“Viva la Resistance” . . . or Not!!

Even though I think Support Teams are fantastic, frequently the very people whom I perceive as needing a team the most nevertheless resist having a team organized. Consequently, I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on the various shades of resistance I’ve encountered over the last couple of years. In the third of my “Ten Lessons Learned” series, here are five of the resistance dynamics I’ve noticed.

  1. DSC_0254Many people resist the idea of a support team because they simply don’t want someone they do not know asking too many questions about their family members’ habits and customs. In other words, sometimes when I start talking about Support Teams, I come off as a nosy trespasser. “Who IS this guy, and what gives him the right to ask these kinds of questions?  HE doesn’t know us!”
  2. Some people, in one way or another, make it clear that they like their family just the way it is. When someone in the hospital suggests that they need “help” in putting together support, it sounds like a negative judgment to them. They don’t like to think that someone’s thinking of THEM as emotionally needy, or in need of counsel to improve their family or social system. Their pride throws up a barrier.
  3. Some folks feel exactly the opposite of #2 above. They’re ashamed of the dynamics in their family system and don’t want their “dirty laundry” exposed to strangers. Or some folks don’t want people coming into their homes and seeing disorder, or filth, or junk lying around everywhere. They may actually wish for a team, but shame erects a barrier.
  4. Frequently, people will resist a support team because they don’t want to “impose on anyone.” I’d need more space to elaborate all the possible roots of this particular weed, but whereas #3 above has to do with shame, this has to do with guilt. People don’t want to feel like they owe anybody anything, so they take a pass on having a Support Team launched for them. I think that this particular dynamic relates directly to the next point. Feeling “obliged” to someone flies in the face of the ideal of being able to handle your challenges yourself. This means that . . .
  5. . . . many people do not want to appear like they need anything, even when they do. This seems to me to go right to the heart of one of our culture’s most cherished myths.  In Western society we live with a deeply engrained cultural ideal of the rugged individual. It makes a positive statement, in our culture, when a person can confront challenges without needing help from anyone. On the other hand, it’s a less positive statement when someone cannot face challenges without aid from others. Stated starkly, an independent person is better than a dependent person. Consequently, to accept the support of a team of volunteers is like admitting that one is a lesser kind of person.  (I’ve written about this twice now under the rubric “Community as Medicine.”)

Other forms of resistance crop up, too, but these five seem to me to be the most frequent and the most effective in short circuiting the team launch process. In the next post, I’ll reflect on what I’ve learned about addressing resistance. In a word, it has to do with trust. More on that next time.

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