Thursday, 9 June 2011

Stranger on a train…. Therapy, for the price of a ticket.

Why is it that there are sometimes secrets that are so painful to us, that we keep them from even, or most especially, our very closest friends?  And yet, once in a while, we meet a stranger on a train, someone we know we have no links to, get chatting to, and confide our darkest secrets to?

OK – maybe it’s just me…  But I’m sure there must be someone else out there who’s done the same.

I don’t think that I have any more dark secrets than other people.  But there are some.  And they are so painful, that I feel a huge wave of emotion just thinking about them.  If I confided them to friends, I feel sure that I would break down and weep.  And yet, telling a stranger on a train, I can talk about them dispassionately, almost as if they happened to someone else.

On the odd occasion that this has happened, I wonder afterwards how the conversation ever got round to it.  How can this person I have no knowledge of make me open up? 

I have always suffered badly from shyness.  As a child, I became aware that I had the capacity to make people laugh. And so, to cope with my shyness, I would ‘entertain’ people with my witty repartee.  It became my defence mechanism.  

And despite my shyness, or maybe because of it, I talk constantly.  I never shut up!  But how much do I actually reveal about myself?

Probably not a lot. 

What am I afraid of?  If people are good friends, surely they will not think any less of me.  They may even think more of me for having had the courage to disclose these secrets.  And it may even give them the opportunity to open up.  It’s a trade-off isn’t it?  The old “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” scenario!!!

And yet, I just can’t do it. 

I think it’s all to do with a fear of people’s reaction.  I don’t want anyone to pity me.  I’m embarrassed by things despite knowing they aren’t my fault.  These are things that have been done to me, not things that I have done to others.

Well maybe that’s it.  It can be hard to talk dispassionately when we are sitting in front of someone who cares about us.  They cannot help but be affected by our emotions.  And their upset and sympathy upsets us.  We don’t want to ‘dump’ our emotions on them and drag them down.

But a stranger on a train?  Kindly, sympathetic, maybe even avuncular.  They can be full of compassion, but they are not emotionally attached to us and can listen to us without the reactions of our friends.  Not having to worry about those emotions is probably what enables us to open up.  In some way it sounds like therapy. But therapy has to be planned and appointments booked.  The stranger on a train catches us at a moment in time when we just feel like getting ‘stuff’ out. 

And then we wish them good day, wave goodbye and feel lighter for having shared our feelings. 

It cost us a train fare, but its value is infinite. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you are spot on about willingness to tell strangers things. But I wonder why do we have to tell these secrets at all? What are we looking for in disclosure? What, specifically, is the infinite value? Why does unloading make us feel better?
    Also, does the same apply to dark secrets of things you have done to others? I sometimes cringe at a quick memory of something I've done in the past. Is the stranger confession therapy for that?


Facebook Like Button