Sharing Is Caring


There's an old philosophy question that asks: if a tree falls down in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  It makes me think about the idea that if no one is around to bear witness to our pain, is the pain more or less significant or is it exactly the same? Of course, it's impossible to answer that question, not least because everyone's experience is different and there's no way of determining who feels something more than the next person regardless of whether they share it or suffer in silence.

As a counsellor, I inevitably believe that sharing your experience with a non judgemental, neutral 'other' is an effective way of relieving distress and there are many studies that prove this to be the case.  I also believe that reaching out to friends and family in times of need is a very positive, helpful move but what if it feels too difficult to do that? Sometimes, it's not a case of choosing to deal with something privately, rather that it feels as though there's no other option on the table.  This might be because an individual simply doesn't feel as though they have anyone close to them either geographically or emotionally to do that with or they may fear the reaction they'll get.  Perhaps they fear being pitied or judged or the focus of unwanted attention.  There's lots of reasons and opening up when you're not conditioned to do so is hard. I come from the generation of 'you've just got to get on with it' and that learning is very powerful.

The upshot is that most people tend to - albeit unconsciously sometimes - show an image of themselves to the outside world that might be totally at odds with what they're feeling inside.  We all have to adopt different personas to a certain extent depending on what environment we're in and who we're with but when you feel you're putting on the 'game face' all the time it's not only exhausting but ultimately, very very isolating.  That isolation can lead to a sense of loneliness and depressive symptoms that are unbearable.  Social media plays a part in this I believe.  For me, it's a double edged sword.  I get the positives of being able to connect with people all over the world and the way it can draw families and friends together who otherwise may have drifted apart and broadly speaking, I'm a fan.  There is another side though which I believe contributes to this sense of loneliness and inadequacy which is so prevalent in our society today.  Striving to reach perfection that doesn't exist is, I fear becoming an epidemic and the relentless bombardment of carefully crafted, edited images can surely do nothing but make even the most resilient of characters hold themselves up unfavourably in comparison.  Whilst there is a movement towards 'telling it like it is' with the obvious one being the shift from the media concept of 'yummy mummy' towards 'slummy mummy', I still feel that opening up online means that to a certain extent, we are exposing ourselves to judgement; positive or otherwise, sometimes by complete strangers.  For me, that doesn't equate to having our experience seen and heard in a supportive, encouraging way. There's a distancing from the authenticity of our lives which appears to be evolving.

There's no easy answer but if you are feeling isolated or lonely and have this sense that other people seem to be able to cope better or have better lives than yours then do try to talk to someone about it.  Your GP might be able to refer you to counselling or if not, try reaching out to a friend who you may find helps you normalise your feelings.  Whilst everyone's experience is entirely unique, there is a universal truth that everyone, no matter who you are has times when they feel low, fearful, unsure and without direction.  We never truly know what's going on for someone else despite what they may appear to be showing us. Signposting inwards, looking at your own stuff and figuring out what you're feeling and what that's like for you is a good start towards accepting and taking care of yourself.