Deep Listening

I miss my grandchildren. I miss slowing down and giving them my full attention as they tell me their adventures, their woes, their discoveries. Listening is a wonderful gift to give someone I love.

I committed to listen to my children and started when they were toddlers. I made it a daily habit after school to sit on the couch and listen. Listening gave me joy. I remember as they grew, I waited on the couch and they grew disinterested. It was okay because my commitment to listen was also helping me heal my little girl inside who ached to be heard.

I didn’t have adults around me who took the time to fully listen when I spoke, always multi-tasking when I was speaking. Whether it was when I was a child or an adult, the multi-tasking continued. It was easy for me to conclude they really didn’t care enough to pay attention. They were bored or they didn’t have the guts to say they didn’t care, and managed by focusing elsewhere.

To this day, I am sensitive to someone who is half paying attention. I’ve learned to tone down my reflex of over-reacting when multi-task listening occurs. I carry my history on my insides. Someone else doesn’t know my trigger. Today if I feel unheard, I stop talking midsentence and wait for their attention. This intervention works better than screaming and fighting.

Mirror work is a powerful tool in personal growth. I remember the first time I ventured into a conversation with myself in the mirror and I was unsuccessful. I couldn’t look me in the eye. I couldn’t stand talking to myself. I wanted to multi-task. Mirror work truly is a way to gauge how truthful I am to myself. Once in a while I am able to stand in front of a mirror and have a conversation. Mirror conversations are easier as I heal.

Journaling is another powerful tool in personal growth. I found journaling safer to practice than mirror work. In 1981, Sarah, my therapist suggested I write down my thoughts and feelings. It’s a way to express my emotions, is cathartic and helps deal with anxiety and tension. Journaling creates an outlet. Journaling becomes an ally. Journaling gives insight and helps make room inside for all the emotions.

David B. Feldman Ph.D., The Power of Journaling, writes:

In a 2013 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that a certain kind of journaling—sometimes known as expressive writing—may help in healing physical wounds, at least small ones. Investigators asked healthy adults ages 64 to 97 to journal for 20 minutes a day, three days in a row. But not everybody used the same journaling practice: Half were encouraged to write about things that upset them, honestly discussing their thoughts and feelings about those events. The other half wrote about a much dryer topic: how they manage time during the day.

Two weeks later, all participants had a tiny biopsy performed on their arms, creating a small wound. Researchers then tracked how that wound healed by taking a picture every day. By day 11, a full 76 percent of the group who wrote the more genuine journal about upsetting life events had healed, compared to just 42 percent of those that wrote about time management.”

I think journaling saved my life. I filled bins over the years. Then I moved on to digital journals. I discovered repeating behaviors when challenges occurred that helped me cope when they occurred again. I documented my journey with my daughter. I became a friend to my inner child because I was listening. I listened to myself and my healing began.

I realize as I write this, I am still journaling every day. What I write is my journal and my blog is where I post it.

KEEPING A JOURNAL by William Stafford

At night it was easy for me with my little candle to sit late recording what happened that day. Sometimes rain breathing in from the dark would begin softly across the roof and then drum wildly for attention. The candle flame would hunger after each wafting of air. My pen inscribed thin shadows that leaned forward and hurried their lines along the wall.