Listening, it’s such a simple thing you would think, but it isn’t. It’s a core component to empathy the ability to listen but for most people truly hearing someone becomes blocked. It take two components to listen properly the first being receiving, through your ears, the second is accepting and understanding the message. For most people it is the second aspect of this which becomes blocked.
To accept and understand the message the words are only a small part of what is being communicated and not always what the message is about. There are a thousand non language clues passed on when someone talks to you, the tone of their voice, speed, inflection even beat, rhythm and melody. Our brains are wired to understand these signals, to see the feelings that lie behind them and decode these signals. Of course this is where people block the message and choose to hear only a part of it.
When our minds decode these signals and hears the feelings within the message there is only one way to convey this to rest of our brain. We need to feel those feelings we decode. If someone is feeling hurt then we will feel, at least in part, the hurt behind the words. We will feel the joy, we will feel the sadness, the anger, the love, the pride, the loss; we will feel it all.
And then we block it because some of those things we don’t want to feel. They make us uncomfortable, they hurt, they remind us of the times we felt the same thing. So we shut the message down. We turn off decoding it and we get frustrated, annoyed, short or even angry that someone put those feelings into our heads. Those feelings are not my feelings and I don’t want them in my head.
To truly accept the message as given we have to accept that to listen it will make us uncomfortable, it will make us sad, make us cry, make us hurt but it can also do the opposite. It can also make us happy, warm and loved. It is a truly wonderful blessing nearly all people have been born with but so many of us choose to turn it off or only listen to half the message.
Some of us out there have stories to tell. They aren’t nice stories and you burn to have just one person listen to that story, to understand what you have experienced so you know you are not alone. When you read about the stories of survivors of trauma take note of how often you see it written that the survivor struggled to get better because they couldn’t find a person to take their hand, sit by their side and just listen. To those people with stories to tell the need to have someone listen becomes all consuming. You spend every waking moment trying to work out how to find that one person who will listen. You would give up your house, your job and all your worldly possessions to find that person. Or you dull the pain with depression, drugs or a variety of things that make the pain easier to bare.
I truly hope not a single person reading this will understand what I meant in the previous paragraph, but I know all too well there are far to many stories and truly my heart bleeds for you. You see there aren’t a lot of people who know how to listen, they block themselves from others feelings and for those who know how to listen not all are willing to put themselves through another story because sometimes it takes courage to listen.
Photo credit: (altered) Flickr/Laura Billings