To support is to give assistance that enables someone else in some way. Support is actually a specialty in the human race. It is a big reason why we survived and have evolved to the point that we have. But the human race is not immune to dysfunction when it comes to support. When we are young, many of us have adults around us who cannot see us as individuals. Instead, they see us as extensions of themselves. We are treated as if we exist to satiate the needs of these adults. We are trained that there is only one right way to support and that is whatever support these adults needed most. Often times the forms of support that we are intrinsically built for are either not recognized and valued or discouraged.
For example, a child who is born with an intrinsic capacity for aesthetics. This child could naturally assist the family by re-arranging the house and creating a beautiful living environment. But the family doesn’t value this. Perhaps mom needs assistance in watching the younger siblings. Caretaking is something that this child hates to do. This support is given begrudgingly so as to avoid consequences. This child will begin to feel used and as if they had to give up part of themselves. If this experience is associated with the idea of support, they will hate the idea of being in a supportive role.
Dysfunctional relationships are relationships in which needs are met within the relationship in ways that are detrimental to either party or both parties. You could sum up this dysfunction in the following sentence: I can’t have you and have me too. In dysfunctional relationships, two people cannot figure out how to both have their own needs, desires, preferences, feelings and thoughts and stay in connection with one another. What classically happens in these relationships is that one person does not meet the needs of the other; they act as if only their needs exist. The other ends up giving up their authenticity in order to get some of their most important needs met. It becomes a relationship of “I’ll meet your needs in these ways that are detrimental to me and that I don’t want to… so that I can get X”. It is negatively transactional in nature, not a healthy exchange. Just to name a few examples, X may be praise. X might be the guarantee of never being left. X might be an opportunity they want. This person actually only supports the other in order to get their own needs met, which is manipulative. So both people are actually not in a real relationship. They are simply focused on their own needs.
This style of relationship is so common to the human race that it the norm. It has given rise to the idea that to support means to self-sacrifice. It means to give yourself, your feelings, thoughts, needs, desires and preferences up for someone else’s sake. And so now, we have a love hate relationship with support. On the one hand, we authentically don’t want to be in that role because no one wants to give themselves up for someone else. On the other hand, doing this is seen as moral and virtuous. We want to feel like we are good and be seen as good so badly that we are tempted to pay that price. When we pay that price however, we never feel good about it. We become resentful. We feel bad towards whatever we are giving ourselves up in order to give our assistance to. Those of you who had moms that self sacrificed in any way in order to be moms and who gave themselves up for the sake of their children know exactly how well that worked out. For one mother, dedicating her life to her children’s needs where they are her primary focus may not feel like giving herself up at all. To another mother, it may feel like a total loss of self to do that. This relationship that we have to support in general has got to change and it has got to change today.
The thing that most people don’t know is that we are all born with an intrinsic capacity to support and also a strong drive to support others. It is an intrinsic drive in all of us to assist each other. The variable is in the HOW. We are trained to think of support in an incredibly limited way. We are trained primarily to see support only as how the adults in our childhood demanded our assistance. More than that most of us are trained by society at large to see support in terms of acts of service only.
Stop this video right now and write support at the top of a piece of paper. Under that word write all of the associations you have with that word. Some examples of things that could end up on that paper might be: The image of someone cheering from the stands at a football game, drudgery, the feeling of doing things you don’t want to do, the memory of rubbing someone’s feet, taking care of someone who is sick, exhaustion, the awesome feeling of being needed etc. Allow yourself to create a list that is totally unique to you and be brutally honest. Some of us might have an awesome relationship to support. The majority of us won't. The majority of us want to be supported, but don’t want to be supportive because of this association between support and giving up oneself for another. When you have written the list, turn this video back on.
Think about this, to support is to give assistance that enables someone else in some way. Do you know how many ways there are to do that? What you have to find is the ways that you like doing that. You need to find the ways that doing that feels not like you are giving yourself up, but like you are so happy doing it that the doing of it seems to fill you up somehow or meet your needs.
The happiest relationships are relationships where people are compatible in terms of the type of support they need and the type of support the other person intrinsically loves to give. This is a win-win relationship. The worst relationships are relationships where there is no compatibility in terms of the type of support one needs and type of support one intrinsically loves to give. This is a win-lose scenario, which is a lose-lose in reality because it sucks to be given something that someone doesn’t want to give. This is a critical from of compatibility to look for in any relationship. You can’t force someone to value your form of support if they want a different form of support any more than you can force yourself to feel good giving a type of support that you hate giving.
For example, my favorite form of support is to give my creative achievements to others. The most obvious way this manifests is that I create content that people can use to transform their life (like this very video). I can do this forever and because I love it, not because I’m trying to get something by doing it. Many people obviously love this support. Many people however desire support in the form of what they never got from their mothers. Looking to me for that is like looking to a surgeon to be a nurse. They want to be nurtured. When they come to me for this type of support and inevitably don’t get it, they are super disappointed and even mad about it.
Some other forms of support that are intrinsic to me and that I like are: Cooking for people, giving gifts, making people laugh, giving intense levels of intimacy, spending quality time with people where I’m totally present, giving people new experiences and even financially paying for them to have those experiences, creating art that enriches people’s lives, creating beauty and energetic balance in people’s living environments, helping people to become totally aware, assisting people’s physical health esp. by making things that add to their health like teas and tinctures, leading and initiating.
Some forms of support that are not intrinsic to me and that I dislike are: Physical nurturing/caretaking, affirming others, organizing and planning, dedicating myself on an ongoing basis to another person’s success in the way a manager or agent or housewife or coach or stay at home mom would. Acts of service like doing someone’s laundry or helping them move.
If you look at the support that I need, it is the support that I, myself don’t like to give. To create genuine compatible relationships, I have to find people who intrinsically love to support in these ways that I need support and who need support in the ways that I can give them. Remember that just because you hate to give support in a certain way doesn’t mean that someone won't love to give it in that way. Just because your mom said “I’m not your slave” doesn’t mean someone won’t love to make you dinner.
Discover the ways that you intrinsically are built to give support. Discover the ways that you need support. Then seek out the people who would love, need and value that type of support that you intrinsically give. And seek out the people who intrinsically love to support you in the ways that you value, need and love.