I truly don't know how common or widespread the experience of not feeling heard, seen, and loved really is, but it seems to me that the evidence and symptoms of deep human pain is just about everywhere. I feel it myself.
It feels like a relief to me when our own pain and each other's is recognized. Trauma, loss, and devastation bring us to our senses (literally), but these experiences also bring us to our knees...often in horrific and irreconcilable ways.
I have lost count of the number of groups, classes, courses, workshops, programs, organizations, schools, therapists, and relationships I have had to leave at some point because of their inability to hear me, see me, and recognize my pain in ways that also respect my fundamental human needs. After leaving, some of these connections have been able to shift enough that it allowed me to come back into connection with them and re-build trust, but many haven't...or at least, not yet.
True listening requires self-reflection, growth, and change on the part of the listener, and as I know personally, change is threatening. Listening is hard work. It's deeply uncomfortable. And for some, it was just too uncomfortable, so easier to make me wrong for feeling pain, for having needs and for expressing them...or for how I expressed them.
Fortunately, despite all the places I haven't been heard, I have also been so abundantly blessed in my life to know the incredibly essential feeling of being deeply heard. Knowing this has helped me discern and navigate connections that are ready for deeper connection.
In a society where stoicism and complicity is expected, expressing our pain and our individual needs is taboo. It's counter-culture.
Can you relate?
It's important to recognize that my history doesn't make me "too sensitive". It makes me more sensitive sometimes than the organizational culture or relationship I'm in. And it isn't just me. Our humanity is facing an existential crisis...which is requiring that we push back on old paradigms of relating at all levels. Our previously submerged pain is surfacing. There are increasingly more of us become more sensitive...coming to our senses.
It's been my practice to really see and hear myself and others for years. I'm a professional listener. But I don't always do it well and I haven't many times in the past. Sometimes the pain that someone is experiencing and the way they are expressing it triggers my own deepest existential fears and instead of listening, I become unconsciously defensive and aggressive: pedantic, philosophical, rhetorical, diagnostic, judgmental, distracted, sarcastic, righteous, angry, etc. Instead of becoming aware of my own feelings that are surfacing in response to hearing another's fear and pain, the intensity of my own feelings overwhelms me and I close to protect my need for safety.
Is there anything more painful than having another's heart close and grow distant in response to our experience of pain, trauma, loss, and devastation?
I know this past year has been incredibly intense for many, if not most. It has been for me. We are in times of great change...so we are in times of great fear and emotional surfacing. It seems to me that good listening...understanding... is more than just a sensory experience. It's a survival skill. It's a practice, and an art.
It seems to me that listening and grieving are inexorably interwoven.
I read this article a while ago, but recently had it shared with me again. It soothed my soul to read it, and also gave me pause for reflection in terms of my own listening. I connected more deeply with it this time and really appreciated the wisdom in it...this in particular:
The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.
In that nothingness, they did everything.
I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.
Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.
If you'd like to read more, here's the link: