It’s amazing how some of the most simple words can have such an enormous impact. I think it is a fact that we all too often forget, or pay no heed, but Anna Rose of Rose with Thorns wrote a comment on my last post. It was, exactly what I needed. She said that she had heard, as other readers would have. Being heard is one of those things that simply makes everything better. Someone has heard me.
The post I wrote was not full on detail and that’s just the way it had to be in order to protect other people’s privacy. I know that when I do that, it is going to be difficult for readers to fully grasp what is going on in my world. I nearly deleted the post simply because I knew I couldn’t say what would make my pain make sense to the reader. But there are lots of times in blogging, and in life where what we say might not make sense to the reader. That’s okay for me. For me what I need to know is that someone heard. And Anna Rose, probably without realising how important it was to me, told me very simply that I had been heard.
When I think about what I most want to achieve in blogging, it is to be heard. That someone has heard the thoughts I haven’t been able to speak (often) in my own world. I don’t need you to agree with what I say. I don’t need advice even. I don’t even need you to understand what I say. Unless you have been through exactly the same experience, you can’t possibly understand exactly what I am going through. All you can do is try to understand… but we all know how limiting that can be.
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David Augsburger
I came across the quote of David Augsburger above and asked myself whether being heard is the same as being loved. For me, I don’t think so and that is because so often the people who come out of the blue and indicate they heard me, are not the people I would expect to be loved by. So often for me, it is an almost complete stranger who will tell me I was heard and will make that big difference for me. So often complete strangers will get it.
That said, if someone who loves me, also hears what I say, then that kind of seals the deal in some ways. It is after all, what we often want from the person who says they love us.
I think too often we listen with the intention of understanding, and while that is an admirable wish, it seems like something that usually we won’t ever achieve. Unless we walk in the world of the person we are listening to, Unless we experience the same hardships and the same stressors, then it will be very difficult to understand entirely what they tell us.
I would rather someone listening to me, ensure that they hear what I say. I don’t expect people to understand what, for example, my mental illness is to me. They probably won’t because while others have the same collection of diagnoses, they don’t have the background I bring to it. Their experience of that mental illness is going to be different, although admittedly sometimes similar. If they are too busy likening their experience to mine, they are likely to miss exactly what I have said.
Stephen Covey said we listen to reply. I think there’s truth in that. We listen, and as we do we’re thinking of what we will say next. By doing that, you’ve missed exactly what I said. And that piece that you miss might just be crucial (to me) that you hear.
This doesn’t just apply to mental illness though. Take for example physical illnesses which are often very difficult to understand if they are what is termed invisible illnesses (where you can’t see the evidence of the illness). Because you might not have the same illness and symptoms as me, I don’t expect you to understand how limiting my pain is. I’m way past the point of needing people to understand the nerve pain associated with my fibromyalgia (unless you have the same illness in which case we might have the same symptoms). But what makes the difference to me is when you hear how this is for me. I don’t expect you to take it away. I don’t even expect that you will understand how that nerve pain feels. I just want you to hear how it is for me.
I suspect that is a common wish for us all… to be heard how it is for us. I suspect if more of us had that in our lives then there would be more acceptance of our individual burdens, there would be more sense of togetherness, and actually I’m sure it would result in less suicide and less mental distress.
Being heard made a difference to me in something that I knew most people would not understand the detail, because most people simply haven’t had that specific experience in their life. You don’t need to understand me. You probably won’t. But if you’re prepared to listen and hear, that’s enough for me because I, and my words are now valid. Thank you for hearing.
“Listening is the most dangerous thing of all, listening means knowing, finding out about something and knowing what’s going on, our ears don’t have lids that can instinctively close against the words uttered, they can’t hide from what they sense they’re about to hear, it’s always too late.”
― Javier Marías, A Heart So White