Many of us have turned to online support groups and blogs to help guide us through our understanding, healing and recovery from pathological relationships. They are wonderful places to meet wonderful people. I for one credit the help I have received from virtual strangers as my biggest support tool over the past year.
However, there have been some encounters and hiccups along the way, and I just wanted to share a few tips that have helped me navigate away from pages, sites, groups and even individuals that are counter to progressive healing:
1. Enter private groups with zero expectations.
Even if you were invited by a “real” friend or long-time virtual friend, private groups are not a one-size fits all. Dip your toe in. Be cautious. Feel out and read past posts and comments. If there is something triggering, you may want to remove yourself from the group. No one SHOULD get offended. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.
2. Never let anyone tell you how you should be feeling.
We spent far too long dealing with a pathological partner telling us how we SHOULD think or feel. We don’t need people or groups devaluing us, too. If you comment about how you feel or what you’re thinking and you immediately receive a response like, “You shouldn’t feel or think X,Y,and Z,” remove yourself from the group or step away from the page. If it’s the administrator of the page who is trying to offer you advice on how you SHOULD be feeling, that’s a red flag that the owner of the page may be stuck or pathological themselves.
3. Never measure your progress and recovery against that of another.
It’s very common to meet someone online who seems exactly like you. That person’s experience mirrors yours almost down to the pet names your exes used to call you. You feel connected (FINALLY!) and understood. You start comparing your progress with her progress. Doing this often results in self-judgment. You might feel inadequate if you think she’s moving forward faster than you. Or you might even start judging your friend and think she’s not moving fast enough. We all have varying and complex coping mechanisms. Some of us cycle through emotions faster than others. A person who seems “stuck” may just be a bit more cautious in moving forward. Someone who appears “healed” may be hiding their doubts. Which leads to #4…
4. Online support should NEVER replace other professional services.
Professional counseling and support outside of the virtual world is often necessary and essential for some one in recovery. No matter how much you think the online group is helping you more than offline professional services, don’t be too hasty in dropping your counselor.
5. Above all, listen to Your Gut.
We hear this a lot, because we were so bad at listening to ourselves while in the pathological relationship. Instead of waiting to test your gut in your next romantic relationship, start using it in all of your relationships, especially in online support groups. If a person seems to contradict themselves or you feel a page administrator or group facilitator is hindering you or trying to control you, you’re probably correct. Not everyone who creates a page or group is doing it for good reasons. Some page creators are doing it for selfish and ego-boosting reasons. It’s a harsh reality but a very true one. Don’t feel obligated to continue a relationship or friendship with someone if your gut is telling you to break the ties.
Have a great weekend! Namaste! ~Paula
(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/379780181046759496/)