Supporting the fragile
By: James Foley
Supporting the fragile
Friendship and family is a great gift.
What value can we place on the relationships with those whom we care for and we know they care for us? It is likely that for many of our loved ones we would do what ever it takes when they are in times of need.
And then the time of need arrives.
What if someone close to us has recently self harmed or is attending a counsellor because they had thoughts of suicide? What if we know someone who has a history of diagnosed psychiatric illness who is issolating and being negative about themselves in how they talk and behave?
In your relationships you may have contact with others who have long term mood problems. They may have anxiety, depression, phobias etc. Such conditions can become very serious and can result in suicide.
How can you support them in their vulnerable state? How can you help them to not give in to ongoing negative behaviours?
Yes it maybe daunting to take on having a helping relationship with someone who is seriously upset and possibly has been for a long time. Regardless of your sense of inadequacy you still want to help.
Take a moment and ask yourself these basic questions. What is the nature of the relationship you have with this person? What degree of support do they need from you? Are they in acute emotional pain or is this an ongoing problem which they can not cope with right now?
Your response to these questions will come naturally at the time and will dictate how you proceed.
Your loved one needs you to be you.
If you are their mother, be their mother, a friend if you are their friend. Be their husband if that is what you are. Don’t take on a role with them that is beyond your relationship boundary. They need you to be their friend, brother, etc not their counsellor.
Do not be afraid to talk about their feelings and thoughts. If you have queries about their behaviour ask them to explain it. If they are receiving professional help ask them how its going. Show you care about these issues. The belief that no body cares is probably one of their issues to start with.
What not to do
It is important that you do not become engrossed in their pain. You need to stay outside of the dark pit the person is in, otherwise you could get caught in it yourself. Also it is easy for your help to become part of their circumstances. When this happens it is all too easy to say the wrong thing at the wrong time without realising what you are doing. The person could perceive this as a betrayal of trust.
A problem that often happens is co-dependency. This is where the vulnerable person can not cope with out you. It maybe that they have triggered in you a desire to mind them, even to fix them. You may want them to need you. You may have your own emotional needs that you are trying to satisfy by being needed in such a way.
This is not healthy for you or them.
The relationship that you have with an emotionally vulnerable loved one may be a lifeline to them in a time of extreme need. Do show your care for them as you would want them to care for you. Do not be anymore than yourself with them while not being afraid to engage with what is happening for them.
Do care for yourself as you care for them. You can not freely give what you do not have.
It is possible that your friend or family member may need professional support. If you feel their need is beyond what you or others can provide then talk to them about this. Do not go behind their back. It won’t work. People will only respond to the professional support that they ask for.
Chances are they will appreciate your concern and agree to seek further help.
It is important to remember that even when a person is receiving professional care they still need your support. They need you to talk to them about how the work is going. Another view can sometimes help the person to see things clearly.