I’ve just started watching Wanderlust on Netflix and I’m ever so slightly in love with the main character played by Toni Collette. I couldn’t quite work out what it was but I think it’s just the way that she interacts with the people around her. And then I recognised that look she gives when somebody tries to divulge a secret that they’re too afraid to fully admit. It’s the therapist look.
It’s not such a funny thing, because she does play a couples’ therapist in the show, so one would expect her to have a ‘look’. But I see that look and I want to just open up. And the characters around her do open up. She gets to hear EVERYTHING in the lives of her friends whether she wants to or not.
Now I do think that I’m a relatively good listener but I want to try this ‘look’ out on some of my friends, just to see what reaction I’ll get. I may get a scowl or a slap in the face, but I’m going to give it a try and see if I get people to start opening up to me a little bit more.
Most people who read my blogs, I can imagine, are the introverted type who like books and poetry and good story lines that can help you to escape from the world that we live in. So with this in mind, here are five reasons why listening should be your new superpower. These can apply to extroverts too, but I feel the introvert feels more deeply (sorry):
Story lines. Most of us are writers and artists and it’s hard to come up with idea after idea. Listening to a friend for half an hour can normally provide you with about five year’s worth of writing material.
Deeper relationships. I’m an INFP and I’m sure that any other feeling personalities out there will get me when I say that that is pretty much all I want in life. I want to connect with people on a spiritual level even if I can’t quite articulate what that means.
You’re always at the centre of everything but never the aggressor. It’s so nice for me to know why people are feeling the way that they do, but on the other hand I hate being dragged into the gossip. If people know you as the listener they will go to you for a shoulder to cry on and some advice at the very most. If you are the gossip, you still hear everything but they go to you for a bitch ‘n moan session which is incredibly draining.
People actually remember you more. I sometimes worry that because I don’t shout and make a noise like some of the stronger characters in my world, that I must just fade into the background and be totally unmemorable. But being the listener is a valuable cog in the machine and people remember the one who put them first. They remember the person who didn’t ram all their troubles right back down their throats.
You learn so much about life. I wish that I had spent my twenties listening more. I would be so much more wise right now. My friend is twenty three and has a masters in all things therapy so she is well versed in the values of listening. Because she has learnt all this as part of her studies she is more aware of how humans work than I am and I have about twelve years on her. Now I’m playing catch up, but then there are people in their fifties who are still mouthing off like they know everything so it could always be worse.
Just try and think of a time you needed somebody to sit and nod. They could be thinking about what they wanted for dinner but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that they were there and that they made all the right sounds. I’m definitely going to try this a little more and I will report back with my findings.
I’m frightened. I’m terrified. And the reason? I’m ending my therapy sessions in just three weeks.
I started therapy when I was newly sober and still really mentally unwell. I was paranoid that my employer was trying to kill me and I even took an overdose and ended up in hospital just a few weeks after commencing my sessions. In short, my life was a bit of a shit show at the time.
Fast forward to almost three years on and I’m still not perfect. Far from it. But I have sat in that room, week after week, and I’ve talked and I’ve been open to learning. I’ve learnt so much about myself and where I was going wrong and where I can improve. And I say ‘improve’ rather than ‘fix’ because I don’t believe that we can ever truly be fixed. Perfection is unattainable and even when I’m ninety I will still be learning so much about myself and my fellow humans.
It has been an interesting journey, to say the least. And I’m nervous about where my life will take me after I leave the ‘care’ of my therapist. It’s the weirdest relationship that I’ve ever had with anyone, both close and distant all at once. I sometimes find myself wondering how I’m ever going to cope with nobody to hold me accountable in the same way.
I thought it might be helpful for myself and for others to just put into writing how therapy has helped me and just what it is that I’m frightened of in a life post therapy.
Therapy has taught me that we are all just winging it. In a way this is really terrifying because it means that I can never really find all of the answers. There is no instruction booklet for life and sometimes it’s all about a bit of guess work. Sometimes my decisions will be wrong and I just have to bear the consequences.
I’ve opened up to my therapist about some of my deepest and darkest secrets. I wouldn’t even tell my closest friends some of these things so I feel like I’ve let my barriers down in the extreme. Losing that relationship is like breaking up with a romantic partner. That makes me squirm to write, but it’s true, and it’s also a heartbreaking feeling.
I’ve discovered that some of my difficulties stem from past traumas and from my relationship with my mother. This has made for some uncomfortable realisations and I don’t know if things can ever go back to the way they were. I can cope with this, but it hurts.
I don’t have anyone to hold me accountable anymore. I knew that I had to check in with my therapist every week, and now I have nobody. I have to hold on so tightly to the fact that I have people around me who love me. I may not be able to burden them with all of my worries but they would be devastated if I was gone.
I’ve learned that when someone is mean to me, that’s their shit, not mine. People behave badly because they are uncomfortable and not because they hate me or want me arrested or dead. Holding onto this is so hard for me, but it’s essential if I am to stop myself from going down that rabbit hole I found myself in three years ago.
I’ve had to change my goals and my values. All I wanted was to be rich and successful because I thought that this would make people love me and respect me. Actually, it just made me bloody miserable. I need to do the things that make me happy, like writing and art and crochet. I don’t have expensive tastes so why the fuck do I need a job that pays me well but stresses me out to the point that I end up in hospital? I rest my case.
Just chill out. Life is to be enjoyed. If I die, then I die. But why not enjoy it while I have it?
I’d love to hear if you have had therapy and what you have learned from the experience. I think that it’s so helpful to learn what it is that causes you to behave the way that you do. I truly believe that we are all like little computers and the things that happen to us early on in life program us for the future. It’s fascinating and scary in equal measures!
Before I started really working on myself and understanding that there was work to be done my self worth was incredibly low. I used to talk to myself like crap. I think that a lot of us do it and, worse still, we sometimes don’t even realise how badly we are doing it.
I remember when I was slowly reaching my ‘rock bottom’ (I really hope it was my rock bottom because nobody wants to go there again!) I would say the most dreadful things to myself. I recall saying over and over in my head that I was useless and I even went as far as to call myself evil. I would find myself crying and wishing that I was dead as this voice just rang out over and over again. “You’re evil, you’re evil, you’re evil. The world would be a better place without you in it.” It brings chills to my body to even write that because it really does bring back that awful time with such intensity.
However, through a lot of hard work and therapy and going to meetings for my alcoholism, I have managed to (almost) swing it around. There are still days when I am stressed or tired and I find myself slipping back into my old patterns but, on the whole, I am so much better.
If you are struggling with the crippling effects of talking to yourself like you don’t matter, here are a couple of ways to try and put a stop to it:
Make sure you get enough sleep and try to avoid stress. As I mentioned, these are two things that are bound to set me off.
Read some self help books or watch something uplifting on Youtube. You may think it’s a load of old woowoo but hopefully the uplifting message will give you a bit of a kick.
Meditation, because this is bound to quieten the voices in your head. It takes some practice but the benefits once you’ve gotten the hang of it are not to be sniffed at.
Be creative because this is taking your mind off the words that are tumbling through your mind. And if you make something nice, you feel as though you’ve accomplished something. Useless people wouldn’t be able to do that!
Talk to a friend. Again distraction and connection with other humans are so useful. It’ll help to remind you that there are people out there who love you and value you.
Talk to yourself as though you were talking to your four year old self. You wouldn’t tell that little girl or boy that they were pathetic and vile. So don’t tell your grown up self that!
So I’m not the most technically minded person in the world and to be a really good blogger I have found that being a bit computer savvy is definitely advantageous. I’m also writing this blog because of my sensitivity and I want people who are like me to feel that the world is a little bit safer and easier to navigate. But sensitivity and computer problems don’t go together very well. In fact, they are probably the worst mix in the world because just a minor hitch in my plans can make me feel like my whole world is ending!
Therefore, the point of this post is to explore how people can make scary or crappy situations seem just a little bit more manageable. It is not just sensitive people that will struggle with this, but I do often wonder how some people seem to make everything look like it’s water off a duck’s back.
One of the best ways that I have found over the past few years of working on myself, is to reframe the problem, and I am pretty sure this is what all those really resilient people are doing even if they are doing it subconsciously.
What this involves is taking the problem (in this case it was my flipping computer not working) and reframing it so that it is less huge or just different in some way. Here I just had to look at it on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being my life being in danger and 1 being a minor annoyance. When you look at it in this way you suddenly see that it’s only about a 2 at the very most and it immediately diminishes the level of anxiety. This is because life is all about survival and when you see where you are on the scale of survival needs, everything can be put into better perspective.
The other way of reframing is to just look at something differently. I’m having a lot of problems with my mother at the moment. She is being very difficult and the situation was becoming overwhelming. With the help of a therapist, what I have been doing is looking at the problem as though it is a puzzle. I love doing books of sudoku and so likening it to solving a puzzle or just moving on to the next has just made it all feel a little more trivial. The problem is still there and it’s still serious, but I’ve given my brain some relief from the stress that’s been flooding it. This means that I can get on with other things in my life and have some moments to actually enjoy life.
Now I’m not a counsellor or psychiatrist so I’m just telling you these techniques because they have helped me. If you have any serious issues that are causing you distress I can’t urge you enough to go and seek help. There are resources out there that you can use and a lot of them are completely free. Your GP is a good starting place.
I hope that this can help one or two people and together we can make the world just a little bit happier, more patient and more kind.
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