Inside-out: Comfort talk gets those cares shared

We are taught to be strong, stand up for ourselves and to remain positive. Such qualities have been respected over the years and indeed there is merit in these. Never-the-less at times this message designed to help build resilience can get lost and many cares, many feelings, many traumas get bottled up and go unexplored.

The False Positive

How many times have you seen someone clearly not coping yet when you approach and ask how things are going there is a rebuff of “fine!” or a wide smile and the answer “great, how are you!” that pushes us away and sends a signal of “back off I’m not!”

Yes, it is hard to know how far to push a friend, a family member or a colleague into opening up about what is concerning them and one feels as though one might be interfering. It is time like this we’ve been dealt a “false positive’.

The Cloak of Invisibility

Yet often it is these false positives that are the vital signs that things are not okay and that we are needed even more. There is also the phenomenon of “the cloak of invisibility”. The unreturned phone calls, the unanswered texts and the lack of contact that shouts out; “I’m hiding”. Why, when people need help the most do they do this?

The answer is actually quite simple: they want to be “found”. That is to say they want to be sure that the person asking is really wanting to help. They also do not want to impose, cause problems or create awkward situations by their sharing. They do not want to be a burden, their fear of being judged, their sense of “shame” or hopelessness at the situation they are in that is causing them grief and for those whose cares involved others – their sense of “betraying” trust or confidence of others can be daunting.

How do I know this?

Having myself at times in recent years been stressed and concerned over my daughter’s health during the years of her “eating disorder” I made a conscious decision to share, to talk about the situation and to seek some sort of sense from the situation by allowing friends “in”. It was not always easy and at times the reactions or the responses I got from my sharing were not what I’d expected and at times not what I necessarily liked to hear. Never-the-less the honest sharing and the loyal listening and caring I received over a cup of cocoa or across the miles over a phone call enabled me to “unpack the baggage” and to gain strength from this to keep going.

Role Models

Having demonstrated trust in others I have come to see that this has allowed me to be trusted when it is others’ turn to share their cares and worries. A wonderful consequence that I had never foreseen. I feel that I can use my experience and my pain to understand theirs and to be that listening ear when it is ended the most.

As well as this I have been so empowered in hearing public figures over the years themselves speak out the the faceless listeners. Their sharing and opening up in such a public manner is a role model to us all. Think of Princess Diana’s frank “confessions” of her own eating disorder, of Alan Cumming live and written recounts of the abuse suffered at the hands of his father and even the like of Churchill and his reference to his “Black Dog” echoed many times over since by so many fantastic positive male role models in sport and other public arenas.

Collective Resilience

When these conversations are started, we the listener need to be there, to look out for the hidden signals that a friendly face, a non-judging listener and a sympathetic shoulder is there to get those cares and worries out and to help each other gain strength from talking about the things that are causing pain. By doing so we can then stand up not only for ourselves but for each other and develop a collective resilience as a society.

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