The responses to this recent post have been few and varied: private emails; public posts; one or two phonecalls; and the rest has been about big, loud, silence. While that silence could be enough to convince many of us that shut-down is preferable, there is a point at which shut-down becomes scarier than sharing.
Many of us take the plunge and tell someone about the ‘stuff’ inside us… in the hope of being heard. Many of us take that risk only to find that we are free falling into the big, loud, silence – or the discomfort of others as they change the subject, grapple for words to respond to us, tell us about their experiences instead, avoid us, tell us we are imagining it or that someone else has it worse than us, or that we just need to ‘get over it’.
Once we have risked it once and found the vulnerability and silence too much to bear – what next? We push it down, we deny it, we take it to mean there is something wrong with us, we resolve to ‘sort it out’, we make a note-to-self not to tell anyone else … we begin the shut-down.
Gradually we become skilled at the shut-down … until the day when we are not. The day when it starts to leak. The day when we turn to alcohol, drugs, food, work, sex, co-dependent relationships, self-harm in all its forms, anything we can find that stops the leak – even temporarily.
Even with our new ‘coping skills’ we struggle along, battling the truth at every turn, convincing ourselves that shut-down is the only solution – because telling someone, sharing, sitting in the discomfort of our feelings is waaaaay too scary...
... until shut-down becomes scarier than sharing. Until we cannot stem the leaks anymore. Until we are watching as our life starts morph around us.
Then we realise that that shut-down is no longer a solution.
Change only occurs when the pain of staying the same becomes too great.
Are you there yet?