I looked up ‘being heard’ on the internet. I could find one solitary poem about it, and a heap of business venture type ‘should-listen-in-order-to-make-the-sale' posts... Nothing more? Nothing about the most tiny-yet-valuable moment we can give another, or receive from another? Nope, nothing. And I am not surprised in fact; hearing, or being heard, is so darned rare it’s tragic.
What do I even mean? I mean those times when you aren’t feeling that brilliant, you’ve no idea what to do about something, and you know no one is likely to know, yet also that it will work out in the end, but you wish it were soon.... You don't even want to say much about, you just let someone else know it's happening to you. You want to experience a little of the 'a problem shared about is a problem halved'. So you tell someone what’s going on for you and, if they don't plain ignore you, they either shrug and say 'Oh, it’ll be fine', or they can’t help (which wasn't what you asked for), or even that you’re imagining it... All ways of saying, “I don’t give a purple sh*t; I’ve my own problems, and I don’t want to catch yours.” That old 'I don't want to get involved' cruelty. Worth remembering here the poet John Donne's important words, 'No man is an island…', which finishes with the reminder, 'because I am involved in mankind'.
Of course, you may you get the other arrogant ‘rescue service’, the ‘Why don’t you…?' Oh great, three words which basically say, ‘I know what you should have done to stop this, why didn’t you, you idiot? I would have done it, but you...well... tch!’ This one might be called the red-rag-to-a-bull sh*t. And with neither versions have you been heard, acknowledged, re-cognised, witnessed, and thus you feel utterly alone and having to handle it all on your own.
Yes, sometimes people seem to be ‘dumping’, but this has become a tidy label to give someone who is asking for an ear about something which really pushes your own buttons. Something which you are trying desperately to pretend isn’t in your mood-repertoire. Something you wish to God you could sort out in your own life, if you even acknowledged its presence that is; buried so far down in your awareness under your “I’m fine’ cloak. The funny thing I have found is, as I go on sorting out the cr*p under my own cloaks, people don't seem to 'dump on me any more...
Here on planet earth something very simple happens each day. We humans just share how it is to be human. In all sorts of ways, from speaking, writing, posting on social media. And being human IS pretty darned humanly messy. Plans don’t work out in time - or ever. Dreams dribble dust from their lofty shelves. Ideals are smashed to smithereens all over the floor. And God-forbid anyone come along in a 'mess', and let you see from the outside what your own sadness, disappointment, confusion, anger, hurt, or, worst of all, fear might look like, because you’re trying so darned hard to pretend you’ve got it all sussed and the mood-crew left your building years ago....
But ‘bad moods’ are NOT catching. Low moods in another do NOT drag you down, unless you let them; a low mood in another might alert you to one in yourself which you are denying, but if low mood isn’t in you, it isn’t in you. And if high mood is in you, you’re quite ‘safe’. But don’t put that high on your low-mood friend either; rub salt in their wound, would you?
Just Hear Them.
Just stay in your own space and witness them.
Agree with them quietly that it looks and sounds like it sucks.Smile kindly - yes, kindly. Not mockingly, or jovially, or dismissively, just kindly. Which you can do the more you discover and allow your own messy human-ness and your own self-compassion for it. And, through your heart being open to their human-ness, and to your own, you'll be letting them know you know they’ll come through ok, and not alone, because you heard them.
And while you’re at it, do this for yourself, too, when you are low, because then you’ll be better at it for the next person who comes along, and they for you.
We can change the world this way.
Too simple? Well, simple works. Simple isn't easy, but simple is beauty-full.
My daughter taught me this years ago… When reassuring her, 'helping' her out of her low mood by 'helping' her understand her irritating teacher’s possible point of view, and all that it ‘might’ have been about, she stopped me and said, “Stop it! I know all this. I just want you to agree with me first, and then you can say all that stuff which will help. But not yet! Just hear me!”
She was, and is, so right. And I am still learning.
Just hear people. Read their words. See them. And ask this of others for your self. Because to be witnessed as we are at any moment is the greatest gift we can receive from another, and also to give another.