We are all in need and we can all help

We are made for relationships, for connection and to be in community with one another. This isn’t always easy but it’s reassuring to know that whatever we have been through, others have gone through similar things too. It is comforting to know we are not on our own and to remember we have more in common than we realise. We all have doubts, fears and worries wherever we live in the world, however young or old we are, whatever we do for a living, whether we have great faith or no faith; we all share these common human traits.

One of the most common responses from my talks on the subject of pain and suffering is what I describe as the “Me too!” moment. It is the moment you hear something that tells you are not alone, that someone else has experienced what you’re going through and shares your struggles. To get to that place often involves someone being willing to be vulnerable to talk not only about the success stories but also the challenges as well. It can be hard being honest and showing our true selves because we seem to have an inbuilt self-preservation mode that tries to shield us from other people’s judgements of who we are. As Jesuit Priest and Professor of Theology and Psychology, John Powell puts it, “I am afraid to tell you who I am because you might not like me and that is all that I have to give to you.”

We keep people at a distance, afraid that if we let them close they would have the ability to hurt us. We develop self-protective strategies. “The human personality becomes adept at finding ways to relate to people with our real self-hidden from view. We develop ways to compensate, we become people pleasers, attention seekers, workaholics, perfectionists, clowns and victims, experts in the art of camouflage.” Then we wonder why loneliness is one of the greatest problems in our society.

We need to let go of the harmful notion that there are those in need and those able to help. We are all in need in some ways and we can all help in others. Having needs doesn’t make us ‘needy’. We will all have times we feel weak and other times when we feel strong. We need to stop placing judgements on each other’s coping mechanisms. Why is it OK to admit we’ve had a huge bar of chocolate because we’re feeling low but not OK to talk about the fact that our bad day led to self- harm? We all have different struggles and we all find our broken ways to cope. We’re not called to judge or to rescue one another but to be alongside and love one another.

With this way of working in mind, we have spent the last year researching, writing and piloting group meetings/courses and we have finally launched our Kintsugi Hope Well-Being Groups. A Kintsugi Hope Group is a safe and supportive space for people who feel or have felt overwhelmed, providing tools for self-management in a facilitated peer mentoring style setting.

It consists of a structured, yet flexible series of 12 weeks of content which includes group and individual activities designed to help participants to accept themselves, to understand their value and worth and grow towards a more resilient and hopeful future.

I attended one of these pilots as a participant and I loved it! I learnt so much! Not only did I gain knowledge and understanding of strategies to help with my anxiety, I realised I was not alone. As a leader I have the tendency to sometimes be the one who feels that I need to be “sorted” before I can help others. In reality what helps people is honesty. The non-judgemental aspect of a Kintsugi Hope Group is key and what made me feel safe and able to freely be vulnerable.

I feel we have stumbled on something that could be really special for so many folks and through reading the evaluation forms from the other group pilots which have taken place, I get a little emotional upon considering the impact the Groups have had so far. If you are interested in running one of these groups in your Church, do download a pack from our website.

The application pack is thorough in explaining what is expected from a Kintsugi Hope Well-being Group Leader and we have to be very careful and clear about our expectations. Some people can’t seem to help but give their opinions or advice, and to my embarrassment, I think I used to be one of those people before all the operations that I went through. Now I know what a gift it is to have people who don’t try to necessarily offer answers and solutions but will readily be with me and go on a journey together, not knowing what the outcome may be.

There may be a place for practical advice but what we most often need is to simply be heard and our pain acknowledged. As Samuel Wells says, “Being with is not fundamentally about finding solutions but about companionship amid struggle and distress. Sometimes the obsession and finding solutions can get in the way of forming profound relationships — and sometimes those relationships are more significant than solutions.”

When you feel someone listens and tries to understand you, without judgement or needing to move the conversation on, it can be healing in itself. When you’re constantly offered solutions, it can make you feel like you’re at fault and if you would only take action your problems would be solved. Sometimes we just need to listen and allow each other to be heard.

The link below is a video made by a Group Leader on one of our pilot groups. It consists of an exercise suggested at the end of the 12 weeks where each person draws a circle in a middle of a page with their name in it and spokes around it as to make a sunshine. Each person then passes it round to the person to their right who writes something about the person whose name is in the circle, then passes it round again to the next person on their right, etc until everyone’s paper has gone all around the room and the spokes are full with words and phrases of affirmation about the person whose name is in the circle by the time they get their paper back.

Check this video and see what the participants in this group had to say about the Kintsugi Hope Well-being Group they attended.

Patrick Regan OBE

Co-Founder of Kintsugi Hope