There are two ways to think about how to be the listeners that this world is aching for. One way is to consider the Hippocratic Oath: As best we can, do no harm. We refrain from interpretation or storytelling when we are listening to the raw, hard emotions that another speaks.
The other way is to imagine we hold a space for each other. “Through listening we hold space for each other,” writes Amy Wright Glenn in her wonderful book, “Holding Space: On Loving, Dying, and Letting Go. Our listening can help to hold space for someone when their world is caving in.
We hold space imperfectly. A motivation for our harmful words comes from feeling that we want to give to someone more than we can give. Our listening seems, and can be, insufficient and unsatisfying. We crumple as we listen to the hopelessness, the irreplaceable loss, the illness beyond repair. We face breaches that may never be repaired. When we try to find the positive perspective, we are addressing our own insecurity and powerlessness. The person we are comforting understandably thinks we are speaking to them. Over time, our holding space may allow the person to claim the positive perspective for themselves. Or, not. It’s not up to us.
it’s not about being in sync….not about understanding the other…..not about getting it right….
inquiry for today~ where is true empathy in your life? where is unconditional positive regard?
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.