Imagine if, when we left our homes tomorrow morning, every one of us saw our secret thoughts and feelings spelled out in neon lights above our heads. Would we be horrified? Would we rush to throw a blanket over our neon-light secrets, or cover them up with fig leaves?
One thing I believe we would notice is that other people’s thoughts and feelings are pretty similar to our own. As the Roman playwright Terence said: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto, “I am a human being; nothing that is human is foreign to me.”
We are a lot more alike than unalike. What, then, keeps us from letting others see our true selves? As John Powell wrote, in The Secret of Staying in Love, “The most universal fear of all people is to be found out, to be known, and then to be rejected.” So we develop defenses; we put on masks. How can we learn to take small, manageable risks, in order to connect heart-to-heart?
Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, in The Spirituality of Imperfection, remind us that “human beings connect with each other most healingly, most healthily, not on the basis of common strengths, but in the very reality of their shared weaknesses.”
The following exercise, “Show Up and Speak Up,” is about the mutual acknowledgement of our shared weaknesses. It can be practiced by two people, or with a larger group. Each person takes a turn, chooses four or five statements they can identify with, and speaks them out. The only rule is that the listeners must limit their replies to “Thank you” or “Thanks for sharing.” No comments, corrections, critiques, or criticism, please!
“Show Up and Speak Up”
- Sometimes I feel unloved.
- Sometimes I just need a hug.
- I’d like to hear, “I’m so glad you’re here!”
- Sometimes I feel invisible.
- Sometimes I wish I could have a safe and friendly place to hang out.
- I like it when people say to me, “I really appreciate what you do for others.”
- Sometimes I’m afraid that if people really knew me they wouldn’t like me.
- Sometimes I don’t think people take me seriously.
- Sometimes I just need to hold someone’s hand.
- Sometimes I just need to vent for about 5 minutes.
- Sometimes I feel so lost.
- I like it when people say, “Come join our group!”
- Sometimes I feel like giving up.
- Sometimes I get tired of people trying to “encourage” me, fix me or teach me.
- Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so responsible for ____________.
Round up one or more friends and give “Show Up and Speak Up” a try! I think you’ll find that it reinforces the truth that we are a lot more alike than unalike, and that we connect best on the basis of our shared weaknesses and our common humanity.
John Powell also said: “If I have been successful in listening, I will convey to the speaker a reassuring: ‘I hear you!’ And the speaker’s reaction will be something like this: ‘Thank God! Someone finally knows what it is like to be me!’”
Therapy, at its best, is an experience just like this!