“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” – Brene Brown.
As a co-facilitator of a support group and support community for people with Parkinson’s, I see that one of the most difficult aspects for anyone participating, is to disclose personal difficulty. Whatever we may be dealing with, there may be a significant fear of judgement about saying ‘I’m having a tough day.”, “I’m not coping.” and even “I need help.” Indeed, far easier to remain silent or to console someone else in difficulty, than to share something that reveals a weakness, right? Stay out of the spotlight, so to speak.
I believe that holding on to your personal difficulty, for fear of feeling a sense of shame, is actually far more difficult, in practice, than disclosing an uncomfortable truth. You see, holding on to a difficulty means that there is little opportunity for progress or resolution. By retaining it, nothing will be processed and progressed. In fact, while the difficulty remains, it may also worsen. Suffering continues. We are more likely to feel alone. We may also miss an opportunity to learn and to grow.
Some people see talking about their problem or difficulty as a weakness. I believe that taking a risk to describe your difficulty with others is not only a sign of bravery, but that allowing yourself to feel vulnerable is a sign of strength. After all, if something is easy, would it really have any value? Is it not the things that challenge us, that have real meaning and worth?
As a Counsellor and Psychotherapist, and one who has run many couples, family and group therapy sessions, I can attest to the fact that the more people learn to speak openly and with their truth, the more people learn to let go of fear, anxiety, low self-worth, low self-confidence and the more we let go of things that might ordinarily serve to divide us.
In fact, the members of a support group or support community become kinder, less judgemental and more accepting of difference; focusing instead on what connects us to each other, rather than what may divide us. This offers a person making a personal disclosure a sense of acknowledgement and validation; something so important. If only we could all simply adopt this way of living with each other in society, right?
It starts with you. The reader of this article. Take that risk. Share. Let someone know what life is really like. Tell someone what you struggle with. Maybe even ask for help? You may be surprised how willing people are to truly hear you and how willing someone may be to offer support and friendship. That doesn’t mean you can ‘dump’ your problems on others and expect them to ‘fix it’ for you. It means letting someone walk with you along your road, as you find your way forward. It means no longer feeling alone.
We can take the values of a constructed support group out into the real world. It just needs someone in each community to gently start a conversation with a friend, a neighbour or even that familiar face in the café or familiar person we say hello to each day as we pass by. It just takes someone to say to their friend or loved one “I’m not okay.”
If you start that conversation, let me know how it goes.
(C) Dean Parsons. April 2018.