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Posts tagged ‘Compassion’

Revisiting Being Heard

This blog has a title that dates back to an incident with my husband’s psychiatrist.  At the end of our conversation, when I thanked him for listening to me, he replied “You needed to be heard.”  His acknowledgement that this issue had to be addressed, was huge for me.  I left his office with my husband and realized that I had a title for the blog I was working on publishing. That exchange created a bridge of trust with me.  I would need that trust as the years went on.  

That one incident opened me up to a new understanding of how validation through truly hearing with the heart and mind can alter someone’s life-path. A good decade or so later our exchange still stands out in my mind.  That doc really took the time to hear, respond, and accept my truth.  

Having said all of this, I’d like to share more on this subject as it relates to another healing moment in my life.  

Something happened to me after Jon’s death that was so hurtful I had to put it on the back burner for two years. I won’t share what happened because to do so would expose several people who, to this day, think they did a really great thing. It wasn’t a great thing. In 2019 I began to address that hurtful act.  It took one year to completely resolve the issue.  It wasn’t fun, and I’m glad it’s over.  

The catch, and there always is a catch, is that I had a well of pain that was connected to people’s behavior towards me.  That wasn’t so easy to wipe out of my mind, or to repair.  The reason why is that several misguided people thought that they were helping me in my loss when they were doing great damage.  The key to the resolution was, and is, gaining enough perspective over time to be able to step back and decide how to best handle the matter.  

This is complex in that telling someone what they’ve done isn’t always the best resolution for them.  They most likely won’t view the event in the same way that you do, or have the insight to think it through.  You might come up against strong resistance when explaining how hurtful such actions are.  I tested things out with one of the parties involved.  This person couldn’t understand why I was so angry.  I realized that it was not productive to force the issue.  

The rage and pain were very much present.  What can you do in a situation like this? 

Death rearranges the address book.  In my case Jon’s death did a grand Viennese Waltz through the pages of my book.  People disappeared who I believed to be friends. Family disappeared who couldn’t cope with my new reality. It left me staring at once-full pages wondering how, and if, I could rebuild with new people in my life.  It served as a witness that grief, and the lack of comfort others have with it, brings great pains to those who must walk through the lonely terrain.  

Fortunately, I’ve begun to build a community of new friends who view life as I do. I’ve paid a steep price for these new beginnings.  It was towards this new group of people who are becoming friends, that I turned, seeking a listening ear. But, I needed more than just a listening ear: I needed to be fully heard. I found that person.  I was heard in a genuine and caring manner.  It allowed me to let go.  

Not being heard can cause someone to become stuck in the quagmire of pain, loss, anger, trauma, disappointment, and so many other things that I won’t list here.  Not being fully heard can cause us, as humans, to shut things down, to grasp so tightly to the pain in our souls that we can’t find the ladder out of the quagmire.  

Being heard, and truly hearing another person, may require that we face some painful places in our own souls while accompanying them through a darkness they want out of.  

Being heard means opening ears and stopping the responding and questioning, in order for understanding.  Being heard and hearing involve authentic empathy from the person doing the hearing.  It is a skill.  

I am by no means perfect at doing this.  Sometimes I blow it. When I realize I’ve blown the “hearing”, I go back, apologize, and work even harder at doing a better job during the next hearing.  

If you’ve been fully heard, you understand that one of the feelings that opens up for a person in this process is liberation! We are liberated from our burden, the trauma, the pain, the struggle of the choice we’re making…  We’re set free to explore new and colorful options.  Maybe we are enabled to take that first step on a road to someplace new.  This hearing might allow us to stop the repeating “sound byte blasting” in our heads about what we could, or should, have done.  

Being heard in its entirety is a gift. It is one that we unwrap with joy, understanding that it is not as common as it should be.  It frees our spirits calling us forward to new ground.  It opens us to new relationships of understanding and trust.  When we engage in the power of complete hearing, it changes us because our views and hearts are altered. We can no longer choose to unhear or not see what we’ve become a witness to.  Each time a person is truly heard, it changes the world.   

Radical Compassion

In 1958 there was a pandemic and my mother happened to be pregnant with me. It was only a slight case…she didn’t even know she’d had Rubella until after the fact. It was during an era when medical abortions were done “if” the parents and the doctors were willing to do so. My mother told me that they didn’t ask, so the docs didn’t offer. Nature took over and produced a child who had been conceived to become healthy, but who became injured while still in the womb. That is what nature does.

In talking with my mother about this issue, she once told me that she could understand both sides of the argument and why a woman would choose one or the other. From her I learned that the issue around the health of an unborn child, or the termination of that pregnancy is not an easy cut-and-dried process. The choice to raise a disabled child came with a great deal of pain and learning, as well as tears and sorrows on all sides. Society blames and doesn’t help. My mother learned radical acceptance and radical compassion. I watched, I listened, and I learned from her.

In the past month, I have sat and watched as so many have blamed gun owners, children, the shooter, the NRA lobby, and Congress for the travesty of yet more dead kids. I hurt for the families and friends who have lost children. I am angry that people are using an act of violence to force a political solution, as well as a mental health solution, to this situation. There is enough greed and corruption to go around! There is more than enough blame that is being spread to the innocent. I want to scream, NO! STOP IT!

I do support change. I’d like to see assault rifles, code red drills, bullying, blaming and greed to be taken off the streets. I’d like to see respect and support become common. I’d like to see corporations become responsible for what they are putting on the streets. I‘d like to see violence in video games and films done away with. I’d like to see everyone have access to good mental health care and not just a set number of visits per year. I’d like to see education and understanding for all.

I’d like to see scientists search for effective medication that could reach into the abyss of such a shooter’s mind and allow that person to be healed with both medication and talk therapy. It is dark in that mind. It is lonely in that mind. To be able to befriend such a person would be rare. Why? Because what such a person thinks is so black, so far from the norm, so chaotic, that most professionals can’t, or won’t even go there. I’ll venture to speculate that the person owning the thoughts is just as terrified of going there. What I’m talking about is a radical compassion for others.

Few have been able to show such compassion because few are The Buddha, Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ, and others. To be part of that universalizing place takes a lifetime of journeying. However, each of us is capable of listening with love and compassion. You do it as a child when you show sorrow for your friend’s pet that passed on. You do it when you spend time listening to a friend sharing grief. You do it in a darkened theatre when you let out the buried pain that you can’t show for yourself or someone else, but can show for the character in a film. You do it when your best friend tells you that they are coming out and your love for them takes you to new places of joy and acceptance for who they are. You do it when you ask “why” and come away with only more questions, but a determination to find one solution and you join a cause. In joining, you move to radical compassion. When you sit down in a room and listen to the others who believe differently than you do. You do it when you realize that “they” care just as much as you do. You do it when you take a hand and find a way to work together for peaceful solutions.

I saw it in my mother as she was faced with how society treated her two disabled daughters. I saw it in her heart when she wept and yet didn’t lash out at others for the treatment that came to her children because other parents didn’t teach the same values of love and acceptance.

I want to see more kids step up and take responsibility for the things they can do. I want to see those of us who are older, applaud the courage that we are witnessing and show love and compassion for the process they are initiating. I’d like to see each of us stop and think about the words we speak and the actions we take in our daily lives and how they might affect others. I want to be on the path of radical compassion with my fellow human beings. Right now it feels sparsely traveled. I think back to my mother and if I can do what she was able to do, I’ll be doing well. Join me on the journey. It isn’t an easy journey, but my mom thought it was worth doing and so do I.