Sometimes, you receive that one call that puts your faith in people right back on the map. Here's the story of a relationship-wrecker who had a sudden realisation. And a bonus story.
A fifty year old woman called me today. She talked fast, laughed easily, and sounded a little nervous. Without asking me for anything, she started telling me the story of how over the past few months, almost every single past lover she'd ever had, suddenly was coming back in contact with her.
Something you should really expect when you're working for an advice line, is to get callers who want to know if their partner is cheating on them. Happens almost every day. Often I say, yes.
Lots of people will tell you to set goals, to have dreams. It always sounds like a nice thing to do, some day. This story shows how it's not just nice, but essential to having a good relationship.
Your teachers say, "Talk to strangers, because it's fun, it's interesting, it helps people." And you may say, "But I don't know how to talk to strangers. I'm insecure, I don't know what'll happen." So nothing happens.
Yes, all the most horrible experiences in your life came from people who were once strangers and may still be strangers to you, and all of the best, most amazing, most incredible experiences you had in your life have been with people who were once strangers. When you start in this life, you don't have anybody. They are all strangers. If you have a best friend, that friend was once a stranger. If you have had an amazing experience that you love to talk about, the people in that story were once strangers.
Humans don't do well being alone. One of the cruelest punishments you people have devised for one another is solitary confinement, locking you up alone. If you are not willing to meet strangers, to talk to strangers, you throw away all of the possible experiences you could have had in the future. The amazing, rich, beautiful experiences that you'll talk about for decades, those will almost certainly happen with people who are strangers to you right now. If you stay with the people you know and do the things you know, the experiences you'll have in the future will all be like the experiences you've had so far.
The advice your parents often give you, is "Don't talk to strangers." But no - talk to every stranger you can, sometimes the stranger the better. If you want to be wise: wisdom comes through experience, and you simply don't live long enough to have that many experiences. Every person you will every meet, has been through things and has experience. If you talk to them, even for a little, and get them to describe their most amazing story, you can get a lifetime of experience in just a moment. And if you want to be happy and have fun: everyone out there has a smile, has a happy story, and if you can provoke them to tell it, you've just added to your life and made theirs a little better. And if you want to grow big and strong: you do so usually through adversity, by going through difficult things, but it can take a lifetime of adversity to grow really strong. But every person you meet has gone through adversity, so if you can provoke them to share just a little of the feeling of the strength they got out of it, you can acquire some of that for yourself without all the struggle. And if you want to help people and teach: every person you talk to will give you something new to teach and talk about. And every person will have questions, you can try and help them to find an answer even if you can only think of little things to say. Some of them you will help.
Everyone has insecurity about talking to people, also the strangers you talk to. This feeling can be your friend, it can be a beautiful and sacred thing, a desire to be better and more and to love more deeply, to share and lead and help better. So talk to every stranger you can, because the world is full of amazing rewards and amazing experiences and you do not have time to experience them all. Listen to people's stories, share with them, and you will get much closer to your goals without having to do decades or sometimes lifetimes of struggle to get there. Spend a few moments every day making people smile, brightening their day, and you will brighten your own days in the process.
People are not always the same emotional age - they go backwards and forwards in time all the time, and they don't realise they're doing it. Say, they hit an emotional situation. They're with someone who reminds them of a parent, and they react badly - they will instinctively go back to that time in their past where they first imprinted badly and try to relive it. If they were smart, they'd do a little re-parenting of themselves, but instead they just get caught in it and bounce around childish for a while until they come back.
This is natural, it is healthy behaviour to bounce around between ages. It's an auto-correcting system. So when you suddenly feel the need to be emotionally 14, it doesn't mean something's wrong. Your system is just auto-correcting. It's saying, right now I need a skill I should have acquired at 14 and didn't.
If you see other people do this, you can help to re-parent this piece of them so that they can get the input they need, and begin to integrate it. It is an instinctive, organic process that happens automatically, but with a little practice you can begin to do it on purpose, to shape it, make it into what you want to get the results you want.