The Safe Friend
It was 1:30 in the morning.
“Can you talk?” My friend asks me. Well, I’d answered the phone I think to myself.
When someone calls at 1:30 a.m., they don’t want to hear me talk. They want to talk. They need to talk.
“Of course. What’s up?”
“You are never going to believe…” she starts, telling me about the trainwreck that has become her life. I put my hand to my mouth, close my eyes, ignore the wave of judgment that passes through me and think of the right words to say to the person who has said these things to me more than once.
“That must be have been hard,” I say.
“Yes!” my friend wails. I keep going, saying phrases designed to help my friend get her emotions out. It’s what my mom (a shrink) did with us around the dining room table after school. Of course, we had no idea we were being shrunk out. We just felt understood, heard and validated.
“Let it out,” I tell my friend, all the while thinking I was a safe environment, and that’s what friends need: a safe environment to emote. Friends aren’t always looking for advice. That’s what spouses are for (wanted or not). Friends want compassion. A listening, non-judgmental ear that is all for them and no one else. Taking sides isn’t even a question.
Here’s a few affirming statements I learned from mom. For a:
- Breakup…..”It sounds like it really hurt you….” (“Yes!”)
- Loss of a job…”That must have been discouraging…” (“It was!!”)
- Rejection…. “It’s like it’s never going to get better…” …. (“That’s right!!”)
So my friend continued like a young child, until she finally got it all out, her energy spent. The dark fumes of hurt, anger, anxiety gone. She then cried again, but this time happy, relieved and able to sleep. The gift of a safe spot for a friend the only thing I could offer but precisely what she needed.