I remember the time when I had interviewed a young man for a research study, in which he had poured his heart out regarding a health issue and how it had affected him mentally and socially. At the end of the interview, he stepped out of his home and actually came to the end of his street to see me off and he said, “I’ve never been able to open up like this to anyone, not even to my people. Please come again. I felt so happy talking to you.”
There have been many such instances where our participants lay bare their feelings, emotions, dreams, fears, disappointments, aspirations and desires, which have been bottled up within them since ages. It could be a teenager sharing his future hopes and dreams along with his insecurities, a bride or a young mother talking about a new life stage, a family man talking about his responsibilities and the dreams and aspirations for his loved ones or someone just discussing what he feels about the world, another expressing the unconditional love for his dog... the list is endless.
Sometimes I feel a little guilty that for the purpose of my research, I tread into their innermost world and get them to open up their pandora of emotions and feelings and after it all, I cannot really help them in any way and would probably never even be in touch with them again. But in hindsight I feel that even this one brief outlet of expressing their deepest of emotions with a stranger is really therapeutic for them. The fact is that it is not in our culture to open up about our feelings, not even to ourselves, let alone others. You may have friends and family around you, to whom you may speak to about the good and the bad, but the truth is that sometimes all you need is for someone to ask you how you’re feeling for you to come to terms with how you’re actually feeling. A simple question that hasn’t ever been asked can lead to an outpour of emotions, even if it is with a complete stranger.
As for me, these episodes are such an eye opener. Apart from getting the answers to my research questions, I learn so much about life through them. I go back a richer person in terms of understanding, learnings, awareness, love, compassion and much more. It’s a two-way street where we both gain from these interactions, with of course the objectives of the research always being in the forefront :)
Photo courtesy: NY Times