"In order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Really seen."In my field of study and work, we talk about taboos. People don't like to talk about taboos, because they are awkward, hard to admit, and difficult to really think about the implications and what the taboos mean about us and human kind. It is hard because we feel shame. It's hard to look at a child and say, "tell me why you molested your cousin." It's hard to walk into a room full of black women and say, "I don't know what it's like to be you, but why don't you tell me." It's hard to ask someone about when they were raped, their PTSD, their religion, their sexual orientation, the color of their skin. Heck, it's hard to ask someone why they cut their hair that way; why they got that weird tattoo; why they wear their clothes like that. You know what's harder? To be the one answering those questions. And so instead we don't talk about it. But it's still in our heads; we're still wondering. And so we let our assumptions take over. We dig through our experiences and what society tells us we're supposed to think about it, what we see in TV, what we do or don't hear about in the daily news. Our brains need to compartmentalize, generalize, and categorize, and it's easier and necessary for us to assign someone to a folder in our heads and let it be done. We don't even have to open our mouths.
But what does that do? What does not talking do? Not taking the risk of being wrong. To avoid feeling awkward. To save us the embarrassment of saying the wrong thing. Not taking the opportunity to learn and expand the capacity of your mental file folders. What does it do to say I can't talk about race because I'm white, and stop there. I can't relate to a gay man because I'm straight, and so I'm not going to even try. I have nothing to contribute because I am not like you, so let's just not. People say ignorance is bliss but I think it is just ignorance, avoidance, a defense mechanism. We ascribe ignorance to children, a fantasized quality of our younger years of innocence, but I can tell you that a five year old child who wants to kill themselves is not so simply ignorant.
There's no connection to be had from not talking about taboo topics. Yet what people really are all about is connecting. But unfortunately, we stop ourselves from connecting because we are afraid of the potential for disconnect. We're afraid of something being taken away that we never even had to begin with.
We are all limited by our capabilities and enriched by our unique experiences. We shouldn't be afraid to share the latter to expand the former. It's OK to be vulnerable.