“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” C.S. Lewis
This quote is so profound to me, which isn’t surprising considering that it came from one of the deepest and most intellectual writers of the 20th century. When I started writing online over two years ago, I was only thinking of ridding myself of the pain I held deep inside of me from my failed first marriage. Even though I was happily married again, I needed to write for my own validation and healing. I simply never had the platform to do it.
In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the result. My emotional abuse articles have gotten hundreds of thousands of views and I recently published my first book. However, the best part of all is that I have formed connections with so many people online because of my articles. These are real people with real pain and I made them feel better simply by sharing my own experience. There really is no better feeling than that.
The Power of Group Support
I don’t intend to make this article all about me, lest I be accused of being the type of narcissistic person I frequently write about. The introduction is only to give you an idea of what spurred me to write this article. It fascinates me that people who are experiencing difficult life circumstances are comforted by the very idea that someone else has been there before them. Whether it is the death of a family member, a job loss, serious illness or a troubled relationship, there is tremendous power in knowing that someone else has walked through it and came out stronger on the other side. In the times we live in, it isn’t even necessary to know someone personally to form a strong bond. The Internet has made it possible for people across the world to comfort and support each other through life’s most difficult trials. However, it’s still on us to take the first step.
Isolation Only Magnifies the Issue
When you are facing a situation that is stressful and deeply personal, you may be reluctant to seek support for it. Perhaps you are afraid that others may think you have given into self-pity or that dwelling on the issue will only make it worse. It may also be extremely difficult for you to share such intimate details about yourself with people who are basically strangers. The Internet has not only made the world much smaller, it also allows people the anonymity they wouldn’t necessarily have in a local support group. It doesn’t matter so much whether you choose online or in-person support to deal with your personal issue. The important thing is that you don’t sit home alone feeling hopeless to do anything about it.
For example, I have dealt with depression most of my life. Thankfully, my episodes only last a day or two anymore instead of a month or two. I do notice that I isolate when I am feeling down, which only compounds the problem. My overactive mind makes things so much worse than they really are. A better solution is to reach out to a trusted friend and talk through whatever is making me feel blue. I feel even better when I forget about myself and try to offer help and support to someone else.
The Many Benefits of Sharing Our Burdens
Your friends and family may love you, yet still have no clue what to say or do when you face difficult life challenges. When you join a support group, you automatically have a common bond with people who know what you are going through. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will become best friends with all of them, but you can relax and let your guard down just knowing you’re not the only person in the world experiencing the same type of problem. With a background of empathy and understanding, you feel safe enough to begin to explore real solutions.
Avoid Groups That Stifle Your Growth
Unfortunately, not every support group is healthy and sticking with it could do you more harm than good. Maybe there are group members who feel the need to one-up everyone else’s misery. While venting is good, you don’t want that to be the sole purpose of belonging to a support group. If there is a group leader, he or she should always encourage you to make progress. It is probably time to move on if the group is nothing but a gripe session.
When you join a support group, make sure that you have realistic expectations and that you continuously gauge whether being a member is in your best interest. You should never expect anyone else to rescue you and make your life all better. The truth is life is plenty painful at times and you need to do the hard work of personal growth on your own. However, that doesn’t mean others can’t offer you a listening ear and an empathetic heart during the journey.