Friday, April 04, 2014

Truth telling

Somebody shared a Virginia Woolf quote the other day: "a feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life". I have been thinking about this, because I recently told the truth about my life and didn't get the reaction I wanted. And I'm okay with that.

The truth is not always easy to hear. We don't want to find out that our idols or family members or partners are fallible and have human frailties. There are things I've done in my life that I'm not proud of, and I'd like to be able to tell those stories truthfully, without judgement. I've also found that people don't want to hear about hard stuff, messy stuff, and raw emotions. It takes courage to share those things, and courage to hear them.

I'd also like to be able to tell the truth about what has happened to me, the times when I have been hurt, or really vulnerable. Often, when it comes to a story about my life, whether it happened when I was a child, a decade ago, or last week, I've already been on a journey with the story before the time of the telling. I've been angry, sad, and confused. But normally when I come to the point of telling others the story, especially new friends, I've still got lots of those emotions associated with the story, but I'm okay with it. I forget, though, that sharing a story is a two way thing. Sometimes I tell it flippantly, or carelessly. Sometimes I don't think enough about how it's going to affect the other person, whether they've got enough resilience to deal with it, and also whether I've put enough of my own armour on or built up enough trust with the other person before I make myself vulnerable in that way. 

But I guess a feminist, or any person wanting to live with integrity, keeps on telling the truth about their lives, even if it's hard. The trick is to get better at knowing when, and how and why we're sharing that information about ourselves. And then to be able to live with the reaction.


Arthur Pearsall said...

One storiy I had to tell, shortly after it happened was the threat against my life by a prisoner while I was working as a counsellor there. The threat was real and immediate, but I managed to solve it with an intuitive response to the threatening attacker, which was successful. The reaction of my colleagues to my speaking of this incident was that they did not want to know about it. I realised eventually that it was not so much that they were unsupportive, but more that to think about the possibility of being seriously assaulted by a prisoner client, and didn't want to think about it. I sis not though feel very supported by them.

Aletia said...

Thanks Arthur (comment came through this time!!) I agree that stories about death or violence are particularly confronting for some people. Sorry you didnt get the support from your colleagues that you would have liked.

zr said...

"The trick is to get better at knowing when, and how and why we're sharing that information about ourselves."

Like this a lot, Aletia! Good timing.