The first step to getting better is realizing you need support. If you’ve reached that point, we’re so proud of you. You’re on your way to finding the relief you’re seeking. The next question is choosing the type of support.
Many people debate whether one on one or group support is more suitable for them. Naturally, we’re big proponents of the latter We can write endlessly as to why, but in a nutshell, we love group support because of the emotions you’ll feel after connecting with people in your group.
When you are in a space where you can share what you’re going through with people who are also going through it, or have been through it, that pit in your stomach that you’ve been carrying shifts into warmth in your heart.
We know that sounds too good to be true, but it really is true. The emotional responses that people have in a group foster so many positive feelings within you that you immediately start your journey to getting better.
What will you feel when you start sharing your story and listening to others in your group? Here are five of them:
Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to truly understand how someone feels. It’s a feeling of sameness. To quote John Steinbeck, “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” When you’re in a group of people who are going through a similar experience you experience true empathy. They can’t not understand you because they’re going through it too. They get it. They really get it. When you hear them share their story, you feel it too. Together you are seen, heard, and understood. There is no “Oh, that must be hard, I’m sorry you’re going through that,” there is only “This is so hard, I know how you feel, but we’ll get through it.” You’re not feeling for someone, you’re feeling with someone.
If empathy is the seed, compassion is what grows from it. When you feel with someone, when you put their shoes on and know what it feels like to walk in them, you develop a desire to help them. That’s compassion. By being compassionate with people in your group, you become more resilient and improve your wellbeing. Ironically, one of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better, and that’s exactly why groups are so powerful. Since everyone knows what it’s like to be in your situation, everyone is intentionally looking out for each other, and when you help each other you help yourselves.
Naturally, with everyone in your group going through something similar and being there for each other, you’ll find relief in knowing that you’re not alone. Those thoughts and feelings that you assumed no one else had? Others are experiencing them too. You have evidence literally right in front of you that what you’re experiencing is normal. If you’ve been holding back tears, someone in your group is letting them out. If you’ve been hesitant to laugh, someone in your group looks at their situation with levity. It’s relieving to know that it’s okay to not be okay, and you can get back to being okay in whichever way works best for you.
With empathy and compassion, you have the two crucial ingredients in the recipe of belonging. Why? Because you can be yourself without fear of being judged. As Brene Brown says, “when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are.” As the old saying goes, it takes a village, and finding that village is such a surreal experience. As humans we are hardwired to seek belonging, and when you feel that in a group you suddenly feel whole.
Needless to say, when you combine all of the feelings and experiences above you can’t help but feel a sense of hope. If you have people in your group who are near the end of their healing journey, you know that you can get there too. If you have people in your group that have just taken their first step to getting better, you can look at them and see how far you have come since you first took yours. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you are getting there together.