When I was in high school, I suffered quite a strong case of social anxiety. I struggled to communicate with others at school, and consequently, I spent most of the day sitting quietly at my desk. During classes, when a wave of depression struck me, I would scribble my feelings and thoughts in the margin of my notebook just to keep myself afloat.
One day, I happened to visit a bookshop and found a book written by a famous Jung psychiatrist Hayao Kawai. His compassionate writing style soothed my daily wounds, and I was very much intrigued by the way he described our subconscious mind. It was also through this book that I learned about something called counselling for the first time in my life.
Shortly after, I heard that our high school also had a counselling service with a trained psychiatrist. I decided to sign up for it. My days were so painful that I was ready to do whatever could lead me to a better place with myself.
My counsellor was a kind young lady. The counselling room was located at the far end of the school, next to a few special guest rooms, and the whole corridor was rather removed from the noise of energetic teenagers. I would go to my appointment with a notebook, in which I had written down all the important internal dialogues that I had had that week along with what I wanted to talk with my counsellor.
In my sessions, I always talked about how I felt awkward at school, and how I struggled to communicate with my classmates. Back then, it was such a big problem for me that I kept talking about it over and over, each time from a slightly different angle.
In one such session, I confessed to my counsellor that I had difficulty trusting other people. My counsellor looked at me with a smile and asked me one question.
“What does it mean to trust?”
The question was unexpected, and I was quiet for a while. Then I thought of the one dear friend that I had at school at the time. She and I had connected over the difficulty we were both experiencing at school. I realized that I really trusted her.
“I think that to trust somebody means that I open my heart to somebody without needing to know how she will respond.”
I don’t recall what my counsellor said in response to that. All I remember is that I was deeply struck by my own answer that day. It was a kind of knowing that came from deep inside of me.
As I graduated high school, moved to Tokyo, and started a new college life, my social anxiety slowly resolved as I tried new things and learned about myself more deeply. More than twenty years later, I still think about that conversation in the counselling room and think how my answer that day still remains the same to this day.