Creating the Circle of Support You Need – Anytime You Need It
I really experienced the value of the exercise below, Creating a Circle of Support, at a time when I needed it the most.
Ten years ago I chose to have Lasik eye surgery to correct lifelong near-sightedness and astigmatism. The operation was risky, so I went into the operation with understandable anxiety.
I had asked friends to think of me on the day of the operation, at the time I was actually in surgery, so that I would feel supported and not alone during the procedure.
I had to remain conscious during the operation and focus my eyes on the light beam above me so the laser could track exactly where to remove the fluid in the eye which would re-shape the cornea and create the lens that would allow new 20-20 vision. While lying on the gurney staying as still as I could be, I thought of all my friends thinking of me, taking in the sense of love and caring I knew was being sent my way.
About 10 minutes into the operation, quite suddenly, all sense of anxiety ceased completely. I was flooded with a sense of love and belonging that was quite over-powering. There was nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all. I remained in that state of serenity for the remainder of the surgery (which was completely successful).
I will be teaching the Creating a Circle of Support exercise below in several venues this spring, all of them very supportive of creating circles of support in your own life. You can learn new skills while recovering a great deal of ease and peace of mind:
April 29 Sounds True Brain Change Summit
[part of a free online Brain Change Summit, April 22-May 1, 2019]
May 19-24 Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Stockbridge, MA
June 1, 2019 Insight LA, Santa Monica, CA
June 13-14 Leading Edge Seminars, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Links to videos: Practice What You Preach
June 17-21 Cape Cod Institute, Cape Cod, MA
Try the exercise below yourself to prepare for life’s emergencies before the emergencies arise.
We may seek support and encouragement in difficult times among good friends who know us well. These folks may be on our short list of “go to” people whom we can call at 2 a.m., trusting that we will be held in what psychologist Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard,” that we will be reassured that we are OK, or will be, even though our world is crashing in around us.
You may already have a circle of support, people you can call on in real life in real time to provide support and resources when there’s an emergency, people you can call at 2 am and they will show up.
But even more readily available for most of us is drawing on the support of social connection by creating an imaginary circle of support that we can access anytime for any occasion. You can create a genuinely effective team of “go to” people in your imagination as a circle of support. Imagining experiences can be nearly as powerful for creating new brain circuitry as those in “real time.”
This circle can include people you trust and feel supported by, or it may be made up of imaginary yet-to-be-met-in-real-life people. Your circle may include a spiritual figure like Jesus or the Dalai Lama. Your own wiser self can be a tremendous refuge. Visualizing a circle we are surrounded by of real or imaginary beings who “have our back” can greatly enhance our ease and resilience as we face a new unknown.
Exercise: Circle of Support
1. Take a moment to identify 2-3 people (more if you wish), that when you think of them you feel a sense of safety and trust, connection and support. These do not have to be people you already know, people you see very day, or even people you would necessarily go to in real time for support. These are just people with whom, when you think of them and imagine being in their presence, your nervous system calms down and you feel safe and protected; your courage to take risks comes to the fore.
2. Image these 2-3 or more people gathered around you in a semi-circle or walking with you side by side, lending you their faith and support as you enter a difficult situation. Imagine them fully present, fully supportive. You are not alone.
3. You can even identify a specific situation for which you would like support. such as going to a supervisor to discuss a complaint or a raise, preparing for an audit by the IRS, telling your brother and sister-in-law you won’t be joining them for Thanksgiving this year, or confronting your teenage son about drug paraphernalia stashed in his bedroom closet. Rehearse walking into this situation with your circle of support staunchly with you. This imagined rehearsal can pre-wire circuitry in the brain, making it much more likely you feel the support as real in the actuality of the situation.
4. Practice evoking this circle of support when you are in a difficult situation and need support. Notice whether evoking this circle of support helps you feel steady, both calm and brave in the actual situation.
5. Practice evoking this circle of support again and again. (The actual people may evolve over time) until this circle becomes a natural resource of your brain that you can call on anytime you need it.
When you use the power of your imagination to repeatedly imagine people supporting you, you are installing a pattern of coping in your neural circuitry that you can use as a refuge in any times of difficulty or challenge.