The word ‘support’ often appears as an inevitably important factor across almost all spheres of functioning, be it children wanting the support of their family, adolescents craving the support of their peers and friends, employees seeking supportive colleagues and superiors, or newlyweds wishing for supporting in-laws! However, it is important for us to ponder on the exact role of such a support system, and the significance of such a support system within our lives.
Defining a Support System
Human beings are known as being social by nature, and therefore it is very difficult for us to imagine living our lifetime in isolation, and in the absence of any other human being. Therefore, any entity which provides assistance for an individual, and whom the individual perceives as being caring can be defined as a source of support. Such entities are typically a component of one’s social network, and could include one’s family, friends, peers, neighbours, or even pets.
Furthermore, the kind of support need not be restricted to being social companionship in nature, and could range from being tangible support in the form of materialistic, monetary or financial assistance, to an intangible support in the form of emotional or nurturing support, advice or guidance, or even a sense of togetherness or belongingness.
Functions and Roles of a Support System
As is evitable from the term itself, a support system is meant to be beneficial and helpful, almost being mutually reciprocal in nature, and therefore is often cited as an essential prerequisite for both physical as well as mental well-being of individuals worldwide.
1. Agency of Socialization. First and foremost, the social development which begins in infancy is incomplete without the role of a family or the primary caregivers for the new member. In fact, it would not be incorrect to say that the family serves as a primary ecological niche which provides for the socialization and survival of the next generation. Typically, it is the family which serves as a setting for much of our growth and experience, especially during the growing years of our lives.
2. Division of Responsibilities. Any support system inherently gives an assurance of being capable of sharing roles and responsibilities, though the nature and limitations of these responsibilities may vary in degrees based on the kind of support system.
3. Sense of Belongingness. Often, social support does not translate into the materialistic assistance that is provided, but could instead be the sense of togetherness, and belongingness that is provided by being in the midst of each other. Such an intangible support could simply let an individual know that he or she is valued, and in fact, such a support is invaluable.
4. Reciprocal interdependence. This is true for almost all kinds of support systems, as there tends to be an unspoken assurance that exists, which implies that the support shall be available to the individual in need, depending on the demands of the situation as well as depending on the potential and capacity of the support system.
Role of Support within the Contemporary World
Especially within the contemporary world, it is important to reiterate the significance of building strong support systems. Considering the cohesiveness within our Indian culture, and with the recent shifts to nuclear families, the nature of interdependence has been imbibed within our value systems over the generations. Wider generation gaps are a trend which is a likely manifestation of the decreasing communication between them, leading to growing distance and disconnect within a family.
With the flood of invasion by technological advancements which can be witnessed today, there is a growing tendency of social alienation and even isolation across the society. It would be easier for some us to complain of being ‘disconnected’ if we were to be deprived of our technological gadgets even for a couple of hours, rather than if we have been unable to be in touch with our own families or friends in the real world for a couple of days!
The cliché of ‘quality time’ has almost lost its meaning in the contemporary world, with most of us glues to our mobile phones, being absorbed within the entanglements of our various commitments and priorities in the outside world. In addition to the need to emphasize family time in the midst of our fast-paced world today, it is also important to pay attention to our communication patterns, which form the essence of the social institution. The quality of communication and relationships with our family, friends as well as colleagues, determines the basis of our interpersonal functioning.
Tips to Serve as Strong Support Systems
Try to be available: While it is not always possible to go out of your way to resolve a problem or a crisis being experienced by your near and dear one, it is important for you to give an assurance of being there in as much capacity as possible at the time.
Simply listen: Support does not necessarily translate into doing something, offering advice or providing a solution to every problem at hand. Often all that is needed is for you to be able to hear the other person out. Do not always be giving advice, but instead also try and be a sounding board for them at times.
Do not encourage dependencies: This is essential both from your own perspective as well as others’ perspectives. It is not healthy to be emotionally, socially, financially, physically or even psychologically dependent on each other.
Establish clear boundaries: It is important to establish clear and strong boundaries, and not to let your own privacy be invaded. Set clear limits, and also at the same time respect the other person’s limits. This could be applicable for friends, peers, colleagues, families and even pets!
Don’t forget to have fun: Undoubtedly, there can be no substitute for the fun to be had with one’s near and dear ones. Therefore, do not hesitate to invest in your relationships, as they can indeed last a lifetime, and can also serve as a life support in times of need!