Throughout my life, various people — who have wanted me to be safe — have said this:
Don’t talk to strangers.
Sometimes, I’m not sure what to do with that advice. It speaks to this very difficult question:
Who do I trust?
(which I wrote about, here, in “Day 89: Is somebody trying to sell me something?”)
Yes, “Who do I Trust?” is a very difficult question, with evolving, best-guess, and survival-oriented answers.
Who do you trust? And when is it safe enough to connect with somebody?
When I offer people the opportunity to participate in group therapy, a lot of people say “no,” stating completely reasonable reasons like this:
I don’t want to tell a bunch of strangers my problems.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? And I respect and honor that natural impulse, to protect oneself from strangers.
I, myself, have a fear of strangers. And of the unknown, in general.
And yet, this is something I see all the time: People taking a leap of trust, coming together with strangers, and helping each other heal.
It’s amazing how quickly people can negotiate their fears, making choices that feel safe enough, and connect to other people.
However, no matter how many times that happens, that self-preservation — that healthy caution about strangers — remains.
Often, at the end of a group therapy session of no-longer-strangers, people will state their wish that the others in the group will be there the next time. I hear a concern that, the next time, strangers will be there.
And sometimes I say this, “Well, none of you knew each other at the beginning of this meeting, either.”
And people will say, “That’s true.”
And I see a mixture of comfort and caution on their faces.
Which makes sense, doesn’t it?
Before I end this post, I wanted to show an event I attended where I encountered some strangers:
Last weekend, I visited the Chairful Where You Sit charity event, in Arlington, MA. Here’s a description of Chairful Where You Sit:
After talking to the person was running the event at that location that day, I decided to purchase a chair.
This was a charitable act and also a selfish one. Let me explain: I have been wanting to expand my very helpful practice of mindfulness by meditating every day. Meditation is new (and therefore strange) to me, and to overcome my resistance to that, I knew it would help to designate a Place To Meditate.
And this is what I got at Chairful Where You Sit:
Thanks to Lynn Rosenbaum, to mindful friends and strangers, and to you, for sitting and reading today.
Your observations are spot-on. It sometimes doesn’t take very long for a stranger to become a buddy or even a great friend, and contrarily, for life-long friends to remain very foreign to us. Personally, it’s often easier for me to speak candidly with someone I don’t know at all as opposed to my nearest and dearest. There’s almost a sense of throwing caution to the wind when talking to strangers as opposed to having loved ones hash out details and bring them up in future conversations. Feeling able to speak freely is invaluable.