Relying on your own inner strength can get you through tough times, but leaning on others is important, too. Seeking support and comfort from other people is wired into your DNA. Right from birth, people turn to supportive others as a safe haven, and the comfort they receive can fill them with inner strength to endure and overcome difficult circumstances. But for a relationship to be a safe haven, the other person must have the right qualities.
The person you look to for comfort must be emotionally attuned to you. They must not only be empathic, but they must also be responsive to your emotional needs. As I explain in my book, Bouncing Back from Rejection, you can identify safe havens in your life by completing this simple exercise:
Get out a journal (or a sheet of paper) to help you do this exercise.
Write a list of significant people currently in your life. Circle the name of each person who fits with the following list of traits. These characteristics describe people who can function well as a safe haven:
- Is a good listener, so you feel understood
- Expresses a desire to be there for you when you struggle
- Responds to your distress with caring, reassurance, and support
- Effectively communicates their support and caring
- Just being in their presence feels comforting
The people whose names you have circled are likely to be people you can rely on to comfort you and help relieve your distress at difficult times. However, just because they could be an effective safe haven for you, they cannot be there for you unless you reach out to them. Too often people choose to bear their burden alone, making their struggles more difficult and distancing them from the very relationships that could help them.
One reason people don’t ask for help is that they tend to brace themselves for rejection. One way to build your sense of being able to rely on someone else when you are going through a difficult time is to reflect on situations when they have been accepting and comforting. Pay attention to any warmth or positive feelings that you had, and choose to open yourself to re-experiencing the relief you felt at those times.
Knowing in your mind and heart that you are not alone – that you have a companion on your life journey – can lighten your load. Even when that person can offer some wise guidance or concrete advice, they won’t be able to solve all your problems. But their ability to be a safe haven and to truly be there with you, and for you, will infuse you with a sense of connection that can empower you as you take on life’s current obstacles and difficulties.