After experiencing such raw and heavy emotions as anyone who has dealt with a major trauma in their life can empathise, I reached a point where being authentic became really important for me. It called for me to become brutally honest with myself and those around me in order for me to progress with my recovery journey and create the authenticity in the friendships so that a space was created where anything can be talked about.
This meant that there were some uncomfortable conversations to be had that I might not have otherwise invited into my life. Conversations that created challenges and opportunities and took courage to approach. It’s not easy being completely honest and when you’re as direct as I am, you don’t always get the most receptive response (delivery is a challenge that I am constantly working on). Regardless of the difficulty of having these conversations, it’s really important that difficult subjects are aired between people if we want to create honesty in our friendships because that’s the firm foundation that all deep relationships are based upon.
The lesson that I’ve had to learn is how to approach these conversations with compassion when I’m delivering honest feedback to a friend, because even though I can take direct feedback I know that this isn’t the norm. Instead I’ve learnt that feedback must be delivered from a standpoint of ‘I care about you and that is why I’m pointing this out’, rather than ‘you did x, y and z and I don’t think you should have done that’. Hopefully, you can see the difference between compassionate honesty and judgemental spotlighting in those two sentences.
A recent example is a good friend of mine who avoids conversations when she knows there’s going to be something that she doesn’t want to hear, even if she knows that she needs to hear it. However, that’s pretty difficult when you’re friends with me because as all of my friends know, I call them out on this kind of avoidance like I expect to be called out when I’m in my own avoidance. This friend of mine wasn’t being malicious and the avoidance wasn’t about me, it was about a lot of things going on in her life and she just didn’t need to know about another thing to work on at that time, so it was easier for her (subconsciously) to avoid those conversations all together. The frustrating thing for me was that it meant that I lost one of my best friends to have any kind conversation with, even just an easy chat on whatsapp. When we did finally chat I brought up the situation in the most compassionate way I could, by telling this friend I was upset that I was losing my friend but I needed to voice something that was going to be difficult to hear because I think it could be in her best interest to know. By putting it like this she was open to listening to what I said because it came from the heart. It was the same when I started feeling a certain way towards an ex-boyfriend of mine and considered that I might want to try and patch things up with him, when a friend bluntly pointed out that I was probably only feeling that way because I felt vulnerable and that I didn’t actually want to be with the guy in question. She went on to point out that when we were together and I had my chance to be with him, I wasn’t that bothered about being with him anyway. “Oh yeah,” I said. Funny how our emotions can cloud our thought patterns, which is why we need such honest friends to point out the obvious when we’re unable to see it!
As I was in my car a few days later, talking to another friend about these reflections I joked about how it would just be easier if we could shout out “BULLSH*T” when we thought someone was blindsided by their emotions. She laughed and asked “Then why don’t we?” as she picked up a handy business card that was lying around in the front of the car, only the psychologist Dr Jenn’s business card (how appropriate for my psychologist friend to be the BS card when she has called me out on multiple BS’s this year)! Thus the concept of the BS card was born.
The thing about using a card to call out someone’s BS is that it can be used really objectively, and is thus less likely to be taken personally. However delivery here is still key and with my friends, I request for the use of a BS card before delving into the reason for using it. I still find though, by actually using a card and by approaching the situation in this way that it creates an objective space where two people can observe and dicect a situation without getting too emotionally involved. This creates more honesty and an objective learning opportunity based on the feedback received, bypassing any pain received through pervied judgement or blame that may have otherwise surfaced.
Getting to this level of authenticity in my friendships has strengthened the bonds between us and I know that anything and everything, no matter how shameful or tragic, can be aired in this space. It’s also helping me create the kind of authentic compassion that I want my post trauma life to be centered around, and the kind that I want to spread out into the World.