There’s no one to talk to
As a psychotherapist, I seem to be hearing this statement “There’s no one to talk to” with greater frequency. “Really? Why is that?” I asked myself. What I kept hearing was:
• The people I talk to will change the subject after a while…
• They don’t understand what I’m trying to say…
• They just brush me off…
• What if they gossip about me? It’s happened before…
I was perplexed. I didn’t want to be the only resource my clients have nor is that healthy for both parties. The BBC published an article in February this year on a survey by Time to Change in the UK. Of the 2,500 people questioned, 66% said they had no one to speak to about mental health, relationships or money. Difficulty finding the right time or place to talk were given as reasons behind the trend. BBC also cited the Jo Cox Commission finding that more than nine million people in the UK described themselves as “always or often lonely”. I wonder what the figures would be like for Singapore.
I examined my own relationships. Did I feel heard? Not always. Most of my friends seem comfortable if I had a grievance to share more than a vulnerability. Perhaps sharing a vulnerability invites the other to get in touch with their own and that’s uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the expectation of self to be able to solve my problem. Perhaps it’s not knowing what to say and that feels awkward.
What about whether my friends feel heard by me? Am I comfortable when they share their vulnerabilities? What if this friend gets too dependent on me? I know that at times I’ve been impatient and at times judgemental. I also know that when I’ve grown in humility; self-acceptance and compassion, I am also able to give the gift of presence; acceptance and compassion to others.
Some of my friends have kindly provided me with some priceless truths:
• Be teachable. Each conversation has learning nuggets for everyone.
• Be fair to myself and the other by saying “I’m sorry, I’m not in the right frame of mind right now to be here for you,” when it’s needed.
• Be genuine respectfully and tactfully.
• Sometimes a silence filled with care speaks more than words.
• Know who you can trust.
As a Catholic, I am also reminded to be mindful I can fall prey to the mindset of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son and I would like to remind myself that “It is a generous act of giving when we allow someone the space to be exactly who they are and exactly who they are not.” (Quote by Lolly Daskal)
Kelvyanne Teoh (Principal Therapist, Morning Star Community Services Ltd)