"I don't know why some people knock support groups of one type or another, as in my experience, they are a real means of helping a person come to terms with their situation or the condition they suffer from. It matters not what set of circumstances or type of person the group supports: the simple fact is that they do what it says on the tin; they support!
Throughout my professional career as a Probation Officer, Group Worker, Relaxation Trainer, Stress Management Consultant and Bereavement and Marriage Counsellor, I have seen the value offered by support groups, whether members be an addict of drink, gambling, drugs or sex; a victim or the perpetrator of burglary, bullying, rape or physical assault: or a divorcee or access parent, the family of a person run down by a drunk motorist or killed in some other manner. While the circumstances of their trauma and painful situation may never be fully resolved, often the first step to recovery involves acknowledging the situation and being brave and bold enough to talk about it. The greatest agony can often be the bearing of an untold hurtful story inside a person, wanting to be aired, but fearful of the consequences of how it will be received and responded to.
There is an immediate feeling of inner security to be found in learning that we are not alone in our adversity. I know, that despite having a terminal and incurable illness, I gain much moral support by being in contact with other cancer sufferers, whose life span is also shortened as a consequence. Talking makes an emotional/physical/mental/psychological connection with others, and such 'connections' can give us new meaning to our situations and purpose to our lives. While I know that many people with an illness may derive some comfort from my daily posts and contact, I want them to know that I also derive similar comfort and support from my contact with them.
Often, when something bad happens and knocks the emotional stuffing out of us, and seems to rob our future life of all purpose, the emotion we are left with in surfeit is one of raw anger. We have a natural need to hit out at the world and unknowingly, we walk through our lives with clenched fists, unable to shake hands whenever the opportunity presents itself. It is as though our trauma has ensnared us in a time warp which our body chooses to stay with, rather than moving on. What once mattered in out lives no longer counts for much. This is the time we could best benefit from Albert Einstein's observation, 'and not everything that counts can be counted.' Among those often 'uncounted gems', are friends we have and those whom we have yet to meet.
I learned when I was a young boy that things are never quite as scary when we have a best friend to talk them through with. Being prepared to talk about our worries can prepare our minds to best deal with them. I have always found that chance favours a prepared mind and makes one more ready to take an active part in finding the resolution to problem situations.
During my years as a group worker and counsellor, I have known no better course of action for a person with an unresolved emotional problem to take than to become part of a group of people who have experienced first hand, an approximation of what we feel. When we surround ourselves with people of like mind and similar experience; we surround ourselves with people who 'get it' and better understand what we are going through. We invariably find that knowing we are not alone in what we feel, might not make the feeling go away, but it lessens the gut instinct of powerlessness and of being alone with our problematic situation. When we are caught in an emotional downpour that shows no sign of stopping soon, why drown in our own sorrow when we can walk in the rain with another and share their umbrella of understanding?
Support Groups are important because they truly assist all those who will take hold of the hand of support offered to them. To proceed with purpose often decrees that we do not let pride stand in our way. We sometimes need people to be there, not to fix it or offer us solutions or do anything in particular, but to give support and encouragement, and to let us know we are cared for and do count in the eyes of another.
If we want to find that happy place in life again and go there, we will need to work at it. Happiness and contentment are not things ready-made; we have to work for them by becoming and accepting our true selves. We need to learn to interpret differently, some things that keep us mentally trapped in the past. The mind is a very independent part of the body. It finds its own place and is capable of making all our experiences more pleasant, bearable, hurtful or intolerable. Never forget that while the mind determines what the body feels and governs its actions, it is you who possesses the power to determine the very thoughts inside your head; you govern your own mind. You are the blueprint of all you survey; the architect, the builder, the labourer and the person who dwells there. You have the ultimate responsibility of how you fare. If the job isn't done right, then do it again and don't blame another worker!
I have known a number of people who have been bereaved through tragic circumstances which never ought to have happened; events that resulted in the death of a parent, partner, brother, sister or child. Often, they carry a sense of responsibility or guilt that the tragic action should never have happened and hold all manner of irrational imaginings how they may have prevented the tragedy had they done this or that instead of something else on that fatal day. In such circumstances, they often find it impossible to see themselves as being blameless in their loss. One should never take on board the wrong of another; it is never what they call us that matters, but what we answer to!
For anyone who would like to find out how to alter negative emotions attached to a past tragic event, the best reference point I could direct you to would be to listen to the many tapes of Albert Ellis, an American psychologist, who in 1955 developed 'Rational Emotive Therapy', one of the most powerful and successful therapies I have ever come across. Simply go to 'You Tube' and type in: Albert Ellis Rational Emotive Therapy. There you will find dozens of tapes and videos of the great man propounding his ideas and demonstrating how to get away from the consequences of emotional trauma, emotional disturbance, and emotional breakdown. Indeed; I'd go so far as to say that from every single discipline and process I have ever learned over 73 years and successfully applied, 'Rational Emotive Therapy' ranks as the finest and most pertinent for addressing emotional disturbance!
Jean-Paul Sartre, the 20th century French philosopher, novelist and political activist once said, 'Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.' Sartre knew that it wasn't what happened to us, but how we reacted to and interpreted the event that really matters most to the preservation of our sanity and the influence of our future. In a different life, both he and Albert Ellis might have been blood brothers.
I will end this morning post with a 'thank you' to 'St Barnabas Church' in Hightown, Liversedge. In 1947, 'St. Barnabas' was the first support group to the Forde Family after my parents and their first three children of a growing family migrated to England from Ireland. At a time when the Irish were generally discriminated against in England and when the Forde Family were strangers in a foreign land, the Vicar of 'St. Barnabas Church' was the first visitor to our modest home to welcome us to West Yorkshire. He invited us to call upon him and his church should we ever need help. My parents indicated that the family was Catholic and he smilingly replied that he wouldn't hold that against us. This morning, 'St. Barnabas Church' will close its doors for the last time. Sheila and I will attend its final service as a 'thank you' from the Forde Family, for being our first family support group in England." William Forde: October 30th, 2016.