Yesterday, in the privacy of a social media page designed for discussion on how to create a better world, a young man in his twenties cried out his grief over the lack of intimacy found in this world. He said almost no one was willing to meet him in a place of vulnerability and when he shows his deepest self, their mannerisms convey panic as they begin to distract themselves, block it off, block him off.
My heart went out to him in his pain and courage of expression. The image of a famous painting formed in my mind, The Scream by Edvard Munch. In his diary in an entry headed “Nice 22 January 1892”, Munch wrote:
“I was walking along the road with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”
I feel the social media young man in his anguished longing as a silent scream mutters through the winds trying to be heard at a time when we most need to come together. Many who commented on his post felt the same way; lost in a sea of pretenses and masks where showing who you really are at any given moment is taboo.
As one who has suffered similar odd looks, reprimands, and metaphorical slammed doors when I bare my soul in vulnerability, once again I ask why. Why are so many modern-day friendships superficial? Why, as a society do we run from the truth of tears? Why have we forgotten the Golden Rule? And why are “fair-weather friends” now the benchmark when the term was once something most people worked hard to avoid. When someone was hurting friends stood by, held a hand, listened, and often saved a life. Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe it was only in my life as a minister’s daughter where I witnessed the love shared in the many communities I called home growing up. I would love to know what others in my generation experienced.
I remember that a sense of community gave us strength and courage when clouds loomed in our lives.
My answer to the young man on social media was this:
“Having grieved the lack of openness from others myself at times I feel it is because people:
1) are afraid if they cry or witness crying it will never stop.
2) are brainwashed to believe that we are somehow an enigma or bad if they have so-called “negative” emotions
3) see intimacy as only sexual without realizing the benefits, the necessity, of intimacy that is possible with anyone without one iota of sexual innuendo or contact.”
I thanked him for opening up in that forum because the more of us who do, the quicker intimacy and vulnerability will become the “normal” way of being and living! Most don’t realize that we ALL feel the way he is feeling at one time or another. But rather than run the risk of rejection, we close up, clam up, and keep our most tender selves under wraps.
When we deny someone their so-called “negative” feelings and pull away in disgust, we deepen their trauma. No person, if they are truthful, is happy all of the time. Some grew up in relatively calm, healthy environments while others emerged from varying degrees of dysfunction. Who are we to toss aside anyone whose chin sometimes falls to the floor in defeat, or whose grief extends beyond society-imposed time limits?
As individuals we must never lose sight of the healing quality of hanging in there when a friend is hurting or did we ever really know how healing it is? When you let someone into your soul to share both the positive and the negative, the ups and the downs of yourself, you reveal the truth that we all share but too often refuse to admit. Life can be beautiful and life can be difficult. Both are true and to deny that fact is to deny what it means to be human. The truth is, when a person is heard and accepted and loved in all their ever-changing facets, they heal. When someone is really there for you in your worst moments, the hurt is likely to dissipate ten times faster. Not only does the suffering person benefit, YOU, the compassionate witness, are elevated in mind, spirit, and body as inflammation decreases, stress levels disperse, and anger ceases. Dopamine, serotonin, and endogenous opioids are released by kind behavior and pain subsides.
So to minimize your fears, the tears of the average person do end at some point and your being there is part of the “medicine” to heal their cause.
You are not bad, nor is your suffering friend who expresses darker emotions. Depression is one of the most reported conditions we have today and I suspect this is due, in part, to increasing degrees of separation and flagging empathy. Imagine a world where much of our depression is cured by simply providing a trustworthy, safe, welcoming community.
Native American author Jamie Sams says, “When we are taught to consider the whole instead of just the self or immediate family, we have partaken of the feast of spirit that feeds our hearts with the sacredness of sharing.”
We must call up our courage and find ways to reconnect and share our hearts. We come with a natural tendency toward unsullied affection for each other and we must provide safety by holding on to integrity so that when someone needs a hug it cannot be construed as anything but the highest form of love. We have the ability to send clear intention through our heart and soul so that touch is received in the spirit with which it is given. This is intimacy in its highest form; to hug, to lay a hand on a shoulder, to hold the hand of a hurting, grieving, or otherwise suffering person, to listen and not run away.
You can be a blessing in someone’s life today. You can offer the kind of community the young man I ran into on social media and so many of us craves. You can transform the silent scream of anguished loneliness into soft murmurs of comfort.
Be kind. Be generous. Be there.
***Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, I invite you to test how many times can you hit the clapping hands to your immediate left in 5, 10, or 60 seconds. It’s one more way to keep your fingers in shape AND will help other people see the story. Writing is my passion, so thanks for your help in spreading my work to others!
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