The distance we keep from others says a great deal about our fear of knowing ourselves and being known.
A friend of mine, Ryan Hall (Life and Creativity coach, and author) shared an article that blew me away. I rarely read body building articles. Most times, I find them self-indulgent. Minutely focusing on your muscles makes you narcissistic. At least, that’s what my judgment says.
The article tells a story of a quiet, aloof man, “Craig” who went to a nameless gym. Behind his back, people made fun of him. They called him “Pigpen.” No one knew Craig until one person had the courage to ask his name. The men became friends. They shared an experience that changed them both. Then later Craig died, alone. Having a friend, even for a brief time, made his tortured life a little easier.
I sat down and reflected on my mentor of young, the guy that no one understood, the person who people made fun of and taunted and he had been one of the biggest impacts on my life. He was a man of very few words but his words had such a great impression on me. I felt very saddened like the world had just lost something very good, and didn’t even realize it.
If you are interested, the story is here. The article is long and takes time to read. It is a little technical and breaks down the body building in a way that adds to the drama. Be patient, it is well worth the time.
I tend to keep my distance from strangers. But this story makes me realize that the distance that we keep says a great deal about our fear of knowing ourselves and being known. It is so easy to judge, to keep distance.
Judgment keeps you from knowing the person next to you in the office, the gym or the grocery store, and keeps you from knowing yourself. Taking the time to know another person will allow you to know more about yourself.
At this phase in my recovery, I am feeling the challenge to be more vulnerable. And it scares me.
Part of me likes the isolation that depression and anxiety creates. It is familiar, it is safe. In reading the article, I realized some uncomfortable things about myself. I can be judgmental of other people and myself. And I avoid talking to other people about their lives because it takes an investment of energy and attention. Investing myself in other people is a risk, and I avoid that risk because I fear that I will be hurt, disappointed or misunderstood.
But I am realizing that the distance that I put between myself and others keeps me distant from myself. Staying safe in my relationships will only hold me back. When I try to open my mouth it is as if my tongue is weighed down. My mind chatters. Thoughts of anxiety, self-judgment and self-belittling float around my head and silence me. But these things are just words.
It is our real-life connections that enrich, and extend, our lives. I see how distance effects me. So I am dropping my guard with my family, with friends, and with myself.
At the outset of this article, I mentioned Ryan Hall. You can read Ryan’s article, “Connection May Just Save Your Life” by clicking here.
If you enjoyed this article, I invite you to read more of my work:
I write articles that talk about the kind of changes I am trying to make in my own life. I hope that my writing also helps you. My topics include addiction and mental health recovery, relationships, and personal growth. I work as an Addiction Therapist, an Editor for the Good Men Project and freelance writer, and Adjunct Professor at City University, Edmonton. But what is most important is that I have a family and I am in recovery from depression and anxiety. My mental health experiences are part of my personal University degree, but they do not define me.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Gabriel S. Delgado C.