Sometimes in gusts of energetic expressions of care (e.g., “You are going to be okay even if doesn’t feel like it right now” “Yes. You Can Do this Sweetie!” “I know you can totally handle this”) and other times, through soft whisperings that might be in the form of a tender rub of the back, a kiss on the cheek, staying late into the night on the phone while your loved one talks a blue streak with little utterances from your mouth, we remind those we care for not only that we’re here for them, but of their resilience to power on.
I’ve been paying acute attention in the last number of years to what it is about those that I and others feel not only most comfortable around in unveiling one’s full, true self, but who help people contact their inner stability and strength–particularly through ungrounding or challenging times. What I’ve come to is that it’s the blend of empathizing/validating with what’s going on emotionally for the person and normalizing the person’s experience in a way that makes it seem doable to deal with.
And it isn’t simply the verbal content (however verbal content is important, too–another blog post!) of what the confidante expresses in response to the person opening up about their difficulty, rather so much is offered in the non-verbals: tone of voice, eye contact, spontaneous and genuine tears or laughter, a firm, heart-carrying embrace, facial expressions and just that sense that the confidante is really present and can handle what’s being talked about. In all of that–the verbal and non verbal language–there is the potential of giving someone who is suffering or struggling in a small or more profound way a sense that they have the courage and super toughness to handle it all and, in addition to their capacity for that, you’re going to be there to add to the support.