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Posted by Dr. Scott Solberg on Mar 07, 2018

Why You Need an Emotional Support Village

AT LEAST THAT IS THE CONCLUSION of a recent study done by Northwestern University and University of California, Santa Barbara. In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Bernstein wrote about this study and expounded on the concept of “emotionships.”

She writes, “Research into “emotionships”—the relationships we have with others that help us manage our moods—shows that we function best mentally when we create a village, or portfolio, of supportive people who have varied emotional skills. One person can’t help us with every mood, and not everyone is adept at handling every emotion.”

The idea behind the study is that no one person has “the emotional skill” to help us with every situation we face in life. For example, “we often seek out people who can help us in specific situations: comfort us when we’re down, calm us when we’re angry, motivate us when we need to compete, celebrate with us when we’re happy. Researchers call this interpersonal emotional regulation.”

And so the pressing question of the article is, “How can you find this kind of emotional support?” Or in the words of Bernstein, “How can you add to or maintain your village?”

To build this network, one therapist suggests the following options, “joining a club, signing up for a class or volunteering, because regular contact fosters intimacy—and knowing that you are going to see someone supportive can moderate your mood in advance. Also, don’t forget that there often are people right in front of you who care and would like to be closer. “When was the last time you called your cousins?”

All of these suggestions are fine and good. And yet, I couldn’t help but think of the way that the church is a great resource for building this village of emotional support. Just a simple glance at the “59 one another statements” in the New Testament is testimony to the varied kinds of emotional support we are to receive from each other in the church. Here, among other things, we are told to “love one another...forgive one another… encourage one another… spur one another on   accept one another   be kind and compassionate to one another.”

This “village of emotional support” has been a constant testimony of our community groups. It has also been the blessing of other relationships forged over time within the church.

I do not quibble with the results of this study; in fact, I find them to be true. We do need a “village of emotional support.” What I find missing in the article is the way the church is designed to meet much of that need.

May this encourage you to see the church, WEFC, as a place for relationship, community and emotional support. “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3-4)