Number 18 in a Series
After sharing an upset how often do you feel unsatisfied, unheard and frustrated, and think such things as, “Cut out that psychobabble!” or “Don’t tell me what to do!”
How often do you think others think such things about you?
Learning about ourselves is often best facilitated with the help of others. But, the phrases above epitomize the negative feelings that often follow seeking help from another person.
Analyzing or telling others what to do is not supportive in moving toward knowing what the heart truly and uniquely wants. It also does not demonstrate understanding and faith that each of us has the ability to work out our own solutions.
The word “therapy” comes from the Greek “therapon” which means common struggle. A therapon is a comrade in a common struggle.
A therapon does not analyze, criticize or direct. They are respectful of another’s blind spots, those aspects of one’s personality that may be obvious to others but not oneself. Knowing that there are very powerful reasons for all behavior, a therapon respectfully does not try to push others to acknowledge or change their behavior.
The hallmark of being a therapon is compassionate listening. Listening with heart entails hearing the feelings underneath what another person is sharing and reflecting back to that person what they sense he/she is feeling. Even if they may not agree with or support what happened, such listening allows for empathy rather than judgment.
Being present and focused on hearing with ears connected to heart frees another person to dig deeper and uncover more about what they truly need. A therapon gives to others that for which we all so deeply yearn – to feel understood. In this regard, some of the most profound words ever spoken were revealed centuries ago in the prayer of St. Frances of Assisi: “Grant me that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.”
With compassionate listening a therapon “gifts” another person with feeling thoroughly heard and respected. When someone “gets with us,” it communicates that they believe in us. It’s like coming up from a suffocating sea of not feeling OK, into a breath of fresh air. This helps us believe in ourselves.
Being a therapon and compassionately listening is rarely modeled. Instead, all of us are trained to be problem solvers listening from our head rather than our heart. This leads to responses such as:
- Giving advice. (“If I were you what I would do is . . . ”)
- Sharing stories of how we would, or have, acted. (“Well, when I faced a similar situation, I . . .”)
- Criticism (How could you let him/her do that to you?)
With compassionate listening, a therapon becomes a loving accepting presence. A safe place is then created for others to move from their heads into their hearts.
Once in our hearts, we are freed to express the hidden things we have been afraid to look at and discover the answers for solving our own problems. This is the breath of fresh air that moves us from the suffocating state of dependency to the empowering state of independence.
As a psychotherapist, I am well trained to provide specific treatments for severe conditions, such as phobias, psychosis and biochemical imbalances. But, for most of us “normal neurotics,” friends and clients alike, who struggle to find self-esteem and purpose in our lives, I try to practice being a therapon. And, we can all be therapons.
(This blog is dedicated to my esteemed professor Dr. Stan Charnofsky. Forty-eight years ago he introduced me to Humanistic Psychology and has had a profound influence on my life professionally and personally).
For Your Journey
- Think about a recent time when you shared a difficulty and how different the experience would have been had you been met with the compassion of a therapon.
- Think about a recent time when someone shared a difficulty with you and how different it would have been had you just gotten with the person and listened with compassion.
- Share-it-forward. Practice compassionate listening by asking a friend, child, or loved one to share something that’s upsetting them. After you’re finished think about how you’ve done and ask the other person how they felt about just being listened to.
First in the Series: From Head to Heart
Next Week: # 19 – Joy: Playing With the Kid in Each of Us
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”
Photo: Flickr / Michael Coghlan