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This letter has been sitting on my heart for some weeks now and its sit has not been soft, or easy. Its presence has been persistent and heavy. It moves with me throughout the day, lays beside me at night and most mornings it’s there when I wake. Sometimes I feel its presence even as I sleep.
I’ve been running from sitting down to write this letter and last night I finally answered the question of “why?”. Most often when I write and share I am at a point where I have already moved through the thing I am sharing. The pain has already turned to wisdom, the lemons already squeezed and made into lemonade, and I am in a state of sipping sweetly on the lesson’s nectar. The lemons in this case however are still quite tart. I’m not at a point where I have moved through, instead I realize I am still in motion, still healing what I thought was healed, and this is a truth I’ve not been fully willing to accept acknowledge.
“Growth makes you listen differently.”
When I first wrote these words I used “hear” instead of “listen”. After taking some time to dig into the meaning of the words, and their real-life application, I came to understand the difference between the two. One is inactive, or involuntary, and the other is active, requiring attention and participation. We can hear something and simultaneously not be listening, but if we are listening, we are also hearing. (Note: hearing and listening is not exclusive to receiving through our ears.) Another definition for distinction comes from Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed., “Hearing is the process, function, or power of perceiving sound. Listening is paying attention to a message in order to hear it [...].”
Several weeks ago during a conversation with a close friend on a sensitive topic, they said something and in repeating it back, using the words I remembered them using they replied, “That’s not what I said.” Past experiences with others who have not been wholly mindful of their words or have used them in an emotionally abusive or manipulative manner, gave me pause and immediately put me on the defense. In my mind I thought, “I heard what I heard!” But another thought intercepted and I took a moment to consider the character of who I was in conversation with, and what filter I myself might have been listening through. In this instance, I was listening through a filter of wounds. Listening through this filter caused a chain reaction wherein the words were scrambled and subject to my own adaptation, one that would give me reason to throw my walls up, strap on the emotional armor, close myself off and retreat back into a place of perceived safety. But this adaptation, this mistranslation of words and miscommunication, wasn’t keeping me safe, it was keeping me avoidant. And we don’t, we can’t, grow or change (or heal) while in states of avoidance.
A few months ago my therapist called BS on me. He shared with me the process of emotional bypassing. While I understood his explanation and definition I didn’t fully get it until having this conversation, and the subsequent experience. “Emotional bypassing happens when we don’t allow ourselves to process our negative feelings.” – Evelyn Lim, ‘How to Gently Let Go of Emotional Bypassing for Opening Your Heart’.
Growing and healing, willingly and intentionally, has probably been one of my biggest gifts and challenges. Both require copious amounts of vulnerability and emotional opening. Growing, opening, and healing, have indeed allowed, and in fact require me to listen differently. Growing gifts me with a keener sense of self-awareness and discernment, a deep level of insight that requires me to yield, be willing and able to listen, and recognize the filters I may be listening through.
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