Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Listening and Telling

For all our individualism, it's amazing how much we need to know how much our experience is similar to another's - how greatly we are relieved to hear someone say "Ya. I do that too."

So we naturally ask questions: Was it like this for you? What did you do to keep from losing your mind? Is all this crap just in my head? Am I Effed Up completely?

I've read in some of the wounded healer discussions that it's not necessary to talk about one's own woundings, but I have to say I sometimes disagree. I understand the spirit this is meant in - generally, it's good to be reminded that "it's not about you". I've needed that instruction, and known others who should have heard it along the way. Sometimes it is good to shut up about your own stuff if another needs to air theirs. If one is sitting there listening and comparing the other's story to one's own, preparing a response, etc... the listening is stunted and the power is sapped from the process. I digress here... but I feel the need to fend off the potential of someone flaming me for not getting the general idea behind that.

I want to know why it is you sit there and smile at me and say "I know what you mean." Do you? I don't need every sordid detail, but I want to know what it is that you think qualifies you to say such a thing before I go unloading my vulnerable soul anywhere near you. It might not be the same thing exactly, but we can draw parallels, if we're paying attention.

I rarely watch Oprah, but the other day I did. It was a special they were doing on Oprah's favorite "ahah" moments, I think she calls them. She revisited a time she visited a prison group for recovering abusers. These men had beaten their wives and been jailed for it. They were learning how NOT to do that anymore, and she asked one of the members what one thing would he tell people that was the most basic to changing his behavior. He said (and I loosely quote here from memory) "That's easy. It's learning to feel pain. To feel right on through it and live in it and stay with it." And Oprah said "Oh! That's not so different from how I'm learning not to overeat." And she had an Ah Hah! moment right there - feeling a kinship with this man who was learning how not to behave in an abusive way toward others. She said that going in to work that day, she never would have dreamed she had anything in common with these abusers sitting there, she learned how alike they actually were. I like her honesty in that.

I remember my friend telling me the story of how she lost her leg and her journey of learning to compensate for that and how she tried in vain to hide this disability of hers. She told me with a great deal of honesty how she learned to live in such a way that others wouldn't treat her differently because of her difference. - And what that did to her spirit. - And how she healed from those wounds. I then found I could relate to her on many levels, and I trusted her immensely with my own story after hearing hers, even if it wasn't exactly like mine. She could have just said "I lost my leg when I was a kid. Ya, it was hard, but God got me through it." That would have turned me off completely. In fact, often when people tell me their stories in that manner I'm sad and disapponted. Because no matter how much faith we have, life is still stinkin' hard sometimes, and when we duck from the telling of that, we keep ourselves from each other.

Even when the teller needs nothing from the listener - it helps to be reminded we are all of us mere mortals.


  • Great post, Wow. I totally see where you're coming from. When I'm in "listener mode", I often wonder if I'm relating my own experiences/opinions/thoughts because I need to be heard, or if I'm actually contributing to the healing of the person talking to me.

    By Blogger ., at 7/20/2005 1:17 PM  

  • exactly... it's a delicate balance.

    By Blogger Captainwow, at 7/20/2005 2:35 PM  

  • Whew! So you really don't mind when I start sharing my own experience when you tell me yours!

    Great post, Wow, and so true. I think that's how people truly connect beneath our surface selves.

    By Blogger Just Pat, at 7/20/2005 5:47 PM  

  • Amen, Sister Captainwow! :)

    I agree with you that it is a delicate balance.

    Deep stuff. You have me thinking.

    By Blogger annie, at 7/20/2005 7:08 PM  

  • First comes suffering,
    and then comes remembering...
    and then comes thinking...
    and then comes healing...
    and then comes forgetting.

    By Blogger Steve, at 7/20/2005 9:51 PM  

  • i agree that it's a balance - sometimes, the person who really needs you to *hear* them doesn't necessarily need you to *know what they mean* - that's when your listening skills are key.

    i am not a big fan of oprah but do watch her on occasion. how she drew a parallel between the man who is coming to terms with his spousal abuse and her weight loss journey leaves me scratching my head, quite frankly. maybe it hit me the wrong way? i don't know, but when you are giving that type of an interview, it isn't about *you* - *you* (as in oprah) don't need to connect with this human being on any level. it's their story, you are presenting it, end of sermon.

    sorry that was tangential, but i think that is one of our biggest problems with listening, the "i know what you mean" factor. i know we are to find common grounds with people and oft times find ourselves drawn to people because of our commonalities, even if we don't know precisely what we have in common? (like meeting someone, connecting for God knows why reasons, and then later finding you were both raised in a co-dependent-type family...therefore, you are meeting at the "wound.")

    good Lord - did you strike a chord in me or what?

    ::sorry:: good post, wowsers :)

    By Blogger ~m2~, at 7/21/2005 7:06 AM  

  • ~applaudes~ Wonderful and truthful post. We can all learn from that. When we truly learn to listen and communicate...we will help others and we will learn.

    By Blogger Princess of Everything (and then some), at 7/21/2005 7:56 AM  

  • Love the post. And I totally agree with M2. I am beginning to recognize that in myself and trying to fight it. Its hard work!

    By Blogger SpookyRach, at 7/21/2005 8:46 AM  

  • Accidentally...I like Oprah. I just thought I'd confess.

    By Blogger Headless-in-GR, at 7/21/2005 9:18 AM  

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