feeling better than you for not having your same problem. Oftentimes, this kind of "support" is covert. You don't know it is happening because it's subconscious and subtle. This is something you must be aware of. It's important as you grow and heal that you steer clear of this uncomfortable comfort. It's important that you find people to support you who truly value you as a unique individual.

Here are the qualities you want to seek out in your external comforters:
  • Consistent advice.
  • Feels good about themselves so they can support you. 
  • On your side.
  • Trustworthy.
  • Available and accessible.
  • Validates your reality.
  • Accepts you for who you are.
  • Has empathy.
  • Has space in their heart for you.
  • Encourages your growth and change for the better.
  • Cheers you on when you encounter difficult roads in life.
  • Stays on your side, even when it seems like you're surpassing them.
  • Takes up for you against outside opposition.
  • Sticks by your side.
  • Takes what you say at face value.
  • Open and flexible.
  • Empathetic.
  • Expects you to handle your own life well.
  • Believes the best in you.
  • Trusts the process of life, and trusts other people.
  • Gives you time to share without rushing you.
  • Allows you to process without interruption.
  • Leaves things open without having to come to resolution to feel safe.
  • Lets you be who you are without judging you.
  • Does not try to offer a quick-fix. 
  • Positive mindset.
The qualities of a good comforter, or a good friend, are qualities that one possesses who is a whole person. Only a whole person can give you the comfort that you need to maintain a positive sense of self. You need people around you who are willing to let you be who you are, where you are, wherever that place is for you today. You need people who will encourage you, be on your side and nudge you to your highest good. You need people who are healthy so that they can lead you in the healthiest ways. Nobody is perfect. The key is to find comforters who love themselves enough to love you right.

You Need Comforters!!!

Who you choose as your comforters and supporters in this life makes a huge difference in how your life goes. If you choose no one, then you're going to have a very rough time. If you do not seek out any comforters, any support, and if you try to do everything on your own, then you are likely in bad shape. You may cut yourself or be suicidal. If so, I encourage you to get help--get help fast.

If you have supporters in your life who are actually tearing you down, it's time to reevaluate your relationships. Perhaps you need to distance yourself from people who make you feel worse after turning to them for comfort. Maybe you need to seek out people who are a healthy match for your new found self love that you've acquired along your healing journey.

How to Tell if Your Comforters are Uncomfortable

One of the difficult things for me when I was going through this aspect of my healing journey, is determining who to trust. Who to turn to? The answer is more difficult than I wanted it to be. I went through a lot of friends who were incapable of being there for me. I went through a husband or two. I went through therapists. It was very difficult to learn how to trust the right people. It was hard to let go of people I cared about, but who were harming me psychologically. I had to be strong in so many cases. I learned so much along the way.

One way to know if you are being comforted and supported properly is the way that you feel. Your gut is the best indicator of the quality of support you're being given. Your intuition is your internal guidance system that tells you whether what you're experiencing is for your highest good, and whether it is not. So many of us ignore ourselves. This is a problem! You need to be tuned in to yourself like a hawk if you want to live effectively... but that's another article. For this article, let's just say, trust your gut. If you feel like you're being harmed when you seek comfort from a friend, family member, spouse, clergy, therapist... then chances are very good that you are. Trust yourself and protect yourself.

How Miserable Comforters Are

Consider how you feel when you're speaking to this person. Do you feel any of the following ways? If so, then you may want to distance yourself quickly and find some other person to help and support you. Don't keep pouring yourself out to someone who cannot help you.
  • As though life is hopeless, you might as well give up and stay negative.
  • As though nothing ever works out.
  • As though you're not good enough to be heard.
  • As though whatever you're needing is too much of a burden.
  • As though whatever solutions you've found are never going to work.
  • As though you don't know what you're talking about.
  • As though you should feel some other way.
  • As though you are ridiculous for feeling badly or needing comfort.
  • As though they're doing you a favor by listening to you.
  • As though they feel superior to you in your weakness.
  • As though they know all the answers.
  • As though you should be somewhere else, somewhere better in your life.
  • As though whatever you're going through is not that big of a deal.
  • Like crabs in a bucket. If they can't get out, neither can you. 
  • They criticize you.
If someone whom you turn to for comfort displays the attitudes and behaviors of the list above, RUN from that person. Don't walk. RUN! You cannot possibly be comforted by someone who invalidates you, makes you feel inferior and kicks you when you're down. These are not the type of people you need in your life. As a fellow wounded soul on this healing journey, it's crucial that you get away from these "miserable comforters" and find people who are truly on your side.

How Healthy Supporters Are
Healthy people have the inner-capacity to allow you to be who you are in that moment without trying to change you. They are whole people who do not rely on external circumstances to make them feel good about themselves. They don't need to manipulate, one-up you or take anything from you. They are simply alive, happy, positive (for the most part) and they understand that we people need each other to survive and to thrive. These are the people you want in your corner. Here's how they are:
  • They encourage you to seek your own solutions.
  • They believe the best for you, and the best in others, and the best in life.
  • They offer suggestions, but don't shove solutions down your throat.
  • They're empathetic to your plight.
  • They believe whatever you're going through is a big deal; they take you seriously.
  • They give you time and space to express yourself.
  • They don't try to take over your life, they simply allow you to be who you are.
  • They make you feel good, cared for and encouraged.
  • They don't try to make the conversation about them and their problems.
  • They remind you of your victories.
 You can add to this list. I'd love to hear what you think.... feel free to give me more ways in the comment section below.

The moral of this article is that we all need good supporters to help us along the way. It is okay to need support, we were created to need support and to support one another. Unfortunately, some things go astray when we were raised in dysfunction (most of us). We may have a tendency to seek out comforters that we are used to, not people who are actually good for us. We may be covered in unhealthy advice from people who are insecure and who do not love themselves and could not possibly love us. It is crucial for us, as growing, healing people who are on the journey to loving ourselves, to distance ourselves from miserable comforters and find people with our best interests at heart. Good luck in your journey!&

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