Love, and you shall be loved. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The way I survive depression, anxiety, rejection, and fear is by turning it all into love for others. When I am at my lowest points, I give the most.
What I do for the people in my life is not magic. Here are some things to consider if you want to strengthen your listening skills…
- Try to listen to someone without offering advice or judgments. Your feedback is almost always going to be based only on what you’ve experienced in your life, through your own filters. Your life, your thresholds are never going to be exactly the same as someone else’s.
- Try giving someone your full attention. Make eye contact. Put your phone or other distractions away. Every few minutes, offer a summary of what you hear them saying so that they feel understood.
- Don’t spin whatever a person is saying back on how it relates to you! Sometimes people just need to talk and what they have to say doesn’t relate to you at all.
- Refrain from making statements, but ask a lot of questions! Show interest in helping a person get to the root of their issues.
- If you hear the words, “what should I do,” resist giving an answer. Ask questions instead. The person is strong enough to come to their own conclusions in time. Sometimes they just need to talk it out.
- When you get a person to the point where they are seemingly thinking out loud in front of you, you are doing it right! If they feel comfortable enough to share all the good and bad with you, without fearing your judgments, you are not only being a masterful listener, but a masterful friend!
- Do all of this without expecting a single thing in return.
My Mom and I talked not too long ago about a lot of this. I’ve got the listening thing down to the point where people often break down in front of me! It’s kind of scary. Sometimes it is a total stranger. I’ve said before that I think this is a gift and a calling in life. It is possible to be in the right place at the right time for a reason. God puts us into situations to be an angel for others.
All of that said, I have to remind myself constantly to not get too emotionally involved. For me, it’s been hard to listen and not absorb the pain or anxiety of others. I’ve empathized to the point of making myself depressed or sick. My Mom and my good friend Sarina were ones to remind me to spiritually protect myself when trying to be a counselor for people.
I also realize clearly that sometimes, people are in such a bad way that they will require professional help. People might have years of psychological or chemical issues that are way beyond what I can help them deal with.
So… I offer all this because I think it is possible to help change the lives of others for the better, largely by becoming a better listener. I think we are all going to be called at points in our life to be a rock for others. I’ve been put into unprecedented situations myself the past year or so, where people have really needed me to lean on. But, I do it all with a sense of gratitude and purpose.
I invite all of you to continue to reach out to me whenever you need to, because I would want the same.
You have to be willing to get hurt, to fail, if you want to move forward in life. The most courageous and wise folks are the ones who make themselves vulnerable.
I once was moved to write this for a dear, brokenhearted friend. I’m grateful for that inspiration.
Once, some years ago, a very special and unique little puppy was born. She was sweet, smart, and playful like most puppies, but unlike the others, her heart was on the outside of her body. The little puppy’s heart peeked out from under her fur, where everyone else, except her, could see it beating.
When she was very young, the little puppy just wanted to fit in and be like all the other puppies. Every day she woke up and tried to do the same things as any other puppy would. She would chase after butterflies. She would playfully run after clouds. She would race through open fields trying to find the end of rainbows. All the while, the little puppy tried and tried to make the most out of each day.
Still, other puppies seemed to treat her just a little differently. They didn’t really want to join her on her adventures. They would play with her sometimes, but only when they felt like it. Sometimes they pretended like they didn’t even see her. All of this made the little puppy feel sad and lonely. She felt misunderstood and isolated. All she really wanted was to feel accepted, appreciated, and loved.
One day, while she was all alone, the little puppy walked by a mirror and happened to catch her own reflection for the very first time ever. Startled, she first looked at her own face. She noticed that her eyes looked very sad, despite having what felt like great spirit and beautiful energy staring out from them. Next, she saw her whole head, which was hanging low, despite being filled with so many dreams, and hopes, and wonderful ideas. Then, with great surprise, she saw it. She looked down and noticed her heart, right there, on the outside of her chest, for the whole world to see.
She was amazed, humbled, and could not look away. Her outside heart was beating so strongly. It was magnificent. She instantly felt lighter, as if a chain around her soul had been unlocked. She finally realized why she was so different from all of the other puppies, and oddly enough, from that moment on, she started to feel less lonely.
As time passed, the little puppy continued to live her life happily. If other puppies didn’t want to play with her or share in her adventures, she was less bothered. She could gladly and proudly face any adventures on her own, for the moment she first saw her outside heart, she found love and acceptance on the inside.
One gorgeous day, as she was walking through a meadow, the bluest sky revealed a the most spectacular rainbow she had ever seen. She decided that she’d run straight toward the end of it. Right as she was about to sprint away, she saw another little puppy sitting right in her path. He tilted his head from side to side, looking at her curiously. He cautiously took a few steps toward her, then stopped. She asked the little puppy if he was okay.
“Yes, I am fine, but I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now,” he said gently. He slowly took a few more steps toward her. She was prepared to answer any and all questions about her outside heart, until she noticed a heart beating strongly on the outside of his chest! He had an outside heart, just like her.
They talked and laughed for a few hours, then decided to chase after the end of the rainbow together. They ran and ran and never looked back.
Sooner or Later, I’ll meet somebody that will make me forget about all the other somebodies.
I love all types and genres of music, but not all types and genres for music therapy! From underneath layers of sadness, peering out at hard rock might make me forget my troubles temporarily, but might also make me more angry than sad. R&B or Indie ballads will send me spiraling and wondering why I haven’t experienced any kind of idealistic love affairs like the ones being sung about.
The Blues - that works for me on a deeply soulful level. Always. It’s an odd thing too, because at surface level, songs about hard times might not seem like a positive thing at all. But, The Blues, in all their gut-wrenching, woe-is-me magnificence, transform my broken heart into a less lonely state. I find solace in knowing that generations of men and women before me have been dumped, overlooked, or rejected. They’ve been broke, drunk, or living lean. They expressed themselves anyway. I connect with that heartbreak and strangely, find myself feeling better after a while.
Thank you, BB, Howlin’ Wolf, Stevie Ray, Albert, Freddie, Eric, John Lee, Fats, Bonnie, and the countless others that set me straight. I’m never really alone if I’ve got The Blues.
Standing still and faithfully, peacefully facing a problem with someone else is one of the most difficult challenges life can ever throw my way. With those situations, my lifelong habits were either feeling like a cornered animal that strikes out, or feeling like someone that had to shut down and run away.
I’ve become self-aware of my anxious reactions and am working through current difficulties by dwelling in them. I won’t run away. I won’t lash out. I will calmly work through this.
Taking stalk of your life requires some effort. You actually have to slow down. You have to take a step back. And you have to be really honest with yourself about how you are living and why. That process is hard for a lot of people. We don’t want to slow down… that seems weak. We don’t want to have to stop what we’re doing to think about it. And more than anything else being honest with ourselves sucks because it means we’re going to have to own up to our own shit. We’re going to have to look in the mirror and admit that in some aspects of our lives we’re off track. —
Clark Patrick in his feature of your’s truly for his Clark Loves Me project.
By the way, the photos of me in the feature were taken with a lens ground around 1875. Quality endures.(via minimalmac)
To me, confidence is believing with your whole heart that something “is,” even when others may believe that something “is not.” Whatever that something situation is, anything is possible with confidence.