Principle #8- No person is an island. We need to create communities of support for ourselves and our children. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our children and our families.
When a relationship isn’t working well in your life, it’s essential to find ways to take good care of yourself and find the community resources that make that possible. Most of us are under-supported when things are going well, but there is an even bigger chasm between what we need and what we are getting in terms of support when we’re stressed out or having a difficult time.
Self-care really needs to be first rather than last in this long list of important things, so we’re actually going to be spending quite a bit of time on this idea first. It may seem counterintuitive for people to put their needs first when the relationship that needs healing is the one with their child, partner, or other important person, but I’m here to tell you that it is critically important when you have a relationship that needs to be healed. We must take care of ourselves. We must do what we need to do to create a space where healing can happen for us; where we can understand the story in our body, our brain, and our nervous system; where we can have space to begin to see the story of someone else in a new light.
As you may now understand, having read the previous seven guiding principles, knowing your own story, your own experiences, and your own body is essential to knowing another person and for healing a relationship. In this book, we will repeatedly go back to your experience, to what happened or is happening for you before we turn to another relationship to see what needs to happen next. You can’t say yes or no unless you’ve checked in with yourself. You can’t figure out where the boundary belongs until you’ve given some space for your own stories first. You can’t gain clarity into a relationship without seeing, understanding, and addressing your own behaviors.
And you can’t have the energy to heal a relationship if your own batteries are completely empty and depleted. So what supports you? What helps to refill your own love cup, as Pam Leo would say? Take a moment now to write out three things that you love and feel really good to you. Can you do one of these today or tomorrow or even this coming weekend? Here are some ideas I’ve heard from clients: going for a walk in nature, painting, playing the drums, running, watching a funny movie or show, watching the sun set, taking a bath, doing improv, Acro dancing, rock climbing, riding a bike, going to the gym. Let this list help you come up with your own inspired ideas that feel good to you!
We also need others to support us. We can’t do this healing work alone. We’re social creatures and we need one another. We need others to see, hear, and feel our experiences with us so we can heal those tender spaces. We’ll be creating this space together as I teach you how to better listen to one another and cultivate the skills we need to heal ourselves and our relationships.
Now that we’ve explored your individual needs, we’re going to shift now to community. Community is actually critical for us to meet our individual needs, especially as a parent. I want to invite you to take a moment and think about who is part of your community of support. What do they do for you that feels supportive? These people may be local and bring you some food when you’re sick, or they may live far away and provide a listening ear and a friendly voice when you’re having a rough day. What does community mean to you? What does support mean to you? Are you able to make a request of support from someone in your community?
One of my favorite stories is about one mom who was going through a lot and decided to reach out to another mom in her community to have a listening partnership while walking. Each person took a turn sharing something while they walked in one direction for 30 to 45 minutes: one mom got to talk for the first half, and when they turned around, the other mom got her turn. They got some exercise, time in nature, connection with another person, and listening. Community support doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Just think about what’s actually doable for you and who might mutually benefit from supporting you. One thing to bear in mind is that the people who are most available to support you might not be people in the same life stage as you, so don’t rule out people who are older or younger than you are, people who have kids or don’t have kids, etc.
Take a moment and take an inventory of those you have in your life who are willing to support you, especially those who can support you in your efforts of self-care, either directly or indirectly. Pause and take a moment to share your gratitude for their being in your life. Maybe even reach out and let them know how much you appreciate them. It matters. And if you’re looking around and realize you don’t have much support, ask what you can do to move in that direction and do one thing to move you closer to cultivating more community or your own self-care, whatever feels more doable for you in this moment.
Community is an essential part of self-care. Realistically, self-care most often happens with and through the support of others in our community—they help make our self-care happen. There are many ways our society tries to convince us that we should be able to do everything on our own, but it’s just not true. We need one another, and expressing gratitude for the ways we are part of community is an excellent way to get more community and gratitude.
The Eight Guiding Principles help to create a foundation for the way we are looking at the world and provide a way to explore our relationships in a new way. This can create openings for our healing to begin within ourselves and, subsequently, within our relationships. Next, we’ll explore what healing is so we can be on the same page about what it means to heal.
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