August 9, 2017

How to Heal our Need to be Heard.

“Speak only with those who have ears to listen.”

This was a phrase uttered to a friend of mine after she had driven for a number of hours to attend a workshop on Kundalini yoga; she arrived just as it had begun, heard the above phrase, realized that was all she needed to hear, got in her car, and went back home.

Hearing those words was an “Aha” moment for my friend, and it’s a phrase and a story that I have reflected on ever since she told me.

It brought to mind my own communication with others—the beauty, the struggle, and at times, the pointlessness; navigating the moments in life where it is appropriate to communicate and express a story or a feeling to someone and when not to.

How many times have we been excited to tell a story to someone, to express an excitement or a revelation, only for it to fall on deaf ears? We take the time to communicate ourselves and afterward, we regret it. We feel bad, not just because someone failed to appreciate our enthusiasm, but also because a kind of recognition we thought might be awarded to us for our story fails to be forthcoming.

Thus, the problem of when to “speak only with those who have ears to listen” becomes a struggle—not only must we assess who is worth speaking to, but also understand our need to communicate and be valued for what we have done or experienced. Knowing the former can save energy, but understanding the latter can give real insight into our relationship with ourselves.

The urge, willingness, and ability to share our stories and communicate with others is a special thing. It is an important thing. But as I reflect on my past desires for communicating, I find an interesting set of motivations, some healthy and some not. In exploring the latter, a good jumping off point is the question, “What is frustrating about not feeling heard?”

For me, it is the feeling that my sense of enthusiasm for certain aspects of life and experiences is pointless or exaggerated, that perhaps I’m just silly and over the top.

There have also been times when failing to receive recognition or praise for expressing a view or an experience I shared makes it seem that the experience or view was not profound. I wanted more attention and recognition for my accomplishments and experiences instead of being able to enjoy them simply for the sake of it.

I’ve had to find the confidence to take a step back and realize that the things I am experiencing are valuable, and that a truly profound experience is about what helps me to grow and strengthen a healthy sense of self-love. Ironically, the more I have done this, the less willing I have been to talk, share, and express my opinions, but from a greater sense of self-worth, and not because I have been afraid or worried about not being recognized.

I believe we share our experiences and express our views because we are looking for sympathy, desire recognition, or wish to be valued for what we think, feel, or believe. To a large degree, these are natural—it is nice to be heard—and yet that desire for being heard should not be the sole motivator for interaction. We may actually end up interacting less the more grounded, self-loving, and confident we are.

More and more, I am choosing to keep my opinions and experiences to myself.

When I do, something special happens; when I decide to hold that sacred place in myself, where my feelings and realizations are stored, and where I resist the urge to put it out into the world, I affirm myself for the sake of myself, cherishing the experience in my soul, knowing that such things fuel my connection to the universe. I like to believe this is not egoism, or, if it is, that it’s a healthy kind of egoism, something like Jungian individuation.

None of this makes the wonder of being able and willing to share and communicate obsolete. I value conversation, debate, and discussion, and I value human interaction of all kinds; such things are truly magical and important. But having a strong sense of self makes the need to communicate with others for the sake of a recognition—that may not be forthcoming—less important.

It is often assumed that an ability to loudly and boldly express a view or share an experience is a sign of confidence and self-respect, one of the unwritten laws society uses to justify its own neurosis. Unfortunately, more often than not, I think it’s a cry for attention and recognition, a form of acting out.

We can very much feel stranded when it comes to how we feel and believe and still be okay with it…and it’s okay because we can be in communion with our soul, and that is what matters. Perhaps we are meant to feel stranded, to be stranded, but only because of how connected we truly are.


Author: Mark Zimmermann
Image: Rick&Brenda Beerhorst/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Mark Zimmermann