While support groups may be best known for those struggling with grief or addiction, they actually work well for a wide variety of life situations. While the old saying “misery loves company” may have a lot of negative connotations, the reality is that whatever we are going through in life is often made easier by the company of those going through the same things. Whether you are in the process of looking for a new job, making a career change, struggling with death, disease or marital issues, tacking a huge project at work or trying to overcome an addiction, support groups can help. Here are three ways in which support groups can help you overcome personal challenges.
1. They give you a different perspective and can help you navigate places you’ve never been
Google maps has literally changed the way in which we see and view the world and support groups offer this same value. Google maps allows you to zoom in to view a specific area and then zoom out to see a broader perspective. Google maps will also tell you what is nearby and can help you find what you need even when you are in an area you have never been to before.
Sometimes, we are so close to problems and challenges that we cannot see solutions, whereas a person standing farther away from the issue sometimes has a better perspective. They help us “zoom out” and gain a better understanding of the problem and can even offer help with potential solutions. Other times, we are walking into an area we have never been in before that others have a great deal of experience in. Support groups help us to tap into and access the experiences, viewpoints and differing vantage points of others in order to broaden our own vision. Support groups can often offer information about what kind of help is available around us to help solve a particular problem we may be having.
2. They offer a safe place to be honest – and generally demand that you are
As a general rule, making our way in the world often requires a certain level of dishonesty. When we are in pain or facing a crisis, we often can’t be fully honest about it with the people we live and work with on a daily basis. In some cases if your employer finds out you are in addiction recovery it may cost you your job and in other cases, people who aren’t going through the same thing as you simply can’t understand what you are going through.
When you are around others who are experiencing similar situations, however, it offers a much greater opportunity to be fully honest, real and transparent about your situation. Conversely, however, when people around you are going through or have gone thorough the same things you are, they have a tendency to know when you aren’t being honest and will often demand that you are.
3. They keep you moving forward
Being in a group of people that are experiencing or have experienced the same problems and challenges as you is also something of a double-edged sword. While they offer a safe place to be honest about your situation, they also tend to be rather harsh climates for those that don’t actually want to move forward, get help or get out of the particular situation they are in.
While addiction support groups certainly understand the idea of “falling off the wagon” they often have little tolerance for those they don’t feel have a genuine desire to overcome their addiction. While grief support groups can provide an excellent place for those wanting to move through their grief to do so, they can be a hostile environment for those wanting to just wallow in their grief. Support groups provide accountability to ensure that you are legitimately working hard to overcome the problem you are there to work through.
Regardless of what you are going through, there is a good chance a support group can help. One of the ways they accomplish this, however, is by sometimes being tough of people who might be too easy on themselves. While support groups are an excellent form of therapy for those genuinely wanting help and to move forward, they are not as helpful for those not yet ready to genuinely face and tackle their issues.