Feeling Hurt or Feeling Heard?
How many of you have ever felt truly heard by another? I mean like someone really got you and understood you? If so, that is wonderful. However, it is such a rare experience these days to have another listen to you and to feel truly heard and understood by them.
What we want at the core, beneath it all, is love. And feeling heard is one of the best ways to feel loved by another. However, most of the time how it goes for most of us is that when we try to share our feelings or thoughts, the other person is just not there. There are so many other things that the listener does instead of just listening to us, here are a few:
Becomes distracted (with cell phone, tv, email, own thoughts, other people, eating, driving, drinking, cooking, the dog...distractions are endless).
Tries to solve our problem.
Tells us what to do.
Interrupts or cuts us off.
Asks unrelated questions.
Turns our sharing into something personal about themselves.
Becomes angry at us.
Tries to convince us of their opinion.
There are many ways in which not being heard can be just downright hurtful. Yet we don't know what to do about it so we often end up having superficial conversations when we really want to share something deeper. We also learn to avoid our feelings. Since the other doesn't want to hear how we feel, we should just stuff it, right? We end up paying attention to another's feelings instead of our own. We learn to numb out our feelings with food, alcohol, sex, shopping, or some other self-medicating method.
Believe it or not, the way out of this mess is not by trying to get the other to listen to us. It is also not by trying to find a new person to listen to us. I'm sure you have tried these options already by now, and most likely have still not felt fully heard by the other.
Actually, the simple truth is that if we have properly and thoroughly listened to ourself, we won't have the need for the other to listen to and validate us. Try it and you will see what I mean. The next time you want to tell someone what you think or feel about something, instead of telling them, journal about it to yourself. Write out what you are thinking, with a focus on your feelings. By the way, feelings are one word, like "happy, sad, anxious, guilty, angry, frustrated, annoyed, betrayed, exhausted, scared." Feelings are different from thoughts. Write about your feelings until you feel you've gotten it all out on paper. You don't have to censor yourself. Just let it all out, whatever it is. Then read it to yourself. And listen. You become the wonderful listener that you are seeking (and that you probably are for others). Listen to your words. Give space and silence for the words to sink into your heart. Feel what feelings come up and relax into those feelings. Don't try to shoo the feelings away. Just be with them, allowing them space to air out. Investigate them. Where did these feelings come from? Validate your feelings. Accept your feelings. They have a right to be here, no matter how ugly you think they are.
To intensify this exercise, you can even read aloud what you wrote to yourself in the mirror. Read one or two lines, then look up at yourself in the mirror. Look into your sweet, caring eyes. Look more deeply now. Take a deep breath in. Do you see that soft heart you are searching for? Search no longer. You have arrived at the doorstep of yourself. You actually are the most powerful listener. So listen closely. What do you hear your heart longing for? What needs to be heard? Listen. Listen.