Whenever I see someone on Twitter post a tweet about feeling low, my response invariably involves two words – support system. I might not know them personally. But my hope is that my response urges them, if they have not done so already, to tap into their support network. I don’t think any rule applies to everyone. But I can aver that a core set of people whom you can bank on for sharing your lows and highs, is a vitally important ingredient in the recipe for peace of mind. I state this based on experiences, be it my own or shared or observed. Regardless of whether they are an introvert, ambivert or an extrovert, the ones in whom I observe immense centeredness, are the ones who have a set of people in whom they place tremendous amount of trust. If this is so simple, why do we not do more of it? Why do we still feel the burden of the world’s weight on our shoulders from time to time? Why do we sometimes feel suffocated, heavy, and unable to think clearly?
To begin with, self-reliance, as a concept, is overrated. Emotional independence is not a binary concept. Instead, it is a spectrum that has, on the one end, people that have the requisite inner steel to take good care of themselves regardless of the highs or lows that they go through. In the middle are the ones who rely on others for certain aspects of their lives but are self-sufficient for other matters. At the other end of the spectrum are ones who have much reliance on a set of people to get through their lives. Excitement or anguish, for these people, cannot exist in a vacuum. It must be shared. Every place in this spectrum has validity. No position is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than others. What matters is that we identify where we are in the spectrum, know when to tap into our inner reserve and when to unhesitatingly seek out the presence of the ones in whom we have entrusted our genuine emotions.
It is equally important for the ones who are a part of others’ support systems to realize where in the spectrum are the ones who seek their support. If I know that I am an essential part of the support system of someone who really needs me to be an engaged listener on certain aspects of their life, then it behooves me to make time for them when those aspects of their life are amplified in importance. People seek support in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is to vent, at other times, it is to seek clarity. Some seek advice, others seek perspectives from our own lives. Regardless of what they seek, it is important that we know when to give, and how. Our preferences don’t matter as much as their needs.
One thing I especially admire in people who give out support, is their ability to push, coax and prod the recipient to think and identify a solution from within. As they say, it is better to teach how to fish than buying them fish. Of course, not all situations might lend itself to that kind of guidance but it is certainly a trait that I admire in people. I also have tremendous respect for the ones who urge the people they support, to seek professional help, be it psychological, legal or any assistance that would get to the core of their issue. When someone near and dear gives that sort of advice, we are bound to feel less worried about societal stigmas and antiquated notions. Of course, as recipients of advice, we would want to filter it through our own sensibilities. But nevertheless, it is wise to listen to the well-meaning advice of trustworthy people in our life even if it feels like it would take some effort on our part to execute on it.
At the end of the day, a support system, regardless of whether we are a giver or receiver or both, takes time, thoughtfulness and effort. Support systems take time to blossom. When they do, it is an absolute pleasure to be a part of them. When they dissipate, due to reasons ranging from extreme ones such as death to moderate reasons such as incompatibility or milder causes such as lack of proximity or change in geography, it is essential to accept and acknowledge that lacuna and move on. Of course, it is easier said than done. But do we always have a choice?
As Emma Thompson observes in the movie Burnt, “There is strength in needing others, not weakness.” We need to be comfortable with the fact that there will be times in our life that we may need others to help bridge the gap between our current state of mind and a healthier, peaceful state. Despite all this, yes, we may feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. But a reliable support system can lend a hand to share that burden. They might not solve all our problems. But for a fleeting moment, we can breathe easier, feel lighter and think clearer. That's a start, not the end.