Support Networks – “Heroes Never Go Alone”
It might seem like a lone quest, but we all need others in various ways to successfully navigate a journey – as a teenager or as an adult.
Heroes never go alone on their journeys in the myths and movies. That has always been true for the heroes of myths and movies and it is true for us all.
One of the most important parts of a heroic journey is the creation of a support network to support you on the journey. That can include people (in large or small roles), activities and habits, places of rest or renewal, meaningful symbols or objects, etc. Support networks help deal with all the tests and the inevitable energy traps as well as helping take advantage of the sources of life energy.
You can expect to encounter people who can play a variety of roles in your journey. Some will come to you or be a natural part of groups and organizations of which you are a part. But others you will need to make an effort to bring into your support network.
Your support network can be pretty informal – and it will probably change over the years – but you do need to take the initiative to manage it.
Who Might be in a Support Network?
If alert, we can usually find companions with whom we can travel. We might travel for parts of our journey with these companions or sometimes we might travel all the way. Other characters, such as tricksters, jokers, allies, enemies, opponents, and such can also be encountered and they have to be dealt with.
Supporters come in many forms. They range from family members and peers to other adults who are veterans of the heroic journey who share their wisdom and encouragement. Sometimes support comes from individuals and sometimes it comes from groups, organizations or communities.
There will also be healers to help overcome the inevitable injuries that happen to us on our journeys. The help and healing, like the tests, might be physical, emotional, intellectual, social or spiritual.
The nature of the roles of helpers and healers and their importance will vary widely, but they will almost always be present in some form. Whether they are seen and used by us is, of course, one of the challenges.
Individuals, Groups & Organizations. All of these can be part of a support network and it is usually the combination that makes a difference.
AND – There will also be problem people encountered. Support networks help balance and deal with the competitors, rivals, enemies, saboteurs, bullies, and anyone else that would undermine or hurt you.
Be the Author
Waiting for the resources to come to you is a mistake
You have resources that can support you in your journeys. The key, as the author of your life, is to use these resources. Waiting for others to somehow be the author for you doesn’t work. That was childhood, which is what needs to be left behind.
One of the keys for a company president (or any manager) is to make sure that they have the right people on the team. If you don’t have the right people on the team, it’s hard to play the game – even with lots of information and a great plan.
For you, on a heroic journey, this is particularly important
It takes courage to engage people in supporting you and then relying on them – but heroes don’t go alone. They never do in the myths and stories and they don’t in real life either. None of us will be very successful if we try to go alone on our journeys. Unfortunately, for teenagers this is particularly challenging because you are in the process of learning how to develop relationships that are deeper and more mature than those of childhood.
The good news
The good news is that there are a surprising number of people who will be willing to support you – if you ask – and sometimes help them support you. You do have to build your support network as they don’t usually form on their own.
There may be times when the helpers, healers and companions are not present – or not obvious.
If you get unconnected, it is important to get reconnected – even if it feels awkward to do so and initial efforts don’t work as hoped. There will be people and organizations with whom you can connect, so perseverance may be the key. Another key is to make sure you are open to help and support.
Roles You Might Play for Others
You can also expect to find that you can help others just as others can help you. That might seem like a strange concept while you’re caught up in the whitewater of being a teenager, but it’s true. You will be able to help others on their journeys even as you confront all the tests you will face.
In fact, one of the most rewarding and empowering things you can expect is the opportunity to play roles for your peers on their journeys. For example, you can be a companion, helper, healer, advocate, protector, even someone who challenges someone to be their best. You can model successful behaviors, connect peers with others or stand up for another. These roles can be played in large and small ways and they make a difference.
Figures Encountered on the Journey
The key is to weave relationships with these people into a web of support and figure out how to deal with the people that will try to lure you off the path or undermine your progress.
- Companions or friends for parts of the journey
- Tricksters and jokers
- Opponents (people we compete with and grow in the process
- Enemies (not the same as opponents – enemies intend harm)
- Teachers and mentors
- Role models
- Those who inspire
- Those who have gone before (veterans of the journey)
There are some natural questions that arise regarding these figures:
- Who have I met and who might I meet?
- Who do I want to meet and how might they help me?
- Who do I need to avoid or deal with?
- Who are the figures I’m involved with that I need to move away from?
- How can I create the relationships I need and get out of the relationships that are not good for me? (Yes, this is easier said than done.)
Help Them Help You
In influencing the interaction with these figures, particularly the adults, sometimes it is as simple as letting them know what you would like or need. That can be very informal or it can take more of a “contract” form. Often people who are ready and willing to help, support, guide, teach, challenge, heal, etc. do not do so because they are not sure exactly how to do it or even if they are welcome.
Never assume that people know how to support you – peers or adults.
Energy Traps & Energy Sources – The 70/30 Principle
On the teen journey -or any situational journeys you encounter – you will find energy traps and sources of energy. They are a natural part of the journey and – once again – the key is to manage them.
“The 70/30 Principle.” One of the differences between these sources of energy and the preceding energy traps is that people on a heroic journey usually have more influence over the sources of energy than they do over the energy traps.
That is not true in every instance, but it does reinforce the 70/30 principle, which argues that it is best to spend 70% of your attention and effort on the energy generating side and 30% dealing with the energy traps.
The Energy Traps – “Challenges to the Heart”
Living takes energy. Finding your way on the teen journey takes lots of energy. You can expect to encounter “energy traps” that diminish the energy you have. These traps can range from failing to see your successes and focusing on the negative to getting worn down by stress. They can range from getting discouraged or fearful to getting injured, facing setbacks or being disconnected from others.
One word of caution. As with all of these sections, the elements that follow are natural to the journey. Their existence does not mean that something is wrong or that mistakes have been made or that all is lost.
They are presented for consideration ahead of time or in the midst of the journey. Reviewing the list is particularly helpful when energy starts to diminish. Sometimes just identifying a source of energy drain can take the power away from it. You can also talk with others and help each other deal with these energy traps
Don’t be intimidated. The fact that there are an impressive number of energy traps may be daunting, but that’s the way it works on the journey. Everyone is dealing with these demons. The key is to (a) know they are there, (b) understand that they are natural and not an indication that you are failing or inadequate, and (c) deal with them directly. AND remember that heroes don’t go alone, so talk with others about how to deal with them.
Common Energy Traps Encountered on the Journey
- Refusing to let go of old ways, relationships, images, affiliations,…
- The desire to turn back vs. the desire to go ahead
- Losing sight of the vision – losing the way – getting lost
- Getting tired, worn-out (physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually)
- Injuries/illness (hurt, pain, loss of function, etc.)
- Successes overlooked/discounted
- Failure/defeat/losses/mistakes (those from which little or nothing is learned)
- The unexpected
- Disorientation and confusion
- Negative self-talk
- Becoming disconnected or separated from others
- Difficulty of the learning process – awkwardness of new skills, initial drops in competence and performance, etc.
- Lack of a sense of purpose or significance
- Lack of sense of significance or that behavior really makes a difference
- Stress – either too intense or unrelieved (chronic)
- Doubting the worth of the journey
- Doubting the ability to successfully complete the journey (potency/effectiveness of self, tools, strategies, helpers, etc)
- Points of despair (bottoming out)
- Discouragement or despair
- Fear (may have an early burst of energy, but then drops or wears out)
- Others’ fears and anxieties
- “Nay-sayers” – “you can’t…” or ”who are you to…?”
- Bullies, “mean girls”, people who are jealous of your progress, etc.
- Lack of money or other resources
Sources of Life Energy for the Journey
You can expect to find sources of energy that provide the life energy necessary for the journey. There are a surprising number of energy sources. Remember the 70/30 Principle. Focus most of your attention on the sources of life energy.
Taking advantage of these sources of energy is another direct challenge to “be the author”
It means not allowing yourself to be the victim of the inevitable traps. This is a big list of possible sources of energy, so stay aware of just how many opportunities there are for you to take care of yourself. Some of these sources of energy are simple and some are more complex. Simple can still be powerful. The key is to draw energy from a bunch of these sources.
- Places of rest or renewal – where you can go that allows you to rest and relax – places that give you energy
- Revisiting, renewing purpose and meaning
- Reviewing desired personal profiles or heroic codes or heroic spirit
- Building competence/capabilities/attitude and employing them
- Symbols and objects of meaning
- Receiving from companions and helpers, healers, teachers, and mentors
- Revisiting role models (talking with them?)
- Positive internal dialogue
- Self-care – little or big ways of taking care of yourself – staying healthy
- Celebrating the successes of others
- Experience of learning (insights, skills, capabilities)
- Time with pets
- Time spent on hobbies
- Sports or exercise
- Listening to music
- Creating artwork
- Cooking or baking
- Making things (from woodwork to knitting)
- Going to movies
- Writing in a journal
- Being in a group that is fun or meaningful
- Community service
- Mastering something – even little things
- Outdoor activities – from hiking to hunting
- Celebrating success in meeting trials, tests, challenges, “crucible experiences” (small successes as well as large ones)