I have found myself of late, ruminating over specific details of several deeply emotional and private conversations with my beloved family and friends.These conversations are ones in which confidential information has been shared with accompanying tears of anger and shame and words of confusion and fear. We all seek unconditional understanding and non-judgemental kindness in the landscape of familiar, open and loving support. I have born witness to admissions of deep held fears of humiliation and regret, youthful missed opportunities to live dreams and realise goals and hopes, lost love and words unspoken, ongoing wars with family members where grief permeates each exchange or remembrance of wrong doing, and the intangible ghost of our own eventual mortality in the shadow of another’s illness. I deeply treasure the recognition of my worth in my dearest family and friend’s lives to hold such confidences in trust.
This is a shared state. They are invaluable in my life, and the role that they play in maintaining my mental health and the threads of my belonging. It is in companionship with others, through the history of each ordinary life that relationships are forged together. Identity is moulded through time and cast by circumstance and our journey recorded alongside another’s personal life experience. We witness each other’s real lives. Some are chosen ones that will keep our spirit alive, forward into the lives of future generations, telling our truth and recalling our unique perspective on this life journey. They are our blessed ones, our scribes and orators who will interpret our lives through their unique interpretation of us. Someone that they loved and hopefully did not despise.
It has been noted that as all humans we share the same greatest desire and the same greatest fear, the former to be accepted and the latter to avoid rejection. Our human desire to be accepted, to be understood and to meet the approval of others, can create unwise choice of public disclosure of personal data. This can allow us to unwisely seek reassurance from unlikely and unsuitable individuals with whom we have limited personal investment and who have a very limited reference of our personal complexity. In addition, they may not have the capacity to intellectualise our rationality for it, as part of our unique cellular and spiritual entity.
For some people, this manifests on a simple level, such as in the customer retail experience, in the purchase of goods of therapy, especially if it is expensive and unnecessary. A remnant of our adolescent state, every ready to chose fun, risk and adventure over certainty, stability and predictability. In a simple exchange for the purchase of good or service, friendship can be struck by agreement in selection and the in the art of good reflective sales communication, secured in a sale. Shelves are full of selling propaganda which legitimises selling unneeded goods, at maximum price to those that can least avoid it. There is a false sense of connection which lasts until the exchange has been made. For some this interaction becomes an addiction cycle, one which starts in control and ends in loss.
The conformity of our adult state can lead us to engage in statements of higher risk disclosure when leading open questions are asked of us. The desire to be responsive, truthful and for those individuals that are guided by work ethics and spiritual principles and wish to remain congruent with their chosen path, this can unnecessarily expose an individual’s vunerabilities. This may reveal personal lives beyond the boundaries of the workplace or a simple retail shopping sales transaction.
There is a calculated risk in allowing others to experience the fragility that we often hide. We fear rejection, exposure, ridicule, potential manipulation and disgrace. We fear the loss of love, the greatest experience that life offers. Psychology is littered with references to our ego states and our use of personas that conceal our fragile child state. Yet, why do some of us feel compelled to be over generous with strangers and those with limited investment in our well being? The advent of the social media connection age, has propelled us into the recording and sharing of the minutia of our lives, feeding our voyeurism of other’s lives. I too have contributed to this.
One of the great dilemmas in making new adult friendships is whether it is possible to represent yourself with depth and complexity, so that you can harvest insight and become emotionally connected in the period of time that you are prepared to invest in this pursuit. Yet another example of how our focus on productivity has skewed our perspective of time, as previously circumstance and the daily course of life would have determined value of lasting friendship not a strategic analysis. All of our significant relationships are forged by shared experiences, like birth, childhood, schooling, university, employment, parenting, and through all types of adversity. Many of these precious unique friendships positions have been filled by middle age, and only the events of temporary physical relocation or through the silence of death, do we need to consider replacement for the intimacy lost. The temporary void of distance despite all manner of social connections including (FaceTime, iPhone, iPad, Facebook and Instagram) is no replacement for flesh and bone, the immediacy of a hug and shared emotions. There is simply no easy way to replace such individuals, except by teleporting them back to you or returning home to them. Such is the undertow of the need to belong. How many people have left home only to return? The treasure is often just beneath the surface.
In the meantime, guarding disclosure regarding our intimate selves is standard media training for politicians, public figures and high profile community members. Celebrities are notoriously gifted or challenged at this. We collectively enjoy to witness when it all goes pear shared with a media throng in toe outside the door of the Federal Parliament. However for many of us, it is through ineffectual, non-existant or damaged family connections that inappropriate disclosure is bred and further vulnerability for misinterpretation of disclosure is created. The lack of safe and defined childhood boundaries, and/or insufficient relationships with honourable and trusted adults who love, honour and protect children, and the lack of knowledge of the importance of circle of trust and disclosure leads to further vulnerability as rejection occurs by miscommunication and lack of societal norms of behavioural expectation. This is a stream that must be healed or diverted, or it will serve to poison all that frequent it.
We owe it to ourselves to understand the impact of disclosure. To chose wisely with whom we share our fragilities, to value our intimate trusted family and friendships, retain boundaries in settings that do no withhold respect for confidentiality, and to invest in healing the damage from childhood neglect. We owe it to ourselves to decide on our level of disclosure in all matters, so that we are confident that we are interpreted as accurately as possible through the eyes of loved ones and not misrepresented by the lack of clarity for the our complexity by others. These judgements based on incomplete interpretations or representations of self, by others, in professional and/or powerful positions can be further detrimental to your well being by inferring rejection of behaviours and conversely rejection of self. For some, the damage to our need to belong is too great. I have taken the mantle of one of my newer much loved mature aged friend, and with the clarity that only cancer provides, I determine if emotional investment is wise, disclosure is relevant and to what degree and I gather my flock of witnesses to mark my journey. I will continue to give generously to those that I love and those that love me, and as for the rest? I will forgive those that stumble and learn the art of mindfulness.