The Interviews

PEOPLE ARE SO WISE.
Where can you go, to share some of your most pure wisdom and know it will help someone? And where do you go to receive this purest wisdom, to help yourself? Most of us will never write a book about ourselves or appear on a talk show, yet each of us is an expert on our own life, not by studying anything but by having lived through it. Each of us has this divinity of wisdom, at least: lessons learned from the best and worst of times.

Where do you share that, beyond your family and friends… if you even tell these things to them? That sharing-place is what I want to provide… for everyday people to share their wisdom here, and for other everyday people to be helped by that.

There are so many reality TV shows now, and they are successful because people have a need for clearer and clearer truths. I want to take it a step further and give people a voice and a vehicle for their truths, and without any false dressage for entertainment. I decided one truth on my own: when people talk about that which is most important to them, and they want to help others by doing so, then that talk is PURE. It has truth, experience, fulfillment, clarity, education, and interest all built in.

SO I’M GIVING YOU A VOICE
People want to help. We might lose sight of that often and get caught up with ‘helping ourselves’, and more often than not the helping ourselves part means helping ourselves to getting material things we want, rather than becoming clearer and stronger within our minds and our lives.

But when you do something to really help someone get over a hurdle in their life, even save their life with something you do or say… this brings a fulfillment that makes all other things seem pale beside it. And when you yourself arrive at some clear realization within yourself about some problem you’ve been mired in, that brings another growth feeling.

I am providing this melting pot of interviews, where anyone can share their wisdom, and anyone can learn from it. About anything. About everything. The good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the success and failure, the short term and long term, all these events have intrinsic wisdom that can help someone. I want to receive it from you, and I want to deliver it to others.

I intend to compile the interviews into a whole encyclopedia of different topics. Imagine someone having trouble with anything in their life, thinking they’re alone and their problem is unique… looking online, or walking into a store or library, and seeing¬† fifty interviews by fifty different people who all have that same condition? Or a hundred? Not clinical articles by experts, but first-hand stories and wisdom from the people who have actually lived it?

Do you think that could help them? Would it help you?

“THIS IS REALLY NEEDED”
That is a comment I heard from someone who read a few of these interviews. ‘This is really needed’. What more powerful statement could I possibly say about this project?

The interviews are amazing. Some are funny, some depressing, some angering, some fascinating, some touching, some powerful, some inspiring. All are interesting, entertaining, and when you finish even one, you have learned something you didn’t know about human beings. Every time. I guarantee it.

Read them in any random order. Click on any topic that interests you, there is no order to follow in reading them. These are real people, real interviews, and all interviews are edited and ‘okayed’ by the interviewees themselves before publication… so you know it’s a pure expression of what they wanted to say.

WHAT ARE THESE INTERVIEWS ABOUT?
These interviews are about anything and everything. There is no limit, no censoring. They must, however, rigidly adhere to THREE CRITERIA:

1. The interview must be about YOU.

2. It must be the MOST IMPORTANT thing you want to say about yourself.

3. It must be done for the purpose of HELPING someone.

Beyond that, there are no rules. I find those 3 criteria take care of all things that can possibly be harmful or ‘bad’ with interviews like this, and so far they have.

HOW DO I FIND THESE INTERVIEWS?
Sometimes I ask for an interview, sometimes people volunteer when they hear what I’m doing. I’ve only interviewed one relative (my sister); most interviews are with strangers, some with friends, some with momentary acquaintances. I don’t search for them as an effort and I make no waiting list, I let them suggest themselves ‘in the moment’.

SAFETY
I thought about this project for many years before doing my first interview, and through trial and error developed many fail-safes to keep these interviews healthy and protected. Since this project deals with people revealing themselves in ways that make them vulnerable, I needed to be sure I had strong safeguards in place that would protect them. In general:

I treat each interviewee as if they will be anonymous, until they decide whether or not to use their first name. We do the interview, I transcribe it to paper using no names and no city names, and once they ‘okay’ the final version they then decide whether to use their name (and photographs, if wished) or to be anonymous, whether to use city names, etc.

Of course children or minors involve a different set of safety rules; most importantly, they must involve at least one adult they trust before I will interview a child. If it is not their parent, then it must be an adult they trust, even if not a legal guardian. Children will ALWAYS remain anonymous in these interviews, until such a time as they are legally adults. After that time, they may ask me to use their first name and the same rules will apply as to any adult interviewed. More talk about safety, with an accompanying adult, is needed before I would interview a child for this project, but I am open to interviewing people of any age, culture, gender.

I don’t tell anyone else of an interview until and unless the interviewee says it is okay. This means I don’t even tell their spouses, family members or friends that we are doing an interview – until they tell that person themselves, or they waive their anonymity.

No last names are used, ever. Interviewees are signed using their first name and age only, or with a ‘male’ or ‘female’ if they choose to be anonymous.

No addresses or contact information for any interviewee is given, ever. Not even to those who want to contact them for helpful reasons.

Photographs are taken of those interviewees who may choose to have their identities shown, and these photos are used only with their permission.

Perhaps the most important safeguard: the interview is left to the control of the person being interviewed, right up until the time it is published. At any time, if they want to stop the interview, even after it’s been finished and okayed by them, I terminate the process and erase all my copies of it. In this case, I give them a computer disk with the interview and any related materials or photos included, discard any copies I have of everything both on computer and on paper. If they ever choose to release it at a later date, they can return the disk to me. I ask for no explanations for this. To date, this has happened with only two interviews. (And I really miss having those interviews as part of this site) Both interviews, interestingly, were about conditions of severe anxiety/emotional problems. But they were beautiful and helpful and I always regret losing an interview.

Finally, my feeling for the safety line. These interviews have to be strongly wanted by the person being interviewed; if I sense something is wrong with their motives, or if the interview may be unsafe for them or someone else despite the above safeguards, I can stop the interview at any time.

Between the two of us, we negotiate as safe an experience as possible; we are both responsible for this interview and its safety.

THE PROCESS
We try to find a quiet place, preferably where we won’t be seen or interrupted. For safety and freedom I try to find this kind of location, but it can’t always be strictly followed, so we have to make a mutual decision here.

I tape-record the interview on a mini-recorder. Each interview is given an hour, though I don’t adhere to this rigidly, only as a general guideline. The interview can be as short as needed, even a few minutes, and some have taken considerably longer than an hour.

No preparation is needed on the part of the interviewee; I ask questions that are generally progressive from start to end, and ask very pointed, clear questions that are easy to answer. Since they are talking about things they have already gone through, no study is needed.

I ask questions I want to know the answers to; these aren’t superficial, shallow interviews where I’m asking what I think other people will want to read about; I’m deeply interested in people, in our conditions, stories, wisdom, experience… I want to learn everything I can about being human, before I die, and your life’s wisdom is of huge interest to me, and I have learned such compassion for what we all go through. That’s what makes the interviews interesting, valuable, helpful, and entertaining: I’m not harvesting fodder for a book or commercial project, I’m digging for truths that I’m interested in hearing.

These interviews are rarely cathartic while we’re doing them. Of course some emotion naturally arises, but no one need worry about breaking down emotionally; we talk in a much different, more informative and friendly way than that. I’ve found that the interviews have been much more cathartic, to me and to the interviewee, later on when the words are being read back, in private.

EDITING
The words you read are YOURS. These are the peoples’ interviews, not my ‘interpretations’ of them like you find in most books and shows. I transcribe the interviews directly from the recorder to paper, and then from paper to the computer. Every word you read has actually been said by the person being interviewed, except:

a) I smooth the occasional rough sentence for easier reading.
b) I place some paragraphs and sentences in a more linear order, since people (all of us) speak generally in a very disjointed, hard-to-read fashion and some re-ordering is necessary to make it readable.
c) I also add short words or comments (in parentheses) that they may have left out, or which may clarify their sentence or idea.

I edit out most of my questions and comments from within the interview, leaving behind only those that are very relevant and would make the interview seem ‘missing something’ if they are left out. Remember that an interview is a conversation between two people, I am an integral part of it, and to just excise everything I said or thought would leave some pretty empty chunks throughout an interview. Still, my goal is to make my own comments as invisible as possible, to the point where I literally scratch out 95% of what I said during any interview.

Finally, once it is transcribed in full, I erase the original tape; the interviewee’s voice is gone, and now only on paper and computer.

‘OKAYING’ THE INTERVIEW
Each person being interviewed has the final say over their interview, not only with the editing but also, as mentioned before, on whether or not they want it published publicly and whether they want to remain anonymous or to use their first name and some photographs.

The usual method is for me to send them the first draft via email or hard copy, whichever they prefer for privacy. They can make one large correction, where they have full freedom to cut out parts of the interview, rearrange parts, make additions or alterations. Then once I’ve updated the master text with these big changes, they see it again to make sure the changes are done, and are done to their satisfaction. Then we do the final fine-tuning with minor edits.

Interviewees are also allowed to edit out my comments; anything I’ve said or written in the interview can be excised by them. So for every interview here, you know that the interviewee has seen and okayed every bit of text, both theirs and mine, and each picture of themselves.

Finally, when the interview is complete and to the interviewee’s satisfaction, they make the decision on whether to remain anonymous – as the interview is first transcribed – or whether they want to be known. If anonymous, I leave out all names, including city names, and sign only with ‘male’ or ‘female’, along with age. If known, I print FIRST NAME ONLY, no last names or addresses are included. I also list city if that is acceptable to them, and I list age.

The whole interview is meant to be an expression, true to each person at that time in their life, of how they would want such an interview to be presented to others to read. It’s a showcase for them, not for me. I’m just the vessel it goes through, and if I do it right, I should be almost invisible and their personal words should ring through clearly.

Their hope, and mine, is that each interview will help someone who is going through something similar.

6 Comments »

  • It Hurts says:

    Hi… my life has improved a lot! Of course the parent issue is still there, but I’m really smart, I might be skipping a couple grades of math, and my friends are real friends now!

    • Bannen says:

      Hi ‘It Hurts’; I’ve emailed you twice, but each of your email addresses does not work. I assume you are doing that on purpose… but I hope you will email me one day through my ‘Contact Me’ page here, and we can write each other a little.

  • It Hurts says:

    Hello. I’m not exactly reading this because of suicide.
    – I’m 11
    – I have only a few friends, and they are Eh friends,
    – My best friends are: a stuffed animal and a diary
    – My mom found my diary and read it
    – My mom and dad hit me if I do anything wrong
    Please reply soon

    • Bannen says:

      Hi, ‘it hurts’, I have emailed you. I suspect you mean that your parents hit you more than just for ‘normal discipline’ and they are actually taking out their own life issues, like anger and unhappiness, on you? I have emailed you.

  • Jan says:

    Hello. I accessed your site because I am not doing so well. I am wondering if you can do an anonymous interview with me. I was an orphan, raised by grandparents. I had a disability and a terrible trauma at an early age. I think I was truly hatched in the wrong family, sort of. My grandparents were awesome though. It’s an unusual story; not the norm. I am going through my own dark storm, but have often enjoyed and somehow managed to help others (sometimes). I am so grateful, so in awe, that you took the time to create this site for me and everyone. I have included a link to my website. This website records interviews I did with local artists in my area. I made a major move across the country. My life turned literally upside down. I can see that my disability reared its ugly head, and I made a poor decision in moving. I traded one form of abuse for a different kind of abuse with modified abusive edge to it. I am working on “holding my own.” I can’t change where I am very much because of my health and not being able to work. But I am hoping to somehow be able to help others–that I will be able to carve out some good health time and personal time to use to help others. If I could save one person from making this mistake I made, all this stuff I live through each day will have been worth it. I have some things to be grateful for. I have a place to stay. I have access to some healthcare. I have a cell phone. I have my Shih tsu with me; that’s amazing in itself. But if not, it’s okay. Thank you for creating this place.

    • Bannen says:

      Hi Jan, I have emailed you a few times but they keep bouncing back, saying your ‘inbox is full’. Can you email me using an alternate email address, or empty your inbox?

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