Kindness, compassion, vulnerability and genuineness, all wonderful human traits, yet so often we neglect this side of ourselves. My question to myself and everyone else is “what are we afraid of?” When the world asks us to be kind and show generosity of spirit so many of us will falter or stop ourselves. I think I know the answer to my own question- allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is often misrepresented as weakness or allowing ourselves to be targeted by less well-meaning individuals.
When we drop our walls, we become defenceless to the storms that life throws at us and we have learned that maintaining a level of distance with each other is much safer. In modern society we would rather be disconnected from each other than actually having to create and maintain a genuine connection- this is all unconscious of course, we don’t realise we are doing this, we just feel that nagging doubt in the back of our mind that safer is better. I feel it, and I’m sure you do too- the primal part of our brand that wants us to survive in this ‘hostile’ world.
The importance of having a connection to each other is massively important; our very lives depend on it. When we talk we create connections not only between each other, but also between ideas, between parts of our minds that we have never considered before. You could argue that to continue growing emotionally as a species we need each other and the connections we can create. Finding the courage to speak out and carve our own path when other people try to dissuade us away from this is a challenge we all face.
It is easier, and perhaps safer to tread a familiar path
When we speak genuinely and openly, we create a space where we and others can cast off our fears and anxieties about being judged. In modern times these places become few and far between, too often are we consumed with anxiety about not stepping too far away from the safe spaces.
To speak genuinely from the heart, to share our fears, our pain, our hopes and dreams is the most vulnerable yet courageous we can be. Our strength together comes from openness and acceptance, tolerance of ideas that do not fit our own world view. Without these things we merely distance ourselves from each other and become fearful of new ideas or things which may challenge us in unexpected and often powerful ways.
As a counsellor it is one of my priorities to create a space where people can be themselves. Many people I speak with say that they don’t have someone to talk to, they don’t feel able to share openly and be authentic. What I am trying to promote here is the need to be that person for someone else, it is within us all to show empathy and kindness, to give a listening ear when someone is at their lowest.
My motivation for this has always been the memory of my own mental health struggles when I was younger, and how my experience of connection was so profound as to change my life and how I see the world around me – this was my experience of human kindness and why I will always champion the need to keep talking.
By Stuart Yeates, Children and Young People IAPT Practitioner