People suffer in silence. For men, in particular, nothing can bother us. We have to maintain a stoic persona. But we need each other, particularly in our moments of vulnerability. We are social beings. We laugh together. We share joy and accomplishments together. We want to feel understood by another person, by other people. So why are people often so silent about their traumas? Why the need for a John-Wayne-movie persona? Why is there a stigma to acknowledge that you were sexually assaulted, that one of your close relatives committed suicide, or that you have experienced the horrors of combat? What are the consequences of hiding from others our feelings about our difficulties, about our tragedies, from each other?
For those of us who remain silent, we assume others will judge us. We feel the weight of the gaze of other people, and feel weak and vulnerable instead of loved. Perhaps our silence is due to our own pasts, where difficulties were not discussed openly among family members. Regardless of the specific cause, there is often a fear of rejection. People do not tolerate rejection and the risk of isolation well. Innately, we seek attachment, from the beginning of life. When people stop seeking connection with others, something has happened. If emotions can be blamed for this change, it is often shame. Another one is guilt. People who have experienced traumatic events in their lives want to connect and feel understood about them, but often the risk of rejection and the subsequent shame and guilt are too powerful. They often feel no one else can get it. They feel that no one really wants to hear how terrible something was for them, whether it is being sexually assaulted, the suicide of a relative, or combat. People who have experienced any of these examples might feel that no one can understand the experience. But that is what they need. They may feel isolated and even no longer feel like a person in their shame and guilt, but connection is what they need. Connection is healing. Finding someone else who understands and helps them bear the overwhelming emotions associated with an event is how we cope as human beings. We are social beings. We need each other.