“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed,
to the whole of it, not part of it.”
I met a fascinating man today who approached me, interested in my work with the bereaved. It's amazing how, when you meet a kindred soul, you can listen and exchange for hours upon hours and never tire of the conversation because it is intentional, meaningful, and consequential.
We spoke about life and loss, trauma and tribulation, reality and relationships, loving and listening.
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Repeat the word, twenty times. Softer. Listen, listen, listen.
Listening to the other can have powerfully therapeutic effects. Holding a space for the other through silence. Being fully present, all senses focused on the other, their moment of disclosure- be it filled with suffering, sorrow, despair, or joy- being that which Pine (1985) calls a prepared explorer into another person's life. Gadamer says that the important thing is to "be aware of one's own bias so that the text may present itself in all its newness and assert its own truth."
Reik (1954) discussed listening with the "third ear." This is psychoanalytic listening intent on intuition. It requires that full experience of presence with the other. He says, "...in order to comprehend the unconscious of another, we must, at least for a moment, change ourselves into and become that person. We only comprehend the spirit whom we resemble." I might call this true, empathic connectedness. Freud calls it "listening with evenly suspended attention." The results can be astonishing- acknowledgement and validation of a person and their place in the world. Thank you, David.
What greater gift can you offer to another than intentionality, consequentiality, and meaning?
And I submit this: Offer this gift, also, to yourself. Listen to the thoughts and the emotions and the memories and the pain and the struggles and the fears and the sounds and the beauty of you.
Do what you must do to become who you must become.