The price of fine
‘How are you?’
We live in a problem solving, solution based world where people want to prevent all forms of suffering, discomfort and god forbid mistakes. It sounds like a great quality. ‘If I just find the solution to this issue then I can prevent it from happening again.’ But what tends to happen is we dismiss our problems instead of fixing them and then they come back again, and again and again. I see this all the time in my students and how we relate to our bodies. If you ignore an injury long enough it’s going to become a bigger more permanent problem that you literally can’t ignore.
What I really want to talk about here is our dismissive language when listening to other people. As an emotional intuitive I can feel the energy of words and their effect on our nervous system. When someone uses dismissive language it feels like the other person just put a block between us and in order for me to get through and be heard I have to either break the block or wait for them to remove it. Either option not allowing for the release that can happen when people listen instead of trying to fix.
Some common dismissive sayings
“you’ll be fine” — I don’t want to be fine. I want to thrive. And is there something so wrong in being unfine? Don’t they always say the growth is in the suffering?
“it gets better” — of course it get’s better. Everything in life in transitory. But that doesn’t take away my suffering right now.
“everyone has problems” — Of course I know that everyone has problems but why should other people’s problems take away from my own? Aren’t I allowed to have my own unique problems?
“so many other people have it worse” — There are wars happening all over the world, refugees without a home, woman being raped in the Congo as a war weapon, homeless children on the streets, friends who’ve just lost parents, parent’s who’ve just lost parents. Yes people can have it worse, it’s a cruel world and some people were given the most horrible circumstances to deal with. But don’t make me feel bad for feeling my own pain just because others have pain too. There is so much shame in telling someone that their issues aren’t as important as other people who suffer “more.” This also implies that there’s a scale of suffering and until you reach a certain point on the scale your feelings don’t matter.
“that’s life”- Do you have anything to add to that? Whose life? My life or your life? Does that mean my life is going to be like this forever? Is that really the advice you want to offer me?
“well you just need to do this…” — how do you possibly know what I need when you haven’t listen to what I’m experiencing? I would find it much more inspiring if you told me what you did to overcome a tough time in your life instead of trying to feed me the solution.
“stop stressing” — if it was something as simple as turning off a button wouldn’t you think I would do that? Don’t you think I would do everything in my power to feel better?
“relax” — How? We aren’t taught how to relax. Do you know tools how to relax? Can you teach them to me?
“sounds like you need a drink/valum” — why are you advising me to numb my pain? Why can’t I feel my pain? What’s wrong with wanting to feel, see and hear my pain? Why can’t you listen to me?
No two people on the planet look at the world the same. And we wouldn’t want them to! Our intellectual, emotional diversity is what makes this world rich with knowledge and insight and perspective. Most people who use language as listed above do not have bad intentions or mean to dismiss people’s feelings but for a lot of people emotions make them uncomfortable. They feel helpless and for many, that’s the worst feeling you can have. ‘If I can’t fix, then what am I good for?’
We don’t need more fixers, we need more listeners. They show it in movies all the time. The character is talking to a baby or thinks their talking to someone who isn’t really listening and they figure out the solution. People just want to be heard. They don’t want you to fix their problems and they certainty don’t want to be told how to fix their problems. And if they do genuinely want you to fix their problems then they should have the right to ask instead of it being assumed. That allows the person a platform to express their needs. To get really specific on what they need for themselves, not what you need to end the conversation.
Next time a friend comes to you with a problem play with some of these ideas.
- Ask more questions. By asking questions you are forcing the person to clarify and think about their suffering so they can fine tune what it is that’s really upsetting them.
- Let them know if it’s a good time for you and if it’s not then offer a time that could work best for both of you. Let them know that you hear them but cannot be present at the moment. This is extremely important. As the listener you need to be in a good headspace so you can be a soundboard and not the taker of their pain. You never want to leave a conversation feeling worse than when you started it.
- Follow up. A text could go so far for their emotional well-being.
Learning how to listen without offering advice is a practice. It takes time and requires a lot of presence. It can be incredibly transformative not just for the person talking but for you the listener. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to fix people, not because I thought they were broken but because if I fixed them then they would never leave me. I would have been deserving of their time because I helped them in some way. It was exhausting and I also felt afraid that eventually they’d find no use for me and leave me. I slowly began unraveling this pattern in myself by listening. And when I stopped giving and giving and giving advice I noticed something pretty spectacular. How brilliant and complex everyone was who I spoke to. How insightful people got when expressing their stories. It stopped being about how I could serve them so they wouldn’t leave me and more about getting to actually enjoy the person in front of me, every part of them, including their suffering. I began to feel connected and less afraid.
I believe we are all seeking connection in some form. I believe this so much that I’ve devoted my life to getting people connected to their bodies so they can connect to their minds, their feelings and spread that connection to every aspect of their life. When you are connected the world seems to make sense, it feels less lonely and less scary. Letting someone not be “fine” and allowing them to just be is one of the kindest, selfless things you can do. And the more you start showing up in your relationships like this you’ll notice deeper connections, more cherish-able moments and even more vitality.
As more people begin to feel, process and release their emotions we begin to create an environment where we don’t hoard, suppress or hide from our feelings but embrace their powers so they can be used as tools to enrich our lives. Emotions are the drivers of everything we do so it’s time we give them an outlet to be heard. And that outlet, is you.