Support, Part 2: Reaching Out of the Vortex

In my last post, I talked about how things that look, sound and smell like support may not actually be support. And I mentioned that dark, swirling, sucking vortex I can get into when I need support but I’m not sure how to get the kind I need — or maybe I’m not even sure what kind of support I need to begin with.

So, if we find ourselves in the vortex, how do we get out?

First, remember that being in the vortex is only scary because we believe we shouldn’t be there and we need to get out, now.

As Byron Katie might say, we should be there because we are there. Being there is just another opportunity to look around and learn.

Second, there are two parts to support — self-support and support from others that feels supportive. (Hiro Boga commented, brilliantly, in a recording I listened to on her site recently, that it’s not support if it doesn’t feel supportive!)

So, when you’re swirling in the Vortex of Need, ask the wise part of yourself: What might feel truly supportive right now? And see what bubbles up. (It’s really important to ask your inner wisdom for this information, and not the part of you that is spinning in need and angry or sad or desperate that it’s not getting its needs met. This part of you does not need to be burdened with questions right now.)

Usually, I get a response that is very simple. It might be to call a particular person I trust. It might be to tell any one of my private, virtual support networks that I’m feeling like crap. It might be to do the dishes, watch a movie, take a nap, open a particular book. It’s never about the long-term– it’s always a very small, specific thing I can do in this moment.

Thinking too long-term can make getting the kind of support we need feel completely overwhelming. It’s not possible to know what kind of support we’re going to need next year, or even next week. We can only know what we need in this moment.

So, what if it feels hard to get in touch with our inner wisdom? What if it’s crowded out by the voice of need? What if our inner wisdom suggests calling Suzy, but even though we know we deeply trust Suzy, we’re so far into the vortex that, in this moment, calling Suzy feels unsafe?

This is where the self-support piece comes in. Sometimes, I need to practice self-support before I can reach out for support from others. This is one of those steps that often gets left out. “Reach out, ask for help, have courage,” we’re told. But there’s an intermediate step that gets skipped over, and that’s kindness.

Can I access that space within me that is exquisitely kind, warm, and accepting — toward myself? It’s often easy to generate this type of kindness toward others, but what about turning it inward, toward me? This means having total reverence and respect for whatever it is I’m feeling. Giving it permission to be there, and legitimacy, and validity.

We often skip completely over this step, and then wonder why, when someone else does offer support, it doesn’t “land.” Usually it doesn’t land because there’s still a part of us judging and beating ourselves up for feeling whatever it is in the first place — for needing to begin with.

The beautiful thing is that when I practice this type of kindness toward myself, I am put immediately in touch with my inner wisdom. There’s nothing like kindness to lift me out of the vortex of need. In fact, reminding myself to treat myself with exquisite kindness points out the places where I’ve been harsh, or where others (not meaning to) have triggered my own harshness toward myself. But it’s hard to see the harshness when I’m living by its rules. I need to shift into kindness in order to see it.

So, the quick version of this process:

1) Accept that you are In the Vortex of Need, and it’s totally okay. You should be there because you are there.

2) Ask your inner wisdom, what might feel truly supportive right now? See what bubbles up. Take action on whatever comes.

3) If you can’t access your inner wisdom, or if what bubbles up from your inner wisdom feels too scary, practice kindness toward yourself. Deep, radical, kindness. Notice what shifts in practicing this. If it feels hard or awkward, imagine the kindness you’d feel toward a struggling friend, or your cat or dog — someone you find it really easy to be deeply kind to — and direct that kindness toward yourself.

The quick and dirty version:

Skip to number #3 and keep doing it. From deep, radical kindness, all Vortexes of Need dissolve and transform into Foundations of Support.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you reach out for support. What makes it feel easier?

And: Wednesday, Nov. 21, is the last day to sign up for Jenna Avery’s Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle. I’m both a participant and a coach for this group, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for support in creating a daily writing habit!

Image is YELLOW VORTEX © Carsten Erler |

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