Listening School is an intervention for managing stress, improving relationships, building community and helping people to think and do at their best. It’s a 6 week course held online with Zoom, meaning you can join in this experiential learning from your bedroom, caravan, hostel or wherever else you might be!
I had some resistance at the start, things like “but it’s a video call online, isn’t that gonna be weird?” and “how will I find time, I barely fit in all the things I already am committed to?” But it turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had out of all of the things I’ve ever done to manage my emotional health. Here’s why.
Managing the Stress of being a Modern Human
There’s no two ways about it, being a human and navigating the chaos of modern day life is challenging. On a daily basis, we can have snapping moments of overwhelm where we feel like we’re reaching the end of our limits. Add kids to the mix and you’re in for an extra sensation of being pulled from all directions!
Being tired is somewhat accepted as the norm for a lot of people just trying to keep on getting by as best they can with all the different demands on them. Sometimes we can keep pushing through the days just waiting for that holiday, the weekend, an hour to ourselves to regroup.
We Need Connection
Roma Norris and Alice Irving who run Listening School say “It might be that you don’t need to take that sabbatical, sign up for years of therapy, book an expensive meditation retreat, leave your job, get a divorce or quit the country. If you are SOUL tired, it’s probably listening that you really need.”
As someone who has tried a whole host of techniques to manage my emotional wellbeing from CBT to EMDR to talking therapy and more, the simplicity of this approach really resonated with me. You name the self-help technique or well being practice and I’ve probably tried it, or it’s already in my daily routine. Give me a list of self-help books and I’ve probably read them.
At the very core of it, my emotional overwhelm wasn’t necessarily about me needing to make any radical changes to my life, but about the deep human need to connect and be heard.
The Importance of Emotional Release
I’m lucky enough to have loads of supportive friends and family who I really connect with. Going to Listening School wasn’t because I felt a lack of a support network. But I don’t always want my friends and family to be the ones I tell my deepest darkest feelings to, who get all the messiest parts of me. I’ve really appreciated being able to release those bits in a safe space to clear all the mess out of the way meaning that I can actually communicate better with the people closest to me.
One of my biggest personal takeaways from Listening School was that my feelings can be felt and expressed in a safe way, contained by the support of my Listening Partner to enable me to have an emotional release. Maybe I might cry and say “I want to go home” as I’m currently travelling the world. But this doesn’t actually mean I actually want to book a flight home – I really don’t! – it just means this particular feeling, resurfacing from childhood, needed to be felt and expressed so it could be let go.
Roma and Alice say “Releasing feelings is SO important that, when you have a build-up, your thinking brain will mostly stop working (a brain scan will actually show this). Can’t find your keys or think what to have for dinner? It could well be a build up of feelings getting in the way.”
Being There for Each Other and For Yourself
One of the most powerful things in the world is simply feeling heard, and being able to truly listen to others without falling into the habit of advice giving or wanting to “fix” things. At Listening School I learnt that the more I practice really listening to others and allowing their feelings, the more I can actually do that for myself too.
I especially appreciated the mutuality of the dynamic between myself and the people I practiced listening with. There we all were, just human beings finding our way, each struggling in different ways and succeeding in different ways but connecting over the shared experience of witnessing each other’s highs and lows. There were set boundaries meaning everyone had a safe container to release as well as taking the role of listener with a clear time limit.
It feels so good to know that even when you have all your own stuff going on you can still be there for someone else, and in practicing this, be there for yourself too when needed. With Listening Partnerships, you’re both two humans finding things difficult at times, but you’re both okay and are there to uphold the goodness of each other. This dissolves shame about thinking there’s something inherently “wrong” with you.
Something Roma said in week 6 really stuck with me, “Part of the way we integrate our wholeness after trauma is feeling we have something valuable to offer others.”
There’s so much more I could write but I’m signing off now to get ready for Listening Time with my Listening Partner, which has become a highlight of my week. This sustainable structure for emotional health is something I can use for the rest of my life, which I find remarkable after doing just a 6 week online course from my bedroom in Argentina!