I don’t know how he got my telephone number, and he never told me his name. As soon as I identified myself, he blurted: “Why should a man tell anyone about his abuse?”
“He doesn’t need to tell anyone. He can keep it a secret until he dies,” I said.
“But talking is just talking—just mere words.”
Certain he referred to himself, I asked, “Have you ever told anyone?”
After a long silence, he mumbled, “No.”
“Suppose I had a tumor inside my body,” I said. “I could live with that a long time as it slowly grew. But I’d be aware and have some discomfort or even a lot of pain. And suppose the tumor wasn’t operable. Then what?”
He didn’t respond, so I said, “You might use medication to shrink that tumor. It would likely take place over a period of time, but you could do it.”
“So you think that’s what talking does?”
“It worked for me,” I said, “and for many men who’ve talked with me.”
Before we hung up, I gave him one of my original maxims: I know of myself only what I say of myself.
By that I meant we have to speak the words of our pain to someone else for the healing to begin. “Survivors need other people,” I told him. “If you don’t want to start with a spouse or a good male friend, go to a professional.
“Once you can start talking about it, you become an instrument of your own healing. You enlist others. Each time you’re able to talk about it—”
“The more effective, right?”
I tried to explain that we’ve been created to connect with other humans. And with a basic need to be understood by others. I’m convinced that as I enable others to understand me, I also learn to understand myself.