At certain times in our lives, we're compelled to take stock of the world around us.

On these occasions we may learn to see things and people in a new light, often times remembering something valuable that we might have forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life.

One such reckoning dawned upon me today. 

I had been dawdling, dwelling in the mire of self-pity - a familiar locale - and viewing all around me with disdain and a critical eye. 'Why accept something as normal when I could rip it to shreds with a razor sharp tongue and insidious mindset'. I had become the demon eating away at all I saw including myself.

Seeking escape from the self-spouting negativity engine, I reached out to a group of people looking for a distraction, a way to focus on something other than me and my immediate troubles. A few replied, so choosing the best option and hoping not to offend others, I quickly gathered my things and set out to meet up. This is a common retreat for me when feeling desperate and the sense of the world closing in upon me has become too much.

At these times we learn who are there for us when we need them. We cannot expect all to drop their lives on the spur of the moment, but those who've been aware of your plea and had chance to respond quickly show their hand. 

We all have motivators for our actions. No matter how 'good', or friendly, how considerate or kind a person is, we all do things or choose not to for reasons. Those reasons may not consciously be known even to ourselves, yet they are there.

I find spending time with friends, especially in smaller groups quite comforting. In a small group, no one need take centre stage, yet when anyone wants to speak, they can still be heard. In small groups one can often choose who may be present for a 'safe chat', rather than risking more volatile or unhelpful company. 

Choosing your company also means that you are more likely to gain the advise that you sought or are more comfortable with; hopefully helpful and supportive advice, but otherwise at least more honest. Thus hopefully a "safe refuge". I joint activity is a great way to lubricate the gathering with a topic of conversation and furthermore a physical distraction which is pleasant and acceptable to all. In my case it is usually painting or tabletop gaming.

One can quickly see however how each party's hand lies in these small gatherings. Each may be present because you asked them to join you, but that alone is not their motivator, they have each come for their own reasons:

  • Lonely
  • Boredom
  • An Audience
  • Guilt
  • Attraction
  • Pleasure from your discomfort
  • Genuine concern and desire to see a friend happier .... this is because of further hidden motivators:
  1. Guilt
  2. Owed favour/responsibility (past or future) - common in long friendships.
  3. They wish to enjoy better company in future

Of course there are many further motivators not listed above and they motivator doesn't necessarily dictate the potential benefit of the encounter, yet some are clearly more likely beneficial than others. If sensing a more harmful motivator it is wise to use caution in approaching this person for refuge in future. It may just be poor timing, or it may mean you need to consider avoiding them in future, but as you yourself experience changing moods and desires please try not to accord absolute judgements from individual encounters.

I have been lucky to enjoy the company of a few friends who offer some useful and pleasant qualities:

  • Open with their own feelings, yet do not thrust them upon me.
  • Listen to me and not just my words.
  • Meter judgement with understanding/empathy before giving judgement.
  • Accepting of flaws and boons alike.
  • Offer useful, usable and heartfelt advice.
  • Use casual humour to break any tension.
  • Avoid long silences.
  • Reference happy memories lightly.
  • Suggest realistic future plans to meet.
  • Offer a brew - it can be nice to hold a warm drink.
  • Honest and polite.
  • Prepared to challenge me when I cross a line of inappropriateness or simple untruth born of depression etc. 

These are just some traits that I find very beneficial, you may find others that work for you to swap in/out. But whatever your list, it's worth identifying the traits most useful to you and let your friends know what they are. Avoid 'friends' who cannot offer enough of those traits for you to be reasonably comfortable around them. 

This is your refuge, it needs to be a safe place for you to retreat to.

After going to my refuge today, I feel a little brighter. I have some new insights with which to move forward and some new questions in my mind, but the point of it all is that I am refreshed. I was able to take a break from my troubles and although they remain, they feel lessened by the break; as if their individual burden is somehow lighter. Maybe I have simply adjusted my emotional posture, or perhaps those burdens were never so great to begin with. It's all in the perspective.

Good luck finding your Safe Refuge Wolf pups. Until next time.

Published by Pete Fenner