It was a long time ago, right out of high school, I went to college, like I was "supposed" to do. I took a speech class, because it was required, but I hated the thought of having to speak in front of others. On the first day of class, the prof says, "Each person stand up, give your name, where you’re from, and a little about yourself." We all took our nervous turns; it was an awful experience. We were told to clap for each person. Oddly, this gave some comfort when it was your turn. But, the only real consolation was that everyone else was being put through the same discomfort as you were. At the end of class, prof says, "Next class, I want you each to be prepared to stand up front and talk for five minutes about something funny that has happened to you."
So, the next class, notably short a few people who had chickened out and dropped it for fear of being exposed and embarrassed any further, we each took our turns. It was still incredibly tense and embarrassing while you were standing up there, but the stories were hilarious! We all laughed heartily, half because it was funny, and half because we were so nervous. I don’t even remember what I talked about, just that I was mortified, my voice audibly shaky, while standing up there. End of class, prof says, "Next class I want you each to be prepared to stand up front and talk for five minutes about something in your life that had a deep emotional impact."
Next class, fewer people still. I’m thinking, “Those were the smart ones, this is the worst thing I’ve ever gone through.” But, I can’t quit and start this all over later. Best to get it over with now. The first person to speak, thankfully not me, begins with a shaky voice and ends crying! Everyone is so struck with the raw emotional moment, there is silence, then polite clapping. We each do the deed and, as usual, it is awful to feel so exposed when you are up there. My turn. I spoke of the difficulty my father and I had (have) expressing love for each other and of our somewhat disconnected relationship due to his time in the military, and the associated time away from me when I was very young. At the end, I cried, much to my utter shame at the time. Polite clapping followed silence.
Funny thing about that course. After only three classes together, we were completely and happily just that, together. It was a life changing realization that we were so tightly bonded because we had “embarrassed” and “shamed” ourselves by exposing, under duress no less, our true selves to one another. That man was a genius, I now realize. In the years that have passed I have learned, like we all do, how to shield my emotions, how to hide away my “true self” and keep a continual, unblinking façade up to the people around me. Most of them. But, when I meet someone I believe I can trust, and I feel that need to get closer to them, I know what to do. Rip off the mask, tell them a little about myself, something funny, something with deep emotional impact. Then, ask the same things of them. I recommend it.