Things don't always go the way we want them to. Sometimes it feels like Life is a sequence of frustrations punctuated by just enough successes to encourage you to get out of bed in the morning. And sometimes there aren't even enough successes for that. Your youngest child is ill again. You're passed over for promotion — again. The roof has developed another leak. Your boss claims credit for your idea, and blames you when her misguided implementation of it implodes. Your best work goes unnoticed because the features that depend on it got cut. Your bonus this year will be half what you were expecting — and you already spent both halves. And on and on.
When things don't go our way, many of us just tough it out. We don't ask for help. We don't seek a trusted ear to tell our troubles to. We don't seek support.
That's unfortunate, because as one of my teachers taught me, everything is easier with support. When we have support, we have access to different perspectives. When our focus has been our frustrations, support gives us the energy we need to see our successes more clearly. Support gives us the tools we need to deal with our frustrations more effectively. Life is more fun. Joy is possible.
And for many of us, support is easy to find: a spouse, trusted friends, counselors, clerics, mentors, coaches, or therapists. And there are specialists, too: for legal matters, lawyers; for health, there are doctors, dentists, chiropractors, physical therapists, personal trainers, or nutrition coaches; for money and debts, there are financial planners and credit counselors. And there are groups and networks for writing, reading, job search, therapy, weight control, and substance abuse.
So why do so many choose not to seek support? Even more puzzling: why do so many not even realize they have choices? It's a knot many of us never figure out how to untie. If you want to learn how to untie this knot, here are some of the conditions that keep the knot tied up tight.
- Lack of information
- Example thinking: "I don't know about support or how to get it;" "I don't see how that will help;" "I don't believe it will help;" "It's hopeless. Nobody can help me with this."
- These messages-to-self can be effective blocks to any action. They can even function to prevent acceptance of wise advice. Someone who's thinking this way is potentially on a trajectory to an even more vulnerable place. If you're thinking this way, ask yourself: "If I don't do something, how does this end?" The answers to that question are pretty grim. Do something.
- Lack of encouragement
- Some people don't get enough encouragement to seek support. We depend on family, friends, and others we trust to encourage us to seek the right kind of help if we don't seek it on our own.
- If you're If you're not connected to many
other people right now, a good
time to fix that would be right nowgoing through life alone, or with few friends, and things are OK right now, that's great. But you've probably hit some speed bumps in the past. Wouldn't it have been nice to have received encouragement to seek support in those times? If you're not connected to many other people right now, a good time to fix that would be right now.
- There are taboos associated with seeking — or even accepting — support. Some kinds of support are stigmatized: psychotherapy and counseling are examples. Some of us have been raised to be tough: "I must always play the cards I've been dealt, and I must figure something out all by myself." And many of us have been raised — and taught in school — that we must "do it on our own." Seeking support is cheating.
- Seeking or accepting support isn't cheating, because Life isn't an academic test. Life presents challenges. It's up to us to respond to those challenges as best we can with whatever resources and support we can marshal, including support from other people. There are taboos prohibiting some kinds of support, but they're only taboos, not laws. Just remember: the time might come for you to provide support to someone else. That's the deal.
- Feelings of inadequacy
- When we violate a taboo that we've fully internalized, we can experience feelings of shame or inadequacy. Example: "I should be able to get through this on my own without anyone's support." Another: "I don't want to seek a therapist because if I make a claim on my insurance it might get back to my employer." Or the ever popular: "What a loser I am."
- These feelings are of our own making, though the template for producing them probably isn't. Because we make these feelings, we can unmake them. Learning to recognize these feelings as consequences of the internalizations of somebody else's templates is a good first step.
- Another block is lack of trust. Getting support from someone, even a professional like a therapist or lawyer, might require disclosure of the details of your situation. You'll have to find someone you trust if you want effective assistance with whatever fix you're in.
- Even after you find someone you think you can trust, the problem you face can be more complicated than you now realize. When your attorney or therapist or counselor or coach pursues the issue wherever it leads, you might experience a sense of trepidation. Trust your adviser/supporter. Chances are good that he or she is on the right track. Courage.
- Lack of services
- Support services of all the types listed above exist in large metropolitan areas. But in smaller cities and towns, some services might be difficult to find. Or the people you do find might not have sufficient relevant experience.
- Still, the telephone is available almost everywhere. I personally have coached people over the telephone in many cities and towns in the United States, and several in Europe. If you can't find the help you need in your town, you can surely find it on the Internet, and then get the advice you need by telephone. Not quite as personal as face-to-face, but it does work.
- Lack of resources
- Some forms of support cost money — money you might not have. But some forms of support are available without charge. If they fit, exhaust the free ones first.
- For those forms of support that do cost, you can still ask for discounts or waivers of fee. Of course, asking for that might violate a taboo, or create feelings of inadequacy, or bump up against any number of the items in this list. Funny how self-sustaining this knot is. It defends itself from being untied!
The defining characteristic of a knot is that pulling on its "free ends" tightens the knot. A personal problem can be a knot, too, in the sense that if the problem is difficult enough that we need support to resolve it, the problem can also make seeking support difficult, and so the problem persists. When stuck, consider the possibility that the problem you're stuck in might be keeping you from seeking support. Top Next Issue
Love the work but not the job? Bad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? This ebook looks at what we can do to get more out of life at work. It helps you get moving again! Read Go For It! Sometimes It's Easier If You Run, filled with tips and techniques for putting zing into your work life. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Think in Living Color
- Feeling trapped, with no clear way out, often leads to anger. One way to defuse your anger is to notice
false traps, particularly the false dichotomy. When you notice that you're the target of a false dichotomy,
you can control your anger more easily — and then the trap often disappears.
- Believe It or Else
- When we use threats and intimidation to win debates or agreement, we lay a flimsy foundation for future
action. Using fear may win the point, but little more.
- Handling Heat: II
- Heated exchanges in meetings can compromise both the organizational mission and the careers of the meeting's
participants. Here are some tactics for people who aren't chairing the meeting.
- Not Really Part of the Team: I
- Some team members hang back. They show little initiative and have little social contact with other team
members. How does this come about?
- Toxic Conflict at Work
- Preventing toxic conflict is a whole lot better than trying to untangle it once it starts. But to prevent
toxic conflict, we must understand some basics of conflict, and why untangling toxic conflict can be
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 27: Implicit Interrogations
- Investigations at work can begin with implicit interrogations — implicit because they're unannounced and unacknowledged. The goal is to determine what people did or knew without revealing that an investigation is underway. When asked, those conducting these interrogations often deny they're doing it. What's the nature of implicit interrogations? Available here and by RSS on November 27.
- And on December 4: Implicit Interrogation Tactics
- When one person tries surreptitiously to extract information from another at work, an implicit interrogation is taking place. Here are seven tactics that people use to interrogate others without revealing what they're doing. Available here and by RSS on December 4.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.