Monday, February 27, 2012

Control Your Emotional Drawbridge

Being transparent with another human being entails a risk of substantial proportion. Sharing our story with another person automatically involves some degree of emotional peril. I think such a reality is one of the reasons that Henri Nouwen urges us to limit the access to our interior life.  He compares such access to a drawbridge attached to a medieval castle.  He says:  It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times that you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close.  But when we let that bridge down and allow select people to cross our protective emotional moat, we are taking a calculated risk.

The person whom we perceive to be trustworthy could choose to reject us.  We might discover that they are repelled by our story. Or they could choose to subtly edge away.  And it could be worse.  The person that we allowed inside could violate our confidence with indiscreet conversations.  Is it better to remain secluded in our own little emotional castles equipped with sturdy drawbridges, and alligator filled moats?

I vote no.  The benefits of sharing our story with someone that is trustworthy are untold.  If that person really cares about us, their knowledge of even the darkest aspects of our lives will deepen their level of love and respect for us. They will listen, empathize, and tuck our story back in the part of their brain that is reserved for confidential and private information.  They will also view knowledge of our story as a sign of increasing depth in the friendship.

I recall Alan Loy McGinnis in his classic book entitled The Friendship Factor stating that transparency is one of the signs of deepening friendship. I concur. There is nothing quite like allowing someone to see the interior of our castle, where breathtaking beauty and blemishes known to only a select few co-exist.
Our transparency in turn prompts that trusted friend to share his own story in freedom.

I think it is accurate to say that we can safely allow access to our drawbridge to that trustworthy person again and again… Such an individual is safe. They obviously love and accept us for who we are.  The blemishes that are repulsive to others present no relational hindrance.  And in that person’s eyes, there is not much we can do to destroy that perception.  We don’t have to put on an appearance of any kind.  We don’t have to hide where we have been or what we have done.

Emotional drawbridges foster much needed security.  But when they are lowered, the entrance of a caring and trustworthy friend to our interior castle blesses our lives.  Without the presence of such individuals the castle itself deteriorates from the destructive forces of loneliness and despair.  The alligators in the moat end up taking over, and thus making it impossible for good people to fill our lives with joy and meaning. 

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