Attentiveness and empathy are so important and it heals my heart to be around little children with their beautiful openness and inquisitive nature. I was really sad when visiting my nephew a few months ago to hear his little son saying ,”Dad, Dad, Dad” and being ignored. He is such a deep and serious and soulful little boy and so gorgeous to be around. Inspired by this I just wanted to post the following quote from Alice Miller to encourage everyone out there to develop and open their inner empathetic, listening ear.
“If we are not open to what the other person is telling us, genuine rapport is hardly possible. We need to hear what the child has to say in order to give our understanding, support, and love. The child, on the other hand, needs free space if he or she is to find adequate self expression. There is no discrepancy here between means and ends, but rather a dialectical process involving dialogue. Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening in attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn. It is a different matter for parents or educators who would like the child to be a certain way or think they must expect him to be that way. To reach their sacred ends, they try to mould the child in their image, suppressing self expression in the child and at the same time missing out on an opportunity to learn something. Certainly abuse of this sort is often unintentional; it is not only directed against children but – if we look more closely- pervades most human relationships, because the partners were frequently abused children and are now showing unconsciously what happened to them in childhood.Alice Miller
The subject of listening has been very much on my mind this week. A while ago I came across the following quote:
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.
Rachael Naomi Remen
I was at my support group meeting on Monday and one of the members was talking about listening, and more importantly about how she came to understand that she wasn’t really very good at it. This made me think a lot about listening. Sometimes, I can get so caught up in the chatter in my own head that I am not really present and listening to what you are saying. In recent years I have begun to be more aware of this tendency and am working to change it. So now, when I listen, I am consciously beginning to question whether or not I am really listening or running an ongoing commentary on what you are sharing rather than listening with my heart. Practising mindful awareness, when I notice I am drawn away by my thoughts from my heart I use my consciousness to listen from here.
Another issue comes to mind in this writing and it’s about resonance and empathy. After having the issue of being an empath brought to my attention this week I have been made aware that at times when I am listening it is not just a listening with my ears but a listening with my very body and being which then sets up a resonance. Last week another group member was sharing about going through a separation from someone with a personality disorder which made them emotionally abusive. Her experiences mirrored my experience and part of the way through her sharing I had the real felt experience of my stomach being torn apart by the most violent spasm.
This week when I was experiencing some really deep feelings of pain around an issue and when I went to someone hoping for a listening ear and a resonance, what I got was an interpretation with suggestions of how to ignore or actually work to override the experience of being in this situation. During this discussion as my body picked up and expressed the pain of not being received and heard, once again my stomach went into violent spasm, a spasm that was only relieved when I rang another friend and was able to honestly share my experience and be heard.
This experience has helped me to realise that at any time if I really pay attention to myself and listen to myself, the answers come back loud and clear as to what helps me and what hurts me. As a child I was taught to override these signals or maybe being too sensitive I began to turn to substances at times to dull the ache of feeling too much. Although its not a great experience to feel that kind of pain, at least now I can feel it and know it for what it is. Even if others try to lead me astray I can keep listening to myself. One thing I feel is certain I will be stronger and happier when I do.