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Listening and Being Heard as Keys to Health (and to Sleep!)

3 Ways to Listen so That You Can Connect to Yourself & Others 

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Listening and being heard have taken center stage in the world arena. People subscribe to differing beliefs. The news urges us all to listen carefully. At the same time, we long to feel heard, seen, and understood.

In my private practice as a psychologist, hypnotherapist, and somatic experiencing practitioner, I continue to witness restlessness and exhaustion in many of my clients. Unusual local and global situations bring up feelings of uncertainty. This can lead to increased insomnia, anxiety, isolation, disconnection, depression, and more.

Loss of perceived control and conflicting advice, data, and leadership adds to the confusion and fatigue. The amount of information out there, and the emotions and urgency of it, can feel overwhelming. How do we approach the task of organizing, prioritizing and sorting it out?

Listening and feeling heard seem so basic, so simple. Yet, these practices often challenge us. 

This example may give some perspective: New parents will tell you how much they struggle, despite their best efforts, to know what their crying baby wants. The attempts to listen and be heard start at birth. It goes back that far, and maybe even further, as the field of epigenetics shows. How we listen and express our needs and our voices seems partly inherited, partly conditioned.

In trying to navigate these unique times and the duality of humanity we must consider many different needs. We require a way to organize our thoughts, feelings, and values.

I recently listened to a beautiful podcast on On Being with Krista Tippett, when she spoke with therapist and trauma specialist, Resmaa Menakem. Menakem compassionately spoke about the importance of us listening quietly to ourselves, to our own systems, in order to heal. Doing so helps us to become freer and thus more able to absorb what others think, feel, and need.

How can we engage enough to sort things out, comprehend, and bring our lives — and the world — to a healthy place if we don’t first create that within our own bodies and psyches?

I have spoken of this before in terms of sleep and the dialogue between the conscious and unconscious minds. Our waking and dreaming lives each have something to say. When one or the other isn’t listening or feeling heard, mental or physical symptoms appear or scream for attention.

If you’d like some ways to start listening to your own system, try these techniques:

•  Sit with your feet on the ground and feel them.

Be curious about the sensations in the left foot as it rests on the floor or the earth. Then be curious about the sensations in the right foot, and the differences between the two. Notice how both feet feel.

This type of somatic practice can deepen your sense of embodiment. Feet serve as the foundation of how you literally and metaphorically move in the world.

If you notice discomfort, give yourself permission to just be aware of it. Don’t force yourself to feel like you have to fix it or tolerate it if it gets too intense. Bite-sized pieces can sometimes be better than taking on so much that you get overwhelmed.

Listening to your system and finding the time and space for it to be really heard can shift things deeply. The more you do that, the more open you may find yourself towards others. This can help you to communicate better.

Try self-hypnosis.

Learning self-hypnosis for sleep and for other issues can be very empowering. This natural skill teaches you tap into your deep motivations and sense of self. This may allow you to shift your perceptions in healthier and useful ways.

Neuro-imaging studies have looked at areas of the brain that activate during anxious, repetitive thoughts and obsessive compulsive thinking. Hypnosis triggers these same parts of the brain but in favorable directions. During hypnosis, those neural pathways transform to support creativity and flexible thinking.

In other words, hypnosis and self-hypnosis may be able to support you in freeing yourself from old stories, habits, and limiting beliefs. Perhaps this explains part of why self-hypnosis can help with spinning thoughts associated with insomnia.

• Pause and listen.

Pause along the way while gathering information, especially when you find yourself reacting.

As you listen with your ears, your body and your entire system listens in a holistic way. Give yourself a moment to reflect and to try to understand what your reaction might really be about at the core.

People sometimes avoid looking within in these ways because it can bring up hard or painful feelings. Those sensations and emotions can rise to the surface because they have been living there, waiting to be heard. Avoiding them just means they have to shout louder which may lead to more discomfort and unconscious symptoms.

Please reach out for help and support as needed, either within your own network or through resources in your community.

As we show ourselves and the people around us love, compassion, and respect by truly listening and understanding, we build more capacity internally and in our communities. When we give ourselves the space and time to process our own feelings and reactions, we can grasp things differently. Doing so allows us to clear trauma from our personal and global systems.

Blog previously appeared on drdyan.com on July 2, 2020

Featured image by Fizkes for Adobe

Additional image by Sanja for Adobe

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