Have you ever felt like nobody is listening to you?
The importance of being heard came back to me last week when I had my car in for repairs. I had a legitimate complaint about something the shop did. I really wanted them to care. Instead of being heard I was dismissed. The mechanic thought I was done. He certainly was. He fully expected that he could just say something mean and I would go away. At that moment, I was more ticked about not being heard than the bum mechanic job.
Because I was dismissed I immediately went online to express my displeasure. I wanted to be heard. I felt better, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know if anyone was actually listening. The next day I told the women in my exercise group about my experience. There were a few good laughs and plenty of commiserating, but I still didn’t feel fully heard. I kept going like this for a week or so talking about it … a lot. Finally the need to be heard subsided. Unfortunately for the mechanic shop, they got a lot of negative advertising while I worked this out.
We have so many ways to communicate these days – cell phones, texting, email, all the various forms of social media – but our attempts at conversation are often one-sided. We love to talk but aren’t so good at the listening part. The mechanic shop could have saved themselves a world of hurt by just listening.
This whole event got me to thinking about how we all need to be heard.
The Need to be Heard
We humans are relational beings. We need to share the happenings of our lives. It takes a little doing to create a safe space between two people in order to share things of substance, but when that is done and sharing takes place there is a sense of completeness…of having come full circle. We share our successes and joys. We share our pains and hurts. When our sharing is met equally on an emotional level we begin to relax like a baby who has been fed and burped. We calm down, at least for a while.
I talked to a divorce recovery graduate last night. He mentioned that while he was going through his divorce he would talk about it to anyone who would listen. And with a chuckle he says, “even complete strangers.” The need to be heard while going through something as intense as a divorce is very powerful.
There’s a Risk to Sharing
If we’re happy, we want the other person to share in the happiness with us. “That’s awesome. I’m so happy for you. You’ve been waiting a long time for that. You must be so relieved/excited/thankful.” If we don’t get the response we want we’ll either move on to the next person to get that response we are seeking, or give up entirely, stuffing away our need for connection. There is a risk to sharing. It may seem safer to depend on oneself alone, but it’s ineffective if we want movement and growth in life. “My life is ok” is not an acceptable state. That’s just settling. There’s more to be had. Much more.
Maybe you’ve tried to share things of importance to you but were not heard, over and over again, maybe even throughout your lifetime. Life is as loud as it is busy and one lone voice may not be heard through the clamor of daily life. That dismissal makes it harder to continue sharing but doesn’t negate the truth that we need to share. We may just have to get louder. Muscling through and acting as if we have everything together and need nothing may appease the ego but it won’t satisfy the heart and soul. That pseudo-strength is a façade and won’t hold up over time. Unwitnessed truths will show up in the physical body as sickness and pains. They will squirt out in other relationships. “I don’t know why I’m crying all the time.” “Angry? I’m not @#$%&^ angry!”
Injustices Increase the Need to be Heard
When you’re hurting and in pain that need to be heard is greatly magnified. As with celebrations we still want someone to share the experience with us, but the need to be heard goes even deeper. We need another person to go deeply into it with us. Parenting troubles, health issues, financial angst, career befuddlements can all cause tremendous anxiety and pain. But once shared they lighten. The burden is dispersed. Important issues, if they rear up one at a time, can be appeased with relatively minor amounts of sharing. In divorce these painful situations come in packs, not one at a time. And they all seem to come wrapped tightly in a sense of injustice, betrayal, and guilt. The need to be heard mounts. When you speak with your Ex, or the judge makes a ruling, or the mediator appears partial, or the future you imagined vanishes before your eyes, the unjustness of it all becomes consuming. “This is just wrong.” Injustices, whether real or imagined, greatly increase the need to be heard. This need isn’t unique to divorce. It happens in daily life also. People want to talk and be heard when a high profile celebrity, the police, or government does something that seems unfair, or the stock market crashes, or even if their sports team loses.
Friends and Family May Not Understand
When you’re on emotional overwhelm you need to talk. You must talk. You will talk to anyone who will listen. You will talk even if nobody is listening. You’ll talk to strangers, or anyone who smiles at you. After a while friends and neighbors grow weary. They’ve heard it before. “Aren’t you past that, yet?” They don’t get it. They can’t get it. Anyone who hasn’t been through a divorce won’t get it. Divorce takes you apart and leaves you to put yourself back together. It’s a daunting task and no one can – effectively – do it alone. Most divorced people will listen for as long as it takes because they know what it is like.
Needed Skills for Divorce
Asking for help and honoring your need to be heard is a life skill. So many of the things that we come up against in divorce require maturity in order to get through. The ability to grieve well is a life skill. So is learning to say No and set limits on yourself and others. Maturing in anger and forgiveness are also developed skills. You will be faced with these steps to maturity, one after another, on the divorce path. Don’t let them surprise you. Instead get the resources you need to grow, to change, to mature. In doing so you will become equal to that which is being required of you to get through your divorce. And… the skills you learn will serve you for the rest of your life.
How to be Heard
There are a few ways to be heard. Some are more effective than others. Writing helps. I know a man who has an anonymous blog and puts his angst, very creatively, out to the world to be heard. Journals work too, but unless an actual human is listening your benefit will be limited to venting, not particularly feeling heard. Helping professionals like a therapist or a coach are trained to listen and can also help you move forward. You can join a support group. There are groups for grief, or anger, and with other divorcing people. Sometimes therapists offer such groups, sometimes churches will offer support groups relatively inexpensively. And, of course there is our program that was specifically designed to cover all of the above.
It’s up to you to get the help you need. No one else can do that for you. I’m happy to assist you in finding the right help for you.
So, if you find yourself saying the same things over and over you probably need to. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up over having that need. Just honor it. Once you feel deeply heard you won’t need to talk quite so much. When you feel heard that the need to share goes away.