When you just want someone to listen...
How many times have you spoken to someone about how you are feeling and all you actually want or need is to be listened to? You don’t want the other person to necessarily respond or try to solve the problem, to ‘make it all better’ with a long list of things you can do.
It may be that you have spoken to someone and they immediately think of a time when they were feeling that way; making it about them. This can leave you feeling that perhaps they’re not really listening, understanding or caring about you.
When we try to let people know that all we want is a listening ear, they may wonder how that can be enough. When someone is worried about us, they want to feel that they can make things better and they want to be ‘active’ in that. However, if you are pushing away their attempts at this, they may start to see you as playing victim or wallowing in self-pity. In turn, you may begin to feel confused as to why you don’t want to hear solutions at this time, perhaps feeling guilty for upsetting them!
The simplest, yet at times most difficult, thing for loved ones to provide is to be present with the other and silent. They do not need to solve the mystery, set a plan of action for you or provide you with the answers. Maybe all of that can come later when you feel ready.
They don’t need to relate it to a time when they felt the same way, even though they may be trying to help you feel less alone with your anxieties. For you, it may just be enough to know that another person is ‘hearing’ you. They are standing in your shoes for a short while and then stepping out again.
Counselling can provide different types of support to different people according to their needs, but at the root of all counselling is the simplicity of listening and being present.
When we feel listened to, we feel visible. We feel valued. Answers may come later.
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About Jayne Phillips
Jayne is a fully qualified, BACP registered therapeutic counsellor, working in private practice.