Building a Support System

"What does it mean to build a support system? Well, most people use it to refer to the people you have around you who can encourage, understand, nurture and care about you; people who will be around to share in your good times, your accomplishments, your crisis times and your depressions.

Who should you have in your support system? That is an easily answered question but it is difficult to find people to qualify. Support people should be able to encourage, understand, nurture, care for and love you. Since most survivors are unfamiliar with anyone who even resembles this type of person it may be difficult for you to find people who possess these abilities.

A better way that I have found to judge if a person should be considered a "support person" was to look at what I tried to offer to all those survivors who sought me out what prevented me from seeking them as a support person for me. From that, I correlated a list of traits that I was looking for and I began finding them in certain people. I also discovered that some people could offer me specfic types of support but not other types. So first, I wll share with you my own personal list. From this put together your own, incorporating those from my list that fit for you and adding some of your own. this list is by no means all inclusive.

List of Characteristics of A Support Person:

  • 1) The ablility to listen for the duration of your need to ventilate or communicate something without changing the focus onto themselves.
  • 2) The ability to then share regarding the given topic from their own personal history and/or perspective.
  • 3) The ability to voice at the start if they are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to give you the time that you need.
  • 4) The ability to inform you if the content of the converstation is harming them. This shows you that they are taking care of themselves and frees you from that responsibility.
  • 5) The ability to share what is bothering them AFTER you have finished. Not changing the focus of the conversation from you (if you initiated contact) until it was completed.
  • 6) The ability to comprehend what you are saying. Even if they don't fully comprehend, are they at least trying to understand what you are saying or feeling?
  • 7) The ability to repeat to you what you are saying to help you clarify your comprehension and communication abilities.
  • 8) The ability to respect your right to refuse their venting on you if you are unable to cope with it.
  • 9) The ability to respect your privacy in regards to your property, body and mind.
  • 10) The ability to not violate your space, body or mind. This incorporates not touching unless gaining your permission, not telling you what you should do or how you should feel, or that what you are saying, doing or feeling is wrong in any way. It also incorporates not trying to make you adopt their point of view.
  • 11) The ability to encourage you to choose of your own free will what to do and to help you explore and discover the various choices available to you, even the negative ones. Not trying to fix things for you or run your life for you.
  • 12) The ability to accept and encourage your participation in activities without them and with other people.
  • 13) The ability to accept not being told everything and not being your only support person.
  • List the people that are in your life:

    Place their names and the type of relationship that you have with them:

    List of People I have a current relationship with:

  • 1)My spouse _______________________________
  • 2)Son or daugther _______________________________
  • 3)Parent _______________________________
  • 4)Boss _______________________________
  • 5)Co-workers _______________________________
  • 6)Therapist _______________________________
  • 7)Friend _______________________________
  • 8)Roomate _______________________________
  • ADD YOUR OWN HERE _______________________________

  • Go back through the list you just made and beside each name put the approximate number of times in a week that you seek out each individual for support and, if possible, the amount of time that you spend each time with that person for support.

    Now make a table to use for each individual on the list you have just made. The first column will correspond to the number by the character list. The second will be the name of an individual on your list above. the third is to rate them on the list of characteristics that you have made and the last column is to rate yourself in relationship to them on the same list.

    The Rating Scale From 1-10

  • 1) No ability
  • 2) Rare ability
  • 3) Occasional ability
  • 4) Moderate ability
  • 5) Average ability
  • 6) Good ability
  • 7) Strong but rarely consistent ability
  • 8) Strong but only moderate ability
  • 9) Strong and average consitent ability
  • 10) Strong and consistent ability
  • An example of a rating table:

    Characteristic #   Persons Name    Their rating    Your rating
         1                spouse             6             9
         2               children            8             7
         3                 boss              3             5
    and so forth....

    Do a table for each individual that you have on your list. From those tables you should be able to determine what type of support you can expect from each one. You can also see where you might be able to improve the type of support you give them. Relationships are always the responsibility of both parties involved. It is never just one person that destroys a relationship. Part of the problem is that each person has expectations, some of which they are not even aware. Expectational journalling is one of the best techniques to help with this.

    Look at how the individual rates for support. This will tell you if you are getting the support that you need. Loot at the amount of time and number of times you seek support from them. You might find it beneficial to write the list of individuals again in order of strength of support. Remember do not unload on one person all of the time. They can get overly burdened with trying to meet your needs. Also try to have positive contact with those people you use for support. It is nice to just call and talk about good things or go out for lunch, without using it for self-centered conversation. It will strengthen the relationships and give you time away from the constant introspection that is often part of being a surivivor.

    Survivors can also find non-human modes of support: List of Non-Human support:

    1)Pets: They will spend countless hours listening to you and keeping you company. Some offer security while others offer beauty. 2)Plants: You can derive similar amounts of joy and satifaction from having living, beautiful plants around you. Plants actively repond to human attention. Most of all, they are alive and in your environment. 3)Stuffed If pets are out of the question and you just can't get a plant to Animals grow (or even if you have both pets and plants) then stuffed animals are a terrific substitute. They listen and you can interact with them. 4)Change Put up pictures that you find comforting. Paint or wallpaper. in Environment 5)Hobby Find a hobby or craft that you enjoy and can afford. Use what you or Craft have done within your environment. Take pride in yourself and reap reap the benefits of all your work and talents.

    From the book: "For Survival's Sake Workbook" by Alexandra Rogers

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