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It’s been decades since I was a small child but way back then I learned to do something that really wasn’t helpful. It felt that going after the people I liked the look of was too scary….and so I stopped doing it.  I stopped stepping in too close in case the other person got scared too. I didn’t want to risk the chance that they would pull back or that they would reject me. It still feels like a big risk for me to reach out and make friends. I still have to push myself.

Recently I started working with a parent on an advocacy engagement to help get some support in place for a child with complex needs. I noticed that this person was far more willing to write an email or a letter than they were to pick up the phone or to meet face-to-face for a chat. I got very puzzled about it and quite frustrated. Here we were trying to organise something with endless email traffic when a chat would have got it sorted in a few minutes.

Reflecting on this yesterday I suddenly realised what was going on. Sending me an email gave me the choice; to respond, to reject, or to ignore. Sending me an email was a protection against being ignored in person and against being rejected in person. This person was frightened to find out whether or not I really cared enough to be nice to them. This person simply didn’t want to risk being rejected.

Whenever something happening to me in the here-and-now resembles something unpleasant or painful that happened to me previously, the feelings I felt then are suddenly re-evoked now. Those old feelings seem to get themselves attached to whatever is going on now; even if the feelings have got no relationship to the current event. All that is necessary is that the current event to resemble or to remind me sufficiently of some aspect of that previous situation. This can be extremely confusing!

I’m a big boy now. I can take the risk and reach out to get connected. The thing I learned to do when I was small and vulnerable doesn’t make sense at all in the here-and-now. It is tempting to wait passively on the sidelines until someone else can pluck up the courage to reach out to me; but that involves an even bigger risk! Supposing nobody out there reaches out to me.

And so I’ve decided….and I may have to decide this repeatedly until I get the results I want…..I have decided not to take the big risk because I could end up alone, isolated and frightened…..I have decided to take the smaller risk and to reach out because I actually like getting connected. In fact I want to be connected to as many people as possible. The reality is that I’m actually OK. If I take the risk to show myself and to share myself I’m far more likely to have those connections that I enjoy than if I wait around for somebody else to risk reaching for me.

And this means…..I’m going to go after my friend the frightened parent. I’m going to make it really clear that I like them. I’m going to make it really clear that I think that they are OK too. I’m going to keep on going after them until they feel it is safe enough to let me in. Then we’ll be able to get the work done together and achieve the results that we both want.

“Basic reality is actually very encouraging” – Harvey Jackins

Reasons 2 B cheerful 1,2,3…

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August 2020