Imagine a room full of over 200 people. You are there to learn about helping people with addictions towards their recovery. The speaker is an expert on the subject so you’re there to hear him. However, occasionally, the speaker directs questions to the audience in order to begin an unscripted dialogue. The majority of the people there don’t want to be involved in this dialogue because it’s intimidating and embarrassing. Secretly, you feel glad you have this ability to preserve your pride by not making eye-contact or foolishly blurting the words that are at the tip of your tongue. You’re not THAT kind of person, you tell yourself. You’re more private. You like to work things out in secret. You don’t like the attention. But this one time, without fully thinking it through and against your natural instinct you do the unthinkable; you raise your hand and answer the question.
“I have a daughter who isn’t doing well and I don’t know how to help her.”
“Tell me about your daughter.”
“I..I..I don’t know what to say….No, I do. I just don’t want to break down. She’s strong but her partner gets in the way. I raised her until she was sixteen so I don’t know much after that.”
“Wait. Let’s talk about your use of ‘break down.’ I’ve called AMA stranded on a highway before because the engine stopped working. We usually say that the car has ‘broken down’. Right? A car breaks down. So, what are you really saying when you say, ‘I don’t want to break down?’
You’re saying that you don’t want to show any emotions. You fear letting those feelings show for multiple reasons and that’s okay.
But, what kind of society equates showing emotions to ‘breaking down’?
Showing emotion is not a weakness; it’s a sign of courage. So please, break down.”
*This entry was inspired by an actual conversation Dr. Gabor Mate and an attendee had at a conference I attended in June.