Our Many Faces

“We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of.”

There is a touching scene in one of my favorite movies, ‘Good Will Hunting’, which focuses on Sean (played by Robin Williams), a former prodigious mathematician turned psychologist, who is mentoring Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) but also providing guidance to a young man going through a tough time. Will is gifted but also has suffered physical abuse and mental trauma having lived with different foster families who did not treat him well. Sean notices Will not really sharing who he is fully and that is not just the case with Sean at first in their sessions but also with Will’s new girlfriend, Skylar.

Will is afraid to let his guard down and shows there are different levels or facets to he is but given his personal history, is afraid to let others into his world because he is worried that he’ll be hurt or abandoned again like his foster parents did to him. Sean tries to get through to Will on multiple occasions and so does Jerry, Sean’s old friend, who believes Will has great mathematical talent but is unwilling to work with him on his personal issues, which came to a forefront when Will got into a street fight with his friends and ended up assaulting a police officer.

In order to get Will to open up to him more, Sean attempts to tell Will why it is so important to show our true self or as I would like to call it here, our true face when we can because deep down that’s who we really are and it’s special to let someone in when we are vulnerable to get to know our full personality and who we are as individuals. Sean, in his personal anecdote, relays the story of how his dearly departed wife would fart when she was nervous and that only he as her husband would know that about her. Sean would sometimes hide the truth from her by saying it was him who farted even when it was so loud that it would wake the dog up when they were all sleeping in bed together.

“It’s the little things like that, that I miss the most.” Sean doesn’t reminisce primarily about their wedding, how they met perhaps, or about what they would do together on a date night. He would think about the things that made her his wife that no other person would know. In other words, Sean would see his wife’s true face or self because of how intimate of a relationship they had as husband and wife. Those little ‘idiosyncrasies or tics or habits that Sean knew about his wife is what made it such a special relationship even when she had passed away. Sean was encouraging Will to open up more to Skylar because it’s no use going through life without showing somebody you love your true self or face, which you likely hide from other people.

Will has friends, has his Mathematician mentor, Jerry, and his psychologist turned confidant, Sean, but these are different faces he presents to all of them, and the one true face Sean is encouraging him to show is with his girlfriend, Skylar. While Will can drink, talk construction, and reminisce with his buddies, he can’t show him his whole personality or face. In addition, Will can solve complicated Math problems and challenge himself intellectually with Jerry, he can’t do that with his friends. While Sean is a friend to Will and they can talk about sports and relationships and life, Will has a hard time confiding in Sean about his past and what he wants from himself.

I think all of us can relate to a movie like Good Will Hunting and a Character like Will Hunting. We try to find those people or at least one person who we can share ourselves with and how to open up our ‘little weird worlds’ to them without being judged or criticized or made fun of. It’s why we show different faces to our loved ones and our friends than we would with our work colleagues or a stranger. It’s hard to open up but we must do our best to be vulnerable with those we trust and whose relationship matters to us most. We can go days, weeks, months, or even longer without connecting with someone on a deep level, which is why it becomes even more special when we can share our peculiarities, our oddities, or the ‘good stuff’ as Sean would call it with someone we truly love and care about.

Similar to the character of Will Hunting, each of us can be hardened by life and find it difficult especially as we age to be vulnerable, to let people in to see the real ‘you’ without holding back, and to be accepted for it. A lot of times, we may be pretending with our other faces to please our boss, to support a colleague, to crack jokes with a friend, and even help a stranger out. It’s good to have those faces in public but it’s who we are in private with someone we care about or love that is our true face.

Thinking of the expression, ‘to put on a good face’, we often must withhold part of who we are at school, at an office, or at the local restaurant or bar, to hold back from showing 100% of what makes ‘you’ you. It’s not easy as Will and Sean illustrate in scenes from ‘Good Will Hunting’ how to show your real face and real personality to someone fully, especially if you have been burned before in the past and been hurt physically or mentally as a result.

We strive to be perfect and to not make mistakes in our daily dealings with others in both professional and personal interactions. However, it can be easy to forget in our lives to not be afraid to let our true face or our true self shine through as we each have our own flaws and our own ‘peccadillos’ that we set us apart from one another. The key challenge or opportunity in life, depending on how you look at it, is finding someone that we can be truly open and vulnerable with without putting on a different face.

Being able to let your guard down, share yourself fully with another person without fear, doubt, or anxiety, that can lead to some of the deepest joy or happiness in life as Sean had explained to Will in the film. While we may not be able to fully express ourselves day in and day out to most people we meet or interact with, hopefully, we can find the right person to spend as much time with as possible and for whom we can be 100% of who we are and what we are deep down inside.

Why You Should Maintain A Solid Frame

“Life will throw an innumerable number of challenges at you. It will test you day in and day out and create obstacles and problems that you will have to solve. You will be challenged both mentally and physically to make it through while preserving your calm and your resiliency.”

Life will throw an innumerable number of challenges at you. It will test you day in and day out and create obstacles and problems that you will have to solve. You will be challenged both mentally and physically to make it through while preserving your calm and your resiliency. When you think of what ‘frame’ is in the psychological sense, think about what makes up your personality. Are you cool under pressure? Are you able to maintain your calm when things are unraveling or getting out of hand? Can you persevere when faced with both known and unknown problems?

If you answered ‘yes’ to those rhetorical questions, then your frame is solid and on a good foundation. Having a solid frame is not just about housing or for a building’s physical structure, but it can be extended to people and our emotional makeup. When your frame is solid, you will be able to meet challenges head on and even if you fail or fall short, you will have met the challenge with resiliency and perseverance. Having solid frame is primarily not what happens to you but how do you deal with what happens to you, especially when things are not going your way.

An example of a person with a solid frame does not get discouraged easily, does not overreact, and keeps their emotions under control even when internally, they may be struggling or dealing with the multiple emotions bubbling under the surface. That does not mean to not show emotion at all but to hold it in control and be able to hold them in check to not let your emotions get to you and cause you to crumble under pressure. In an emergency or a life-threatening situation, that is where having a solid frame will come most in handy and could mean the difference between life or death.

For example, when you are on a flooded road in pitch black darkness and there’s no one around and your car isn’t starting, what do you do? Do you shake the wheel in anger, punch it in frustration because the car won’t start, and let the waters consume you while you lash out? Or do you take advantage of the minute or less available to unhook your seatbelt, crack the window wide open, and create enough physical space so you can get your body out fast before you are unable to get out with the water filling up to your head leaving you vulnerable to drowning?

Being able to maintain your emotional state even under intense pressure will set you apart from others and help solidify that frame so that when the time comes and something terrible happens, you will be able to handle it without losing emotional control when you need it the most. You never think about your emotional state until it is being engaged by outside pressures and when it’s being challenged by internal or external factors, sometimes both at once. Think about those jobs where your frame needs to be solid almost 100% of the time whether you are a firefighter, police officer, soldier, paramedic, etc. Having a solid frame is key to making it through the day without an error or issue that could be fatal if serious enough.

Now, even if your day job or school life is not as engaging to your emotional state, you still need to be able to handle tasks under pressure or stress whether you are driving in ‘rush hour’ traffic or attempting to make your way out of a rambunctious crowd at the end of a rowdy concert with thousands of people fumbling to the exit together. Your solid frame needs to be engaged as much as possible even when you don’t think you’ll need to use it. A disaster or an emergency or a problem can sprout up when you least expect it so it is important to be consistently practicing how to strengthen your frame of mind when it will be tested.

Having a solid frame also extends to your friendships and relationships so that you will be able to handle any potential issues or conflicts that will need to be worked out. This is especially the case when there’s years of past relations or friendship at stake. You must be able to not let your emotions get the best of you when it comes to how you feel about the person(s) but rather to handle the issue rationally as much as possible with your best interest in mind. It is important to not lose your temper or get distraught because of the issue when you’ve been through a lot together with that person over the years, but you should treat the problem you’re having with them as separate from how you feel about them to deal with it logically.

Being able to process and control your emotions in a healthy manner is the main part of having a solid frame. Being primarily concerned with the problem or issue rationally and how to figure it out logically without the issue becoming too emotional will save you a lot of grief, heartache, and even your life. I do recommend trying to plot out how you feel about stressful situations in retrospect and if you were able to maintain a solid frame or not. Think about if you were able to keep your emotions in check or did you lash out which caused the situation to spiral negatively?

If you are in a pattern of personal behavior when your consistent responses to stressful or anxious or tense situations leave you emotionally drained, and you were not able to solve the problem(s) effectively as a result, you will need to work on solidifying your frame and working on your overall emotional state. Sometimes, changing your emotional state involves writing out how you would react to hypothetical situations. You may also need to act out such situations with a trusted friend or family member or even a psychologist.

Any of these examples would be able to see where you went wrong or how the stressful situation could have been handled better. Above all else, a solid frame involves thinking before you act, deep breathing, and evaluating as quickly as possible a course of action rather than lamenting or despairing on why you are in the situation to begin with. Without establishing a solid frame, you may not be able to handle what is thrown at you in life. Your emotions may continue to get the better of you when you do not have them under control to begin with leaving you vulnerable to a more stressful and chaotic life.

The Importance of the Heart-to-Heart Conversation

“Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place…”

It can be hard these days to have a genuine one-on-one conversation with someone else. With all the distractions in our daily lives, our rush to get things done, our need to have instant gratification, it can be increasingly harder and harder to take a step back to take stock of what’s important in your life including the family and the friends closest to you. I believe this cheapens the kind of conversations we can have with those closest to us due to our other pressing concerns in life, but it is important to prevent those relationships from being shallow by engaging in those heart-to-heart conversations. While difficult and not easy to do, they are often the most rewarding.

Real conversations are different in the sense that they are go over topics that may be uncomfortable yet gratifying, ones that may sting a little but whose honesty cut through the fake compliments or the trivial topics that so often guide our discourse with others. Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place and while those kinds of topics addressed are not all sunshine and rainbows, these conversations are vital in their importance and can often help the people involved to feel better about their lives or at least their current circumstances.

Shallow and often fake conversations focus on the trivial and inconsequential. They often don’t get to the ‘heart’ or who someone is, where they are in life, or where they plan on going. It’s good at times to have light conversations about the weather, sports, or the latest fashion trend. However, those kinds of conversations do not really drive a relationship forward and are often built on a foundation of sand. I say this because friendships that focus on those kinds of topics don’t really address important matters and thus cannot really create a strong relationship of mutual trust and understanding.

You may have a friend who is a big sports fan such as yourself and you enjoy going to basketball games together and like to talk about who your favorite players are but if you never actually broach other topics that touch upon that person’s life, then they aren’t really a true friend in my view. If you can’t have a heart-to-heart beyond a few shared interests, then that is not a strong relationship that is going to last a while. It may be good to start with basketball as a primary part of one’s friendship but the longer you get to know someone, you should discuss other things with them such as talking about where they grew up, what their family is like, what they enjoy doing for their profession or for fun, what their goals or dreams may be, and even what they worry about or what they want to improve upon in their lives.

Those kinds of conversations really build a much more solid kind of foundation of a friendship or a relationship and will last a lot longer than just talking about the same topic repeatedly. In these heart-to-heart talks, it may be awkward at first as most people are shy and wary about letting their personal barriers down but once you can with their permission, you can really build up a positive relationship especially if you both are open and vulnerable to each other. In a heart-to-heart, you should not be sarcastic or dismissive but rather to listen intently, ask questions, let the other person express themselves and while you can be honest with them in response, don’t try to judge them too much but rather as the popular saying goes, try to think of what you would do in their shoes.

I believe it is also important to be direct with that person once you start to open up with one another and to not simply ‘beat around the bush.’ Express your true point of view and tell them how you would approach the situation whether it’s trying to accomplish a goal, or sorting out a personal manner, or trying something new that is stressing the other person out. Always listen first, ask good questions, and then give your most honest response back, which even if they disagree, the person you’re having the heart-to-heart with should value your feedback and be appreciative that you listened to them on a serious topic.

In my view, Heart-to-heart conversations are so utterly lacking in our culture that when they do happen, it is a shock for most people because they never have received that kind of candid or honest feedback that’s been missing from their lives. It allows those who engage in the conversation to evaluate their options more, weigh the advice or feedback given, and perhaps make a wiser or better decision from having good counsel from a serious friend or family member who is doing their best to look out for your interests.

It is beneficial to seek out people in your life who are acquaintances and look to see if they are capable of a heart-to-heart conversation. If you prefer to have talks on trivial topics only, you can do so but I think you truly only grow as an individual when you spend time with people where you can broach serious topics with and not be rebuffed for doing so. It is a sign of a true friendship or a good family relation when you can let your guard down to discuss something that happened to you, either good or bad, and that person will not judge you right way or shut you down without hearing all that it is that you have to say to them.

Having mature and responsible friends and family members around to talk about serious topics including even politics, religion, philosophy on life, finances, etc. are vital to helping to make you a much more well-rounded person too. These topics are not easy to discuss but ignoring them entirely or not having anyone to reach out to discuss them from time to time can be detrimental to a person’s well-being in terms of their own growth or cause them to seek out advice from people they don’t know or worse who would try to take advantage of them instead.

It goes without saying that a mature adult should be responsible for forming those serious friendships and relationships with their own initiative, but they should also get the same back from that person who is open to having heart-to-heart talks. You may not like to hear what they say to you or like the advice being given but at least you are getting that kind of feedback in the first place on a serious topic beyond sports, reality TV, or celebrity gossip. It is a good feeling to have someone who can be relied upon when you have a major decision to make and want some counsel, or when you are going through a hard time and have someone to reach out to. Those kinds of conversations are increasingly rare in our society, but they are perhaps the most important kinds of conversations to have and for which you’ll often be better off for having had them in the first place.

Do yourself a favor and start to think of those people in your life who you’ve only had shallow conversations with and begin to probe a little bit to see if you can discuss more serious or personal topics with. It is likely to be a slow-moving process and that’s okay. However, the more you get to know someone, the easier it should be to form a real friendship based on mutual trust and respect and for which heart-to-heart conversations should be a natural result. I think your mental health will also be much better off knowing that you really have someone like a friend or a family member who you can talk honestly with and have a real conversation on life, love, failure, success, goals, happiness, etc., which you would not discuss with the average acquaintance or new contact.

The Heart-to-Heart conversation is the toughest one that you can have in life, but it is also the most important to have with someone else. If you neglect it, I believe you are likely to be worse off than before but if you start having them from time to time with someone who you value, there is no reason to think why you wouldn’t have a better life from having had them.

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