“Don’t talk to Strangers!” – Really?

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I stepped out tired and disoriented from Manchester Airport.  The information desk helpfully directed me towards the railway station, but urged me to rush.  If I missed the train I wanted, the next one wouldn’t be for a couple of hours. It was already past 8 pm and I had been travelling for a day now. In the fading light, the deserted corridors were not a welcome sight at this point. As I raced with my luggage towards the platform, I noticed a middle aged man, in a long overcoat walking briskly behind me.  As I turned corners, he appeared to keep up with me.  I rushed into the elevator and emerged on an empty platform.  I confess a small part of me was relieved not to see the same person around.  I rushed towards the train and was informed that there were still a few minutes left.  I sat on a bench to catch my breath and adjust my time.

When I looked up, the same man was now standing before me.  I looked around once again at the empty station.  The train driver was nowhere in sight.  As I felt a pang of anxiety, I recalled my first time alone on a train.  It was at the age of 9.  Feeling small and insignificant, I had taken a local train from Santacruz to Churchgate.  Anyone who has been on a Mumbai  local, would understand the stark contrast here.  At that time, the hustle and bustle of a sea of humans had seemed intimidating.  Now, the stark desolation was equally disturbing. With the flash of this memory, I also remembered one of the instructions I had been given when I left home: “Don’t talk with strangers.”

Now as it happened, just before I embarked on this trip, I wrote an article on some of the lessons we need to unlearn from our childhood. Here was a fresh opportunity right before me.  Did I really need to be so wary at this point? As an adult, couldn’t I be more alert and discerning?   I looked at the gentleman with fresh eyes.  He looked tired and hesitant himself.  Sensing the change in my attitude, he cautiously asked me if this was the train to York.   Before long, we progressed to a polite conversation.  Within minutes, I learned that he was a neurologist from Dublin who visited a local hospital a few times a month.  We boarded a carriage and only one other passenger joined us.  With earplugs on, he paid us little attention.

When the neurologist heard about the kind of work I do, he was most intrigued.   He said he had a back pain for months and could I help him?  So I taught him Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).  Can you imagine the scene?  The two of us tapping away as the youngster with the earplugs watched with mild curiosity.  Within minutes, both of us felt fresh and energized and his back pain was almost gone.  He was smiling and laughing and saying he should probably share this with his patients.  I was beaming at the possibility of EFT reaching more people and that too through a neurologist!

I referred him to websites as he left the train and I hope and believe that because he did feel a significant change, he will actually look it up and share it with others.

For my part, I was delighted with the rest of my journey.  As  passengers  got on and off, they were no longer strangers to be wary of, but individuals who held the potential of interesting conversation.  I could watch the tipsy revelry of young footballers without concern and converse with a senior gentleman about football and world economy.  Two young York University students shared their project presentation and by the time I got off the train late at night – I was delighted with my “talks with strangers”.

I do not intend to encourage carelessness by sharing this anecdote.  But I do hope to invite a more open mind set, a greater self –awareness.  If we are able to notice our conditioned response and instead choose what is more prudent in the present moment, we may bring down more walls than we can imagine.

Because the doctor and I got over our internal dialogues, we were able to exchange some valuable gifts.  The ripples of this stray incident may be far reaching.  It is not rare for me to learn how EFT has benefited people whom I have never met but have learned it from those whom I have taught.  Who knows how far this one doctor could take it?

Speaking at a broader scale, is it not dialogue that will open our hearts  to those we distrust or know little of?  The more we interact, the more we see our commonalities.  I remember reading that if you are attacked or held hostage, you should start telling the perpetrator about yourself.  Apparently, the more that he/she knows about you, the more difficult it becomes for them to cause you harm.  You are no longer a random statistic but a human being to them now.  I don’t know if this is true in all cases, but it certainly does make some sense.  Perhaps that is exactly what the world needs today.  Less silos, walls and isolation.  More open hearted dialogue.

So would you consider conversing with a stranger today?

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11 thoughts on ““Don’t talk to Strangers!” – Really?

  1. Dear Sangeeta,

    This is a wonderful post. It’s made all the more relevant to me because I have been thinking a great deal about how much of a role fear plays in motivating our choices – and consequently, creating experiences that again – motivate new choices. An endless loop.

    You create a compelling scenario here – one that most of us are familiar with – the easy retreat into fear – when often – not always – delightful surprises – especially with human connection are around the corner from fear. I love your line “As passengers got on and off, they were no longer strangers to be wary of, but individuals who held the potential of interesting conversation.”

    But I also appreciate your wisdom to remind us to stay aware and not act carelessly. Reading the wonderful book (I think you would love it) by Miriam Greenspan, called “Healing through the Dark Emotions,” I’m reminded that people with my fear philosophy can sometimes overlook the brilliant mechanism fear as an emotion provides – a warning signal that we must pay attention for possible danger. Unfortunately our conditioning has distorted the meaning of the signal – and for too many of us, it is kept “on” all the time.

    What a rich experience (love the EFT lessons) thanks for sharing it so beautifully.

    Regards
    Louise

    1. Thanks so much Louise 🙂
      You are so right in saying “that conditioning has distorted the meaning of the signal and far too many of us keep it on all the time”. That is exactly why I shared this story. Hopefully, it will remind some of us to be more aware and discerning, rather than reacting from habit.

      Warmly,

      Sangeeta

  2. What a lovely experience! I too had such an experience when I was travelling through Bergen, Norway a few months back…a stranger walked me all the way to my apartment building thanks to my lack of map-reading skills and we ended up sharing our love for Indian chai and learning about Norwegian lifestyle! Looking deeper it would be silly to feel “out of home” when we travel. Forget going out of your country, but even within, we have lost the sensibility of just smiling to strangers when we share a berth in a train, or are sitting across the seat from them. Maybe we need to remember once more that we are participants in each other’s lives.
    Thank you for the article! 🙂 Love & Joy.

    1. Agree with you Deepti… its not about geography, its just become the way we operate in the modern world. We give more attention to the gadgets in our hands than the people in front of us. Hence we lose out on the opportunity for our instincts to recognize and connect to the harmony and openness which may be present in the other.

      love and light,

      Sangeeta

  3. Only when we have faith do things happen! In any case, I firmly believe that the majority of us are GOOD, so its not such a risk talking to a stranger.

    1. I believe everyone is the same at heart Aeshna… its just a matter of unpeeling the layers. But as you said in your own post: ” I agree that we do have to be smart about things and not tempt circumstances, but there is a fine balance to achieve. It’s the sad truth that things can and do happen, but that’s why we need to be stronger than ever. We need to live fully, and that can’t happen in fear. Nothing changes if you stay home under the blanket, but if you step out into the sunshine, you get a chance to live.”

  4. HI Sangeeta,
    I was directed to your blog by our common relative Anita Ravishanka (Padhye).
    I am cousin of sameer and very much into EFT.
    So Anita referred me your blog.

    I really loved reading your posts about your experiences with EFT.
    Keep it up.

  5. Excellent reporting. Sangeeta, you seem to be a born story teller. Before the adventurous and romantic spirit dies out please carry on such pioneer reportages . All my good wishes are with you. Much love from here.

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