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Friday, October 14, 2016

Thought Solitude: Isolation or a "Safe Space"


I've noticed in my life that some people are so outgoing that they describe their life verbatim on Facebook or to anyone they run into.  Others, it is like pulling teeth to draw them out of their cocoon. I think most people fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum: Out times outgoing, at other times reserved and at other downright introverted.  This leads me the saying above.

No one can live in the spotlight 24/7/365.  We all need downtime.  We all need time outside the public sphere where we can let our guard down and be ourselves.  Typically, we find some of this time around our family and friends.  They are familiar with us as we are familiar with them.  If they are good for us, we can be our goofy selves around them and reveal private thoughts we wouldn't share with the public at large.  In a way, they can be a testing ground for our idea.  If we throw something by them and they give it a thumbs down, it often means that what is on our mind isn't ready for public consumption.  If they give us roaring approval of our thoughts, well, that can give us confidence to take our thoughts public.  In any case, even among our family and friends we don't always want to immediately if ever want to share certain thoughts as they could be a bit disturbing, a bit too "ate up" or just not fully formed.  In this way, our secret life aka secret thoughts have a 'safe space' to reside in while we contemplate whether to reveal them.   The $64,000 question is this: when we are keeping thoughts to ourselves is it healthy?  In short, are we isolating or retreating into an internal 'safe space'?

I guess it really depends in some ways on the content of the (secret) thoughts in question and/or the volume of thoughts.  For example:

  • If we keep most every thought to ourselves, especially if we never reveal them, that would seem to indicate that we are isolating.
  • If our (secret) thoughts are dark (too blue or too disturbing), then we are probably isolating.
  • If we are hiding most of our thoughts, worried about how we are going to come across, we are likely isolating.
  • If we don't feel like we have anyone we feel that we can talk to and therefore keep our thoughts to ourselves, that may be isolating.  
On the other hand:
  • If we had the loss of someone close in our circle (family/friends/coworkers), it may take some time to process our thoughts and therefore, we need a 'safe space' in our mind to process them before we know how to express them.
  • If we have a random devious or rude thought from time to time, having a space where we can internally process it is helpful as it can be harmful/hurtful  to stream of conscience speak, at least until we can determine whether it is just a little off or very inappropriate.
  • We are busy and haven't had time to unpack our thoughts, keeping our thoughts to ourselves--a thought safe space--can be useful until we have time to process them.
Ultimately, I believe if we take time to get to know someone or ourselves, we typically know whether we are isolating or whether we are just using the 'safe space' of our mind to process our thoughts.  Ironically when we isolate from others, it makes it harder to tell if their quietness is due to safely processing there own thoughts or if they are isolating themselves as well.

I guess the takeaway is this.  If you love and care about someone, take time to know them, but just as importantly makes sure you provide the best ear you can for them.  This is even more true when the someone you are talking about is yourself.

Just my thoughts for the day.  Cheerio 

-- Rich 

One final thought, if we have been shut down, ridiculed or abused by a significant person in our life--spouse, older sibling, parent--- especially early in our life, it can cause us to isolate.  That is to say, the important things in our life we won't discuss as we have been taught it is not safe to.  In this situation, our trust of that person and possibly others will likely have been shaken.  In a sense, by keeping our thoughts to ourselves, we are retreating to a 'safe space' to protect ourselves, but in another sense, we are isolating--with cause.

Unfortunately, I've seen this in my own life before and that of others.  When a loved one doesn't allow you to be yourself and say the things that are on your mind free of consequence, they are setting the relationship up to fail.  Your thoughts won't disappear, they will just be driven underground and resentment can build up. Anyway, this lead can lead a person to search for others to themselves around--sometimes in a healthy way--friend/minister/counselor--and sometimes not so healthy way--partner outside the marriage, someone who doesn't have the family's interest in mind.

The long and short of it is this: the best way to keep a relationship open is to allow the other to be themselves as much as possible even when you don't agree with them.  The best way to destroy a relationship is to shut the other down is to tend to come down on the other when they are being themselves.

Just more thoughts.

-- Rich