We can find ourselves a port in a storm where we want to shelter our loved ones. It’s a natural reaction to feel hurt as a result of them hurting. Some circumstances can drag out certain storms for extended periods of time. It can batter all parties involved. The emotional and psychological pain a storm causes impacts the supportive loved ones as well. The peripheral damage can yield separation and even severance of ties.
It is important to note that when trauma happens there is the primary party whose storm this is, and the secondary party who is providing support and love and comfort throughout the ordeal. Navigation through storms are not clear cut or simple. It can be quite complicated and equally frustrating to the secondary party – particularly when the primary party decides to take a path that puts them square in harm’s way. This change of course can drive a wedge between the primary party and the secondary party; in response to a change in course, the bewildered second party may react in a way that is perceived as victimizing the primary party all over again. This can create a decomposition of relationships.
How do we avoid it the decomposition? Take note of what is actually happening so that the amount of emotional/psychological investment is tempered. If this isn’t done, it’s easy for the energy from the chaos to take up root in the secondary party and support may be strained. The following things need to be considered:
Is this a venting session?
Is every solution suggestion is shot down or ignored? If you find your self trying to encourage a proactive stance in your loved one and they don’t seem receptive to it, don’t push it. They just want you to listen and aren’t ready to make any moves. Just listen. Solutions are not welcome here at the moment.
Are they re-calibrating another approach/attempt?
Are they talking about the situation like they are able to fix it? Some people like to give it the old college, grad, and post graduate try. Who are we to criticize? If this is the case and your loved one wants to run through plans A-Z and 1-3, co-pilot, and try to influence with practicality. Some people are “fixers” and where there is a will there is always a way – or at least many ways to try and they will exhaust them all before giving up. Keep in mind, we are not obligated to the exhaustion by association.
Is the narrative being presented in a way to influence support?
If things are not adding up and pertinent details are being left out to incite sympathy, it is a clear indication that a loved one does not want a solution but to shift the focus in a way that absolves them from having to make any efforts to address the problem or admit their role in the situation at hand. Maybe they are not ready. Maybe they just don’t want to. Maybe by convincing you, it’s a means to convince themselves, thus buying time to continue the carousel ride. Proceed with caution, listen, and do not pour all energy into half baked scenarios because feelings are fleeting and as the plot thickens, points of view may cause drastic pivots.
Are they emotional but unwilling to let go?
When emotions run high, many things are said and done: allegation, declarations, ultimatums, declarations, vows, promises, threats …etc… and once the storm is over and the emotional flood subsides,… it back to being all good until it’s not. This is the termite that eats away the emotional support of loved ones because there are but so many rinse and repeat cycles a support system can endure. If it is clear that a loved one is in the rinse in repeat cycle, reassessing how much emotional/psychological energy you are willing to invest is crucial because it’s easy to get caught up in the storm and lose oneself in it. Nothing good can come from that. One cannot pour from an empty cup and if a rinse and repeat situation is draining… withdrawing for a little self care is paramount as no one can pour from an empty cup.
Some of the hardest decisions to make is whether to stick it out or walk away. It can be excruciating to watch a loved one go through some of life’s most difficult moments. It’s a delicate dance between empathy and practicality. The head and the heart must be of equal measure to provide support. If one supersedes the other, pulling back may be the healthiest option.