Oh, the relief I feel when I connect with someone and I hear the me too, the yes, I know how you feel, or I get it- I have been there (what I call the me-too factor). In a recent blog article, Outside our Comfort Zone, I mentioned my desire for me too’s. So often we are struggling and we feel as if we are the only one so, we struggle in isolation and silence. It has been my experience both professionally and personally that healing does not take place in isolation, but rather in relationship with God and others.
Relationships and connections: those that have experienced abuse, trauma, abandonment and the like often have a difficult time trusting others and miss out on great opportunities to experience the me-too factor. This lack of connection can be both painful and lonely. To connect with others and enjoy the healing benefits of safe, loving, healthy relationships we must first take a risk and step out of our comfort zones. Some may be saying-wait a minute, how can you call my loneliness and pain a comfort zone. I can call it that because that’s what it is. Have you ever wondered why someone will stay in an abusive relationship, or why abused children would rather stay with the abusive parents rather than tell and risk being taken from their home? Often, it is because that’s their comfort zone, what they are familiar with. They have learned to survive in that environment and the fear of the unknown can be scarier. This isn’t the only reason folks will stay in those types of situations, but I have heard more than once this is at least one of the reasons. Below are some ideas to help you seek out and experience the connection that takes place with the me-too factor.
· Small groups: as mentioned in a previous blog article, Outside the Comfort Zone, I took a risk and attended a small bible study group in a couple’s home and found we had a great deal in common and I heard the me-too several times, which gave me a sense of belonging as well as a sense of okay I am not the only one struggling. Not all churches offer small groups but if your church does this may be a great option for you.
· Friendships/intimate relationships: If you have one real friend you are blessed. When I say real, I mean someone that you can take your mask off with and be real. Someone that allows you to be you without judgment and you do the same for them. If you do not have a friend like this I encourage you to take a risk and begin the friendship process with someone that seems like they could be this person for you. It is scary to put yourself out there and risk rejection, but living a lonely life without genuine connection is even scarier. Join a church group, book club, gym, dance class, or art class. Find something that you are passionate about and meet others that are passionate about the same things. There is no rush, take your time and enjoy the process. There is no need to share all your secrets the first day you meet. Safe relationships take time to build.
· Support groups: There are support groups for almost everything. The ones I see being beneficial for my clients are Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, healing groups for survivors of sexual abuse, sex addiction recovery groups, post-partum support groups for moms, and groups for Veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, the internet can be a great resource and tool. Various social media outlets offer opportunities for people to gather together and support one another online. For example, there are closed groups on Facebook where individuals with similar interest or concerns can share their experiences and offer support to one another. While online support groups can be beneficial in obtaining the me-too factor, they can also be dangerous so one should use with caution and with the understanding that anything online has the potential to not be confidential.
· Therapy groups: I have witnessed true healing take place through the trust, safety, and connections offered in therapeutic groups. I have seen hardened combat Veterans learn to cry again. I have witnessed domestic violence survivors find their voice and empower one another. I have witnessed sexual abuse survivors learn to love themselves and trust again and I have seen meth addicts give up their addiction and embrace freedom. I cannot say enough positive things about the power of the me-too factor and the power that is present in these types of groups.
When seeking out relationships and the me-too factor, we do not have to be perfect or have it all figured out. A part of this journey towards healing is embracing the fact that its ok to not be ok. Think about it, do you find yourself able to relate to “perfect” people? Think about the most put together person you know; they have problems too. No one is perfect even though social media and Cosmo Magazine would have us to believe that perfection is attainable. Take a risk, introduce yourself to someone you think is kinda cool. Expect to make mistakes in the process. Take risks and get uncomfortable, it’s worth it.
Steps towards healing are risky, but worth it. I remind my clients that they can do hard things and guess what, you can too. Your me-too can give others the strength to go on. If you are a good friend encourage those closest to you to step out of their comfort zones, get dirty and grow. Share those me-too moments even if they are embarrassing, awkward, or painful. Let others know you are not perfect but you are safe. Allow someone to trust you and confide in you. Likewise, allow someone to hear your truths, and offer you support and accountability.