Adversity frequently visits you as you travel through life.
You break up with your boyfriend. Your wife has an affair with your best friend. Your daughter drops out of school to begin an in-depth exploration of controlled substances. You are depressed about your stagnant career. Financial worries abound.
What do you do?
Should you share your woes with your friends? Or with one or two ‘best’ friends? Or should you keep mum and shoulder on?
Plenty of people will tell you that you should share. That doing so will lighten your burden and make it easier for you to cope.
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Shirley had a knockdown, drag out fight with her husband. It was over some silly matter, but emotions ran high. He shoved her aside, grabbed a suitcase, packed some clothes and left slamming the door behind him. It was clear that he would not be back that night.
She called her friend, Susan, who was most sympathetic. “Oh, you poor thing,” said Susan. “You are much too soft. Why do you let him treat you like that? Now is the time for you to show him how tough you are. How dare he push you around.”
Shirley sobbed and Susan commiserated, and they agreed that the proper thing for Shirley to do was change the locks to the house and refuse to let her husband back in. He came back the next day and broke the door down and Shirley called the police and six months later they were divorced, and their respective attorneys had enhanced net worths.
“Serve him right,” said Susan and Shirley nodded gamely. And Shirley spent sleepless nights for months and then years of frustrating visits to singles bars.
Did Shirley do the ‘right’ thing? What would have happened if Susan had suggested patience and recommended Shirley and her husband go to couples therapy?
You share your pain with someone else because you want sympathy and a crying shoulder.
This generally comes with advice and the advice is given from the level of consciousness of the person giving it.
You need to consider who is giving that advice and whether you should take it.
Here are some criteria for you to consider before you confide your troubles.
Are you sure the person is a well-wisher and genuinely interested in recommending what is best for you?
Do you think that person is wise? Have you seen that person, over time, offer advice and express opinions that promote tolerance and harmony?
Is the person unafraid to tell you that you need to rethink the story you are telling yourself about whatever trouble you are facing.
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, seal your lips and cry into your pillow if you must. Sharing your problems might well make them worse.