Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

Learning to trust

Posted by thoughtful1 on August 28, 2007

One of my new friends is someone I’ve slowly been getting to know over the past few months.  We ended up in the same social circle and seem to go to the same parties, outings, dinners, etc.

We also have had some interesting conversations. Conversations I usually don’t have with people until I’ve known them for a while, or unless I instantly click with them. Neither holds true for this friend. I’ve known him for a short time, and while we’ve always gotten along there was no “clicking.” Instead, our relationship has just evolved from amiable acquaintances to friends.

One of these interesting conversations was about religion. As usual, I think I failed miserably at my Unitarian Universalist “elevator speech.” I tried to summarize the faith, but didn’t get far, mostly because I always take a historical approach and babble about our Christian roots. While I believe we should do a better job at acknowledging our Christian beginnings (more on that in a later post), I know damn little about it. So I end up babbling like an idiot.  Perhaps I should just focus less on our history and more on our process – we believe in finding your own truth, blah blah blah.  Anyway, as I was giving my lousy UU elevator speech, he began disagreeing with some of our views.  At this point things could have gotten sticky, and become a perfect illustration of why one does not discuss religion.

Yet, it didn’t.

Instead, it all felt very safe and comfortable.

I came away from that thinking, “Gee, he’s someone you can talk about important stuff with.”  Normally we talk what we did or didn’t do over the weekend; bad dating experiences, etc.  Fairly mundane stuff.  This was the first time we talked about something important, and revealing.

Fast forward a bit…  Somehow, we got to talking about something really personal… to me.  While it’s not some deep dark secret, or some horrible trauma, it’s still something I didn’t want to talk about except with people I know who’ll understand, but it came up and I couldn’t find a graceful way to keep mum about it.  So, we ended up talking about it.

Initially I was anxious, since while we’re friends I don’t think we’re close friends…  I’m not calling him up all the time to spill my neurotic thoughts, or spending entire Saturday afternoons just hanging out.  He isn’t someone with whom I shared my boarding school trauma or my college ennui.  He isn’t an ex-boyfriend I’ve remained friends with or a grade school confidant.  He is, really, just some guy I met, that I’m slowly becoming friends with.

And, like our previous conversation about religion, it felt safe and comfortable.  Why?  Because it felt like he cared, and was genuinely interested in what was going on in my life.  And, I didn’t feel like he was judging me.  I think that was the biggest fear – that I would be judged and found lacking.

Afterwards, I was mentally kicking myself.  After we talked about religion, why hadn’t I trusted him enough to share this other part of my life?  The more I thought about the two incidents, the more I realized that I should have trusted him more to be understanding and respectful.

Yet, I didn’t.

A while ago I asked a therapist friend if it’s common for adoptees to compartmentalize their lives.  I used to do this, and I know two other Korean adoptees who do this to an even greater extent than I ever did.  She said that it is common for adoptees to do this.  She believes it’s a reaction to trauma – being separated from our birth families (and cultures and countries).  It’s like a very mild form of multiple personality disorder where someone’s personality splits in reaction to severe trauma, such as extreme physical abuse.  It is a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt and rejected.  If we keep all our different pieces separated, then we don’t have to worry about anyone finding out what we’re really like, and then rejecting us.

I have, for the most part, stopped doing this.  It was too much work.  But, I am wondering if withholding personal thoughts and feelings from friends is another form of compartmentalizing, or at least of putting up a wall to protect myself.  After all, I didn’t want to share this particular part of my life because I was afraid he would find fault, even though I should have known better.

Or maybe not.  Maybe it was reasonable to still be hesitant… Just because you can talk about religion with someone doesn’t mean you can share everything with them.  Even so, I think this is an indication of the sort of walls I’ve been putting up to keep people out.  But now I need to keep in mind that I can trust this person.


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