He introduces this chapter by examining an exchange that we hear and perhaps participate in every day. Here it is.
"So, how are you?"
I have a friend in Alcoholics Anonymous who tells me that in that organization, “fine” as a response to "How are you?" is taken to mean, "Fouled up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Empty." Because of this, he now responds to people who tell him they are "fine" with, "Oh, that bad, eh?"
Why do we waste our time with such empty exchanges? "How are you?" "Fine." I don't tell you how I'm doing because I don't think you are interested. Or I don't think you have time. Or I don't believe you'll accept me if I tell you how things are really going with me, which, incidentally, is not all that great.
Truthfully, it's worse than that. It's bad. Things are not going well at all for me. But if I tell you the truth, what will you do? Will you turn away from me? Will you leave me alone with my furies, my despair, my loneliness? I can imagine all these scenarios, and most of them are pretty bleak.
You have it within your power to create a safe place for those who are suffering. What a precious gift you can give to hurting people when they can talk with you and truly be accepted.
Watch for a future article to find out how a caregiver can create a safe place for hurting and suffering people.