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Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Landing Strip # Tips for the Brave

While it’s on my mind, next time someone tells you ”you’re really brave”, if it feels instead as if they’re saying you’re daft, nuts, or somehow not quite as brave as they are, pause, pause again, and ask ~

WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU MEAN?

In my experience, having been called brave by a variety of folk, it rarely sits well. It will be my practice, from now on, to ask for clarification.

If you’re brave enough to share both your long-term and immediate goals with a friend, or in a blog, a book, a status update or in a piece of art, I give you permission to pay close attention to any feedback that feels undermining.

#Unsolicited advice. Advice that’s not useful, welcome or asked for.

#Mansplaining. This can be anything from giving obvious advice, as if addressing a toddler, or, as happened to me recently, a man assuming I don’t carry credit cards because I’ve never worked out how they operate. If he’d paused, asked, listened (mansplainers rarely do), he’d have discovered that my past is littered with credit cards. Debris. And I don’t need to pluck up the courage to apply for one and to ask his bank to explain how they work.

#Facial expressions. Anything from derision to disgust to contempt to dismissal to disbelief to deep discomfort that invariably tells you more about the listener than about yourself. Our world is densely populated with unhealed wounds; my life is full of trauma survivors who’re not in recovery, and discussing my work can play havoc with traumatized people.

If I were a plumber, a ballet dancer, a neurosurgeon or a tree whisperer, the same audience would respect my desire to discuss my work, my latest insights, my progress since 2011. Researching incest, however, is often not seen as work, and instead seen as embarrassing, degrading, too much information, and triggering, depending on the listener.

I get it. I couldn’t sit opposite a butcher, a hunter, a lawyer who defends rapists, or someone who is paid to torture prisoners in order to get information. In fact, I’d pretty much do anything to get away from such company and I’d certainly see it as my right to steer the discussion towards topics that don’t involve what they see as their careers.

It’s our prerogative to not only keep outside the folk that trigger us, but to keep outside the folk that find us triggering. Without trying, you’ll rub up against all kinds of triggers daily, but to actively cultivate a friendship with a butcher when you don’t eat meat, or to socialize with a rape lawyer while you’re investigating a child rapist, feels not only foolish but masochistic.

Fridge Magnet for the Festive Season, available in red, blue, gold, glitter.

Find the people you belong to. It’s easier once you get rid of those who don’t.

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