Every time I meet someone and begin to forge a connection with them, I think: how easy is this. Not for a connection to last but to easily establish one with what feels like almost anyone I meet. All through the willingness to listen to another person without that immediate appraisal. To enter into their reality so I can understand where they’re coming from. To listen is to judge and consider by instinct, instead of by more preconceived structures. It’s not to say I don’t eventually decide about people or think about what they said then change my mind about how I feel. What’s important is that moment when I am with them and we have something to share with each other. My appraisal or judgment or thoughts are not part of who they are and what they do as a person. They’re just the way I feel and the way I see things most convenient to my understanding. In the moment you really listen to someone though, you temporarily relinquish that to explore and feel another persons thoughts and how they feel and see. And then I too speak and they listen, allowing ourselves to experience each other.
The more people I meet the more I suspect that there is something terribly wrong in the society I live in. Like I’m living in an age where people are desperate in deafness. More and more people are just looking for somebody to listen to them. To be able to open up and speak they’re honest thoughts. And the sensitive listener – for genuine listening is an act which stems from sensitivity – has the ability to give a person a space to speak their real voices, instead of these projections or linguistic programs of what they think they feel and how they should feel. For connection to take place though, it needs reciprocation. Both parties need to give and neither should mean to take. Only explore and follow. People who want to someone to listen to them need to want to listen as well, and there are far less of these people than the ones who just want someone to be their personal confession box or ventilation system.
When I’m listening to someone then switching roles naturally, we are experiencing one another. This isn’t to say that this is always the beginning of a friendship (which I’ve mistaken so many times) or a relationship, or that it’s the only stuff necessary for long lasting relationships… These encounters can be very brief. People feel that beyond the experience, they are incompatible. But these experiences, this listening, is a necessity of a healthy or at least, textured human life. To give someone a chance and listen to them. A chance that sometimes I myself have to find and initiate.
The most memorable experiences I’ve had with people are the ones in which there is a moment when we speak in these ‘true’ voices to each other. Allowing this other person to bring out a different self. And that moment when we’re able to divulge a simple pain or concern, to state a simple, even cliched statement in a voice we used as children, almost naive and nervous… People need more and more someone to listen them. These aren’t broken people. They are people in relationships, married, have a close family, have lots of friends. Many of them fall – all their pretenses – by sitting down and speaking to someone who is really listening. And there are many people who are afraid of that falling, that can’t even bare to work at listening to their own selves. Fearing their own truths due to the judgments or ideas they have imposed on themselves. It is, I feel, fear of vulnerability at its core. This ‘listening’ is an act of vulnerability, to have a connection in which a person can reveal them self to them self, where a kind of trust occurs. A kind of ‘love’ occurs. And a certain strength can be found in these connections, whether they last long or little.
Thinking along these lines: how can real resilience be built without this strength? We can adapt, yes. Accept and adapt to cope with life. It’s the way you go about accepting and adapting that I question…
Like when you move to a new country, you can adapt and cope as an ‘outsider’ of the culture. Staying in your bubble is a way of coping and adapting but its not necessarily the healthiest way to go about it. And how can you learn different ways if you don’t listen to different people? If you don’t listen to yourself? Even a person who seems to have been though so much and come out of it, still falls at the ears of the silent listener. Amongst all the complexities in the ways a person has adapted to life, we carry with us a trembling voice holding these few simple child-like secrets.
We are all mirrors, all made of glass. All fragile.
We are all in a state of flux, changing, needing continuous avenues of awareness, not one-offs. There is no such thing as a one-off permanent cure because we ourselves are dynamic and ephemeral. We re-create from simple human predicaments and feelings to find our own language in a constantly renewed contexts. Flesh is always there but skins can be shed and they are never peeled away by only ourselves.
Doesn’t our society have an obligation to be there for people, not just the ones they hold close? I don’t know… What I feel is that resilience is somehow linked with perspective, to have multiple ways of seeing yourself. I feel it’s also misinterpreted as this sturdy declaration of independence. Independence is one of these bizarre lies. Even when a person seems like they are ‘standing on they’re own two feet’, it is supported by control and balance. They have or have had help. Everything we do, even by ourselves for ourselves, is dependent on the work of others. Everything we sit on, everything we buy… a trust in the work of people we don’t know. Solitude is necessary, for some more than others, but even to enjoy that in its full capacity, we are dependent on others. It is ‘others’ that manifest our selves, that different aspects and parts become conscious through relationships and connections we have with other people. Through others we reveal our selves; when we are alone we can be truly comfortable with our selves. Good relationships are the physical manifestation of human sensitivity being used from a place of strength. Bad ones vice versa. But lets face it, most are muddy. A sense of place is even a collaborated creative activity between our self and the surrounding environment. We find homes in people just as much as in places.
Accepting that we need support, good support. Accepting dependency. Accepting opportunities for trust to occur… I don’t want to sound like the world is seemingly full of nice people. But I find that through being sensitive and listening, I can explore myself through others. I begin to experience different connections which I can compare and become more aware of what is true and what is faulty or dangerous. Sensitivity, impressionability, nativity versus – maturity? I have yet to find a person from young to old who doesn’t have a simple human weaknesses that can make them very vulnerable to people who are capable of identifying them.
Sometimes you need to shut people out. But sometimes you need to take a chance and let people in. Even more so because the latter is the more difficult thing to do. Difficulty is standing by principle. Difficulty is textured living. Can can never truly understand the profoundness of simplicity if you don’t experience its contrast and compliment.
A reality of the person needs to be held in both minds though. Listen for the sake of listening, for the sake of connecting and experiencing. Not for friendship or for love or for a person’s ‘use’ to you. These are expectations and impositions and they inhibit connection. There are a number of relationships which are established on expectations, pedestals, ideological constructions and manipulability for personal use. If that is all you forge with people, then that is all you will know and that is all you will see other people doing.
I don’t write this as an opening to listen to everyone who crosses my path. I have my own issues with balance and wounds I need to heal. But I feel so many people living this jarred half-life with their own selves. This half-humanness I can’t really explain, of people scared to feel feelings beyond the emotional dramatic and ventilating surface…
Self discovery and stability doesn’t happen on our own. But it is our responsibility to find our ways of ‘healing’ emotionally so we can accept suffering and change from a sturdier foundation instead of a crippling one. And maybe part of this healing process is learning how to listen.