Life is complicated and for most of us, an ideal support system is rarely possible. Sometimes our life aligns closely enough to the Idealized Belief System that it works, and at other times it simply does not.
In the previous post, we discussed the Idealized Belief System. The people who most of us think should be there to support us during challenging or difficult times. Based upon our shared culture and society, almost all of us adhere to this belief system to some degree.
When life is a case of “more”
The everyday life of parents and caregivers of special needs children is full of chronic time and energy demands. When problems arise in another area of our life, it can seem to be even “more” of an issue because we are already overtaxed.
When the Idealized Belief System isn’t met, it can create problems for anyone. But a mismatch for us parents and caregivers of special needs kids may have even “more” impact on us and be “more” painful.
So what happens when this common belief system doesn’t align for us? What do we do when those people we believe could or should support us—for whatever reason—don’t?
The Pragmatic Belief System
Let’s consider an alternative belief system regarding support.
Unlike the Idealized Belief System, the circles of support in this system do not indicate “who” should lend you the most physical and/or emotional support by virtue of their relationship to you.
Instead, the circles define the “roles” played by the people within these circles. Family, friends, co-workers, and others can fall into ANY of these circles.
It begins with you
You’ll note that the Pragmatic Belief System begins with the Self and is surrounded by Spirit. To manage ongoing, complex life situations with grace, it is essential to work with these two important aspects. They are where true power lies, yet Self and Spirit don’t even appear on the Idealized Belief System.
It is paramount that we take care of our Self. Balancing our needs with those of others can seem difficult if not impossible at times, but it’s imperative for long-term health and quality of life. You can read more about self-care here. Later in this series, we will discuss Self all by itself (ha!) and will also cover Spirit as a separate topic.
After the Self: three layers of support
- The Inner Circle is for people who consistently uplift us; they are nonjudgmental, compassionate, and encouraging. They provide sincere emotional connection, as described under Emotional Support in the first blog, and/or significant help with physical needs.
- The Inner Circle is small. Some of us may currently have no one in this category (but that can change!) Others are fortunate to have 1-4 people; it’s rare to have five or more people in the Inner Circle.
- Supporters are there for us sometimes, or at least would like to be, but often aren’t in the Inner Circle due to their own circumstances. Remember, support can be physical help with day-to-day tasks and/or emotional support—validation, compassion, and encouragement.
- Neutral circle people don’t offer much support, but they also don’t make life harder by adding to our time or energy demands.
And then there are Naysayers
Hopefully you don’t have too many of these skeptics, who question our ability to handle our life and may devalue us on our journey. Over time, Naysayers drain us of precious energy by making us feel “less than”—less than capable, less than intelligent, less than worthy, less than [fill in the blank]. Their judgment and criticism may be overt, or delivered in a subtle, unspoken way that we sense over time.
Not all criticism is negative, of course—constructive criticism can be valuable in helping to clarify or improve a situation. Nor is a person who unhelpfully criticizes once or twice necessarily a Naysayer. We can all get snippy at times.
Rather, it’s about the long-term pattern. Pay attention to and trust your feelings. Does interacting with a certain person generally uplift you or bring you down? Do you feel like you can be open around them, or do you censor what you reveal so as not to incur a negative reaction or judgment?
These circles ebb and flow
Unlike the Idealized Belief System, where people are categorized according to their relationship to you, people in the Pragmatic Belief System can move from circle to circle. Allow for this. Don’t assume once a Naysayer, always a Naysayer. Or once Neutral, never Inner Circle. People and relationships evolve.
For example, over the course of 20 years, one of my cherished friends moved from Neutral to Inner Circle and back to Supporter as the circumstances of our lives played out. Don’t forget for a second that other people have crises and time demands too.
The fourth blog in this series will discuss how shifting our mindset from one belief system to the other can help us find and keep more support.
1) In your journal or notebook, continue to notice and record instances of the support you receive—both little and big. Again, feel grateful for what support you do have, as gratitude makes space for even more help to present itself.
2) Review what you desire in terms of support, and flesh out your list as ideas occur. Try to feel optimistic and truly believe that more support will soon appear, even if you have no idea how that may happen. (Especially if you have no idea!)
If optimism seems like a stretch, it may help to say this affirmation aloud several times a day: I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I am certain more support is coming to me! If these words don’t resonate with you (or sound unlike something you would say) then substitute your own words to the same effect.
3) Using the image of the identify key people in your life and what circle they fall into. Don’t be concerned if there are zero or only one or two people in your Inner Circle. Later, we will address how to involve more people. You are setting the stage for that by engaging in items 1) and 2) above.
This is the third in a 7-blog series about support for parents and caregivers of special needs children. It can also apply to other situations. Because the best person to find solutions to your concerns is you, prompts and exercises are provided to gently lead you in your best direction. Click to go to the first blog or second blog in the series.
That’s it for now. Until next time!