Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who Really Knows You?

What do you share with people who are close to you? Do you tell close friends or siblings how you feel? What topics do you discuss and what topics are off limits? Do you share everything with your spouse?

I am deeply curious about people. I want to know what they think, how they feel, what leads them to do or not do what they do or don’t do. I do not have any hidden agenda; I am just curious.

Do you have deep conversations about sensitive issues? Who do you share with?

Mid boomers like me grew up in a time when established norms were questioned. Marriage, war, sex, drugs, race, money, politics and religion were all up for discussion and were all subject to challenges. We were the rebels; we didn’t take anything at face value. We wanted to decide for ourselves if beliefs and behaviors should continue as they always seemed to be or if we should change everything.

Attitudes like this could sometimes lead to deep thought and discussion, although I only remember one friend through my teens and twenties that I had deep conversations with. He and I were very good friends and shared some early growing up experiences together, things like discovering girls, hating school, military service, rejecting religion. We would double date, then after dropping off our dates, he and I would sit in his car parked in front of my house and talk for another hour or two. We were sure we had all the answers, or at the very least we asked all the right questions. We probably revealed some personal feelings to each other, partly because we had nobody else who would listen and partly because we trusted each other with privacy. We instinctively created a safety zone for each other.

We are still in touch, but our lives took radically different paths and the connection we had changed to the point where we no longer have that ‘deep thought’ ability. I have certainly had many friends over the decades since but I rarely have been able to have those kinds of deep conversations with anyone. I miss that.

There are two or three friends in my current circle who have the potential to have a connection like that with me. In each case we have shared thoughts and feelings that might usually be off limits with other people, but we have provided at least a partial safety zone, making it possible to share like that.

But what are the real limits to sharing?

My idealistic side tells me it is possible to uncloak nearly all levels of privacy with at least one or two people in one’s life. Experience tells me that is not possible. It seems a spouse should be that kind of confidant, but I have multiple examples to disprove that.

I am curious about deeply held thoughts and feelings about sensitive, personal issues. Random examples of questions I would ask: religion (Is there a God? Do you pray? What do you pray for?), politics (What party? How do you feel about abortion, immigration, war, government regulations?), sex (What turns you on? What was your first time like? Are you adventurous? Confident?), self-image (How do you feel about your body image, health, intelligence, the future? Do you think you are appealing?)

Each of these questions naturally leads to requests for more details, digging deeper and pealing back more layers. I have asked a few select friends similar questions over the years; some even answered them. However, on the surface this kind of probing seems to cross a privacy line so I usually don’t ask. And my closest friends are women, adding to the complexity of this whole line of thought. But how do people really know each other without doing a little digging?

Is there anybody in your life who knows you really well? Anyone in your life who would answer those questions and more? Anyone in your life you’d answer those questions for if asked?

The odd part to all of this is I am not sure if I would answer those questions about myself. I think I would but I don’t know because I have rarely been asked. I have had deep and sometimes sensitive conversations with the two or three friends I mentioned but I have to admit there is a line. I have occasionally crossed it and I respect the boundaries. None of that stops my curiosity though. I don’t think anyone has ever crossed my line.

Maybe instead of asking “who really knows you?” I should ask “should anyone know you that well?” Maybe that much emotional or intellectual intimacy is inappropriate. Maybe I am still questioning the established norms.




1 comment:

Linda V. said...

Do you really trust the person you are talking to? Are you comfortable exploring some of those questions just for yourself without input from anyone else. Sometimes, I don't even think you can know yourself, without comparing yourself to another, as a measure. Its partly why we imitate another. Maybe we're an amalgamation of a lot of other people, so, the question remains. Do we really know ourselves? And what do we really reveal to others? Even those we are most intimate with, we never really "let it all out" since we don't even know what it "all" is.