Saturday, January 16, 2016

Unconventional coping


We're always encouraged to talk about problems. If there's one piece of advice that fits problems universally, it's to have a discussion with someone you trust. A wise friend, a parent, almost anyone can help you by simply being there. It's funny, I've said it a hundred times to so many different people. And it does work, I've seen it. Strength in unity. Together we seem to become more than the sum of our parts.

Through talking, we build trust. We cover common ground. It generates positive feedback. A certain degree of vulnerability is paramount to creating confidence in one-another, and that's what brings people closer. Just like you can't get good credit without ever taking a loan, you can't bind in deep friendship without giving a bit of yourself. It makes you relatable.

I'll gladly listen, but I rarely ever do the talking. It's not something that bothers me, not at all, but others have noticed. I internalize most everything. And I think that's fine.

Because most of my own troubles are a collection of social circumstances, existing uniquely between myself and some other person. How can I talk about those problems I face, without implicating another person? Therein lies the rub. Privacy and integrity are things I hold very dearly. All my troubles are not worth breaking the confidentiality of personal circumstance. What right do I have to bring something private to me and someone else to the scrutiny of others, however keenly I may feel the need for a second opinion? None, truly.

There's a fine line between processing your own social troubles and gossiping. Often, this line is walked carelessly, because the advice we so readily give each other is to talk freely. It creates an unhospitable social playing field, where everyone knows a bit too much about everyone, and no one has a clean slate. It's a typical small-town dilemma. To me, it is a revolting thought.

Privacy... For the rest of my problems, the ones singularly personal, my value in integrity would again be an obstacle. In this culture of gossip, who could I trust with my secrets? Could I trust that people understand and value the confidentiality of a discussion between two sets of eyes? In my experience, that isn't the case.

So when I encourage people to talk about their problems, what I really mean is internalise what you can, and see a shrink if there is something you can't possibly handle on your own. I realize that is unconventional advice. Perhaps you should simply have more faith in people than I do.


  1. I actually have a bit of a different conclusion. To start with, I'm generally rather open, at least nowadays. I wouldn't say that I always was, but I've been for some years now. I've noticed that I don't have many, if any "secrets" that I need to keep. At least not any of my own secrets. I have a few friends with whom I share pretty much anything, no matter what it is. Even if it's something witinvolving other people, or that could be seen as "between me and someone else". Unless it's explicitly a secret I've sworn to keep, in which case it would usually be unwise to share it; but that too, needs to be analyzed on an individual level. In certain cases, a "secret" is of less value than that which you can gain through sharing it. Take for example, someone whom's secret is that they're depressed beyond belief, they have a tendency to hurt themselves and may be contemplating suicide. In such a situation, I would usually recommend to fuck the "secret", and contact a professional who can help. There are less extreme examples of when privacy and integrity should not be put on the highest pedestal either.

    I do have some people I can share most any information with, as well as my thoughts about it. And here's the thing. It easily makes you feel better, if you have a person that you can trust with pretty much anything, including your most intimate feelings. However, it will only work out well if you truly can trust that person, and if you know for certain that they won't judge you for how you feel. It needs to be someone that understands that your thoughts are what they are, whether they seem to be "justified" or not. Also, it helps if it is indeed a wise friend who can come with some input, or another perspective on whatever you are talking/thinking about. If you do have such a close friendship with someone, it does make life, and dealing with whatever situation may come your way, a lot easier. There is an extreme amount of trust and loyality (not blind loyality of course, but deserved loyality) needed though.

    Now, of course. If one is suffering through something heavier, like again, depression or anything else that bothers you to such an extent that you don't think you or your friends/family can get you out of it, you should most definitely see a shrink. But that is because they are trained professionals who have dedicated a huge chunk of their lives to helping other people. Most friends can't do that for you, because they lack the knowledge, and they have a close relationship to you, whereas a shrink is less personal, so to say.

    But what I'm saying is this. Anything I could tell a shrink, I could also tell my closest friend. And I definitely don't have a clean package. I simply know for certain that I won't be judged, and that the talking will help much more than it could ever harm, no matter what it is about. It might depend on what kind of person you and your friend are, of course. I guess some people can "deal with" things on their own. But I can say for certain that one of the reasons I am pretty much always happy (no matter what), is because I know I have people I can trust with anything, be it interesting ideas, or my most intimate feelings.

    Certain kinds of privacy can be widened to have room for a bit more than just yourself, while still being considered private. Hearing second opinions on your thoughts and feelings, even if they are in relation to a social context, can help you see things a bit differently, and you can learn a lot. However, a very important note; you need to know who you can trust. If you open yourself up like that, you need to know that the person you open yourself up to, understands the responsibility they have. For with the power to truly help someone, you get the power to truly hurt them too, quite naturally.

    These are my thoughts on the topic. You may not agree, but I thought you might want to hear a second opinion ;)

  2. I realize and acknowledge that what you're saying is valid advice for most. But I also think keeping to oneself is way underappreciated, to the point where people don't do it at all anymore. The threshold to processing your fears and troubles socially seems to have become so low, people don't even stop to consider whether it's even a good thing to tell anyone about it.

    Simply because secrets get out. Everyone has a best friend, and you always tell your best friend. We often say that once something goes on the internet, it will never disappear. But the same goes in any social environment. It's simply how humans work. Gossip is in our nature. And it's how rumors start, how hate breeds, how pity grows. I've not often been at the butt end of this process, but I've seen it from close and afar many times. It often begins with one person being vulnerable, another taking those words out of that private context, to a place where the first person has no way of defending him or herself whatsoever. And it disgusts me deeply.

    Really, gossip is the issue I'm trying to get at in this entry. I don't know whether that was clear or not.


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