Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Please, HEAR ME!

We want to be heard by those who matter to us: known, accepted, cared about. Many people are wanted for particular qualities, but not the whole of them. Often their entirety — their essence — is neither recognized nor understood.

The essence is more than a pretty face, a powerful embrace, a tender or firm hand, femininity or manliness, or a sense of humor. The extent of this elusive thing isn’t sexuality, intelligence, prominence, money-making, the ability to protect, or the capacity to be a capable parent or housekeeper. It is all of these and more.

That which is to be embraced is everything, despite everything. It is their core and voice. We wish to be seen for more than can be seen.

Each of us hopes what we say and feel makes a difference. Not with everyone but with someone. Not at every moment, but often.

No fellow man or woman can fully understand us. Nor can we fathom the extent of our changing selves. Moreover, there is always an element of “seeming” as we move through life and its transforming interaction between who we are in this moment and who we are becoming.

Vision tells us the people standing before us are static, solid, and fixed. In truth, they are blurred, not constant. Time-lapse photography provides evidence of never-ending changes on the physical surface and points to the same ongoing process within. The mirror plays the identical trick when facing it.

Each one of us has had the goal or fantasy of being relevant, not a matter of indifference — not a replaceable part.

An old New Yorker cartoon by Robert Mankoff offers a visual representation of what we don’t want. A woman seated near her husband interrupts him to say, “I’m sorry, dear. I wasn’t listening. Could you repeat everything you’ve said since we got married?”

What explains this failure to communicate, to connect, to be known by someone? What might account for a shortfall in understanding by the person we desire, love, care for, want to be with, want to be close to?

I’m referring to only the ingrained version of this common happening. Everyone gets misunderstood some of the time or falls out of focus and presence.

Here are factors to consider in conversation:

  • The speaker has real limitations in word usage. He can’t explain what he wants us to know.
  • The talker takes too long, circling whatever his concern is, not quite getting to the central message.
  • The pair find it hard to be unguarded in what they say.
  • Body language and facial expression interfere with the intake of words and their meaning.
  • Genuine hearing problems affect the listener.
  • The hearer is a habitual multi-tasker and doesn’t give his complete attention.
  • The twosome infrequently sits face to face in a quiet room when speaking.
  • Differences in temperament, history, knowledge, and gender create a gap language fails to overcome.
  • The infrequency of tender or open conversations increases the danger of big emotions (held back) now overtaking the couple.
  • One or both participants cut each other off.
  • The auditor assumes he received the same memo before, perhaps many times. He takes in the first few words and tunes out, filling in the rest from his catalog of familiar beliefs about the other.
  • One or both are in “attack” mode. The two people engage in accusations, not reflection.
  • Transference from previous relationships interferes with the individuals’ abilities to differentiate this person from someone else.

A match between two people in friendship or love requires maintenance. However, unlike an auto whose oil must be changed and tires replaced, the reasons for the work are a bit elusive.

Let’s begin with the duo’s beginnings. The initial affection and mutual interest tend to be motivated by a few appealing qualities: sexual allure, shared enthusiasms, the feeling of being desired, newness, or a temporary fitness between roles. An example would be one party’s search for a protector and the other’s joy in being appreciated for providing this.

Such attributes outshine and obscure other features of significance about the pair’s interconnection.

One of the surprises and challenges of grasping the “being” of the mate is the continual unfolding we go through as we proceed through life. Only a stone statue untouched by wind, water, or pollution remains unchanging.

Existence means transformation. In the best circumstances, this enables the possibility of growth.

A step toward improving our relationships is understanding that none of us are the same as we were. The partner, therefore, must attempt to “know” you — a living, developing, wavering soul moving through unending alteration — while he engages in a motion of his own and tries to understand himself anew. If the pair of friends or lovers can discover their nonsynchronous “becoming,” the endeavor to retain, recover, and recognize the companion may lie ahead.

Each of us loses his way at times. Still, much is possible if we recognize one of the greatest opportunities to be found in the search for friendship and love: to discover another who takes on the lifelong task of fondness, forgetting, and generous acceptance of human frailty, the better to become aware of another being who intends and attempts the same.

No wonder our delight when we come close to this closeness.

———-

The first photo is called Couple Talking by Pedro Ribeiro Simões of Portugal. The second is a A Reading & Conversation with Scholastique Mukasonga. The Moderator was Odile Cazenave. The photo was taken at the Boston University Center for the Study of Europe. Both of the images were sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

21 thoughts on “Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Please, HEAR ME!

  1. So much truth and wisdom in your words. Brilliant piece!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. drgeraldstein

    Thank you, Brewdun. You are very kind.

    Like

  3. dragonflythinktank

    As always, Dr. Stein, your posts are very insightful and informative.

    I struggle a lot with communication, largely due to my dissociative identity disorder, but sometimes also due to my PTSD. I think it depends on how safe I feel with the environment and/or the other person or persons I’m speaking with. Sometimes a really poised, articulate alternate personality will speak for us, and that person has often scored high marks on things like extemporaneous speaking and otherwise. Other alters, on the other hand, are natural leaders; they know how to speak effectively to groups and subordinates and teammates.

    But when our system is scared, new to an environment, being harmed and/or harassed through racial slurs and/or other bigoted statements, etc., it’s really tough for us to not switch a lot and then respond with many different things – oftentimes not making sense to listeners. Given your list of communication issues, I can see how our own personalities and/or mental illnesses/disorders/syndromes/symptoms play roles in how we communicate and engage with other persons. For example, when you suggested that, “Transference from previous relationships interferes with the individuals’ abilities to differentiate this person from someone else,” I completely saw my mental disorders playing roles in how I’ve communicated with others. As such, I then either switched too much, which is to say that my alters cut off one another inside, or I cut others off in order to get a point or two or more across. And my points are that concerning safety and desperation. I want to feel validated so that I can feel safe, so I explain everything I can to see how well the other person accepts me or us. That doesn’t always work, especially when the other person is overwhelmed with information, or when I’m not making sense because more than one alter is out at a time. I also feel desperate because I’m lonely and isolated and alone; I want to make trustworthy friends because social support (and overall social capital) are protective factors (i.e., capable guardianship) against future victimization (whether substantiated, criminal, or not).

    Overall, we forget that the listener also needs space to speak, to be heard, to be validated, and to be understood. That said, when we are with like-minded persons, or when we are a good match with others politically, the conversations appear to be safer, validating, and connecting. However, when we’re dealing with those who are politically different, I think both parties (often polarized) are in “attack” mode. But I also think that both parties are seeking safety, kind of like us with our trauma-related disorders. “Safety” is probably a subjective term that is defined differently by different political parties. It’s still hard to communicate with people who are in attack mode, who spew ad hominem attacks whenever you say something neutral but politically different to them. It’s also really hard to not mirror what attackers or presumed attackers say. But if we apply the Rogerian “active listening” approach, it becomes really frustrating to reflect what we don’t believe in to a person who is our political opposite.

    Then again, when a person has physiological or neurological issues, it’s also challenging to communicate with that person. I have a dear friend who has a stuttering problem. It is much easier to communicate with her online and through writing than it is for me to speak with her by phone. I have to be very patient with her when listening to her finish a sentence. Sometimes it becomes unclear what she is saying because she can’t always finish her sentences. I’m still her friend, and I care deeply, but it does make our communication and thus our friendship challenging.

    I’ve also come across people who are so “guarded” that they want to know everything about you but they don’t want to share anything about themselves. I’ve also come across people who are the opposite of that, too; they want to share everything about themselves, but they don’t want to know anything about you. I think you alluded to these issues in your list of communication flaws, too. Such people are one-sided in relationships, and it’s really hard to be connected when the relational balance is off. There’s got to be some balance with give-and-take in relationships.

    I know that I have a lot of improving to do in this area, but I also know that there are so many other people who struggle with communicating, too. I do best in academic settings, but I do worst in interpersonal settings or in politically charged settings or in very dangerous settings. I think you said something in the distal past about the need for therapists to help their clients with communication. Some clients can be downright boring, whereas other clients can be very combative and/or intriguing. I suppose that our relationships are the same.

    Here’s another observation that I’ve had concerning communication styles. Sometimes writing is easier (and safer) than physically speaking to another person, but sometimes speaking is easier than writing (especially when wanting to bond and truly connect). Video conferencing works best in safe relationships that seek to connect more during a pandemic, but online verbal communications (like on Facebook or on blog comments) seem to work best when you’re wanting to be very vulnerable and transparent, when you want to remain anonymous, and/or when you don’t feel safe yet to engage in a closer relationship.

    (PS: I am returning with a new username that I’ve created, but I used to be known as Peace Penguin and Fragmented Gumdrops in the past.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • drgeraldstein

      To speak of the system is already a major step for anyone with DID. That work will gradually enable communication. Brava!

      As to political conversations, you are hardly alone in facing challenges. If I were asked, I’d encourage most people in or out of therapy to figure out their limits in this area. No one profits from indictments by those who either lack civility or are I’ll informed. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dragonflythinktank

        Thank you so much for your reply, Dr. Stein! 🙂 And thank you for validating my struggles with political discussions.

        I’m still figuring out my limits. On the one hand, as a BIPOC member (because of my being a mixed-race Asian person), I’m told to be anti-racist by calling people out immediately when I hear or see racism, hate, and/or xenophobia. On the other hand, this doesn’t necessarily change the behaviors, and this often results in more arguments, more hate, more attacks, and oftentimes, more threats. Thus, it’s not always safe to do that, but progressives on the liberal end assert that this is the *only* way to combat systemic racism, without also understanding the limitations of mentally and/or physically disabled minorities and/or white allies – another intersectionality that they refuse to acknowledge because the tenets of racism seem to trump disability. In my opinion, both issues are valid, and there should be boundaries placed to maintain safety, distress tolerance, and risk tolerance. Some people can take more risks to “speak out,” whereas others cannot afford to do so.

        Although I’m left-leaning, liberal, a now proclaimed Democrat, I’m not comfortable with always engaging in discussions with potentially hostile, hateful, and/or biased people. I’d much prefer to walk away, ignore, and find safe spaces to describe what I had encountered. And by safe, I mean validating spaces that don’t pressure me into the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” directives. If what I’ve experienced is unlawful (non-criminal, but uncivil) or illegal (criminal) in nature, than I will report that as soon as I’m in a safe place to do so. But if what I’ve experienced is harassing but otherwise “unsubstantiated victimization” or “unfounded victimization,” then I’ll do what I can to protect myself physically and mentally by walking away and ignoring the person. I will report to one of the AAPI’s sites that are maintaining data about such instances against Asian persons.

        I’m also willing to find ways to connect with family members who hold different political views than I do. My only boundary with them is that we do not discuss politics at all. Well, I also ask them not to tell me what to do, and not to offer me unsolicited advice. If they cannot respect my boundaries, I still give them more chances, but I also remain very distant from them and take my time with engaging with them every few months, as opposed to every week or two. When it comes to friendships, however, I tend to “ghost” them with or without explanation, depending on whether they are a mere acquaintance or a true friend. This is my safe way of maintaining safety by walking away.

        Overall, it’s hard to figure out what my limits are because (a) sometimes I’m feeling brave – or my alters are with me and helping me feel brave, and (b) sometimes I’m feeling terrified – or my alters (oftentimes the littles) are with me and fueling my fears along with teaching me about theirs.

        I’ll end here, since I’ve been verbose enough. But I wanted to add this comment specifically for the political discussions that so often come up these days. We miss the days when the hottest topics were about the current television shows that are being aired or some new food recipe – things like that. We miss the days when we were bored with the news. We feel like we have to both skim through news with caution for our own safety and awareness, but avoid too much news because it’s too negative and triggering. We need to be informed about new things – but so many changes are occurring too fast. It’s hard to keep up with the new CDC rules, the new threats on Asians, the new VA rules, the new local rules on openings and masking, etc. There’s nothing stable these days, except maybe where you life – but even then, it’s not stable because the rules keep changing. And those rules are all politically charged. We miss the days when there weren’t daily or weekly changes with rules and guidelines and political arguments, etc. It’s all exhausting. I’m sure that pandemic fatigue also affects communication. It’s exhausting to speak about, but I wanted to share this in case others feel the same way and can relate.

        Liked by 1 person

      • drgeraldstein

        Not every battle should be taken on personally, imho. I’d be careful of generalized directives that demand or expect confrontation by everybody. We all might ask ourselves whether getting stronger is the not the first requirement of assertive action. Even then we are well-advised to choose our battles in war, in work, in rearing children, in friendship, and in love.

        Liked by 1 person

      • dragonflythinktank

        Thank you, Dr. Stein! 🙂 I really needed to hear that today. Your words are really wise!

        Liked by 1 person

      • drgeraldstein

        You are welcome.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you are back!

      Liked by 1 person

      • drgeraldstein

        Not sure what you mean, Nancy. Did my blog disappear recently?

        Like

      • Just saw this, Dr. Stein. I was welcoming back, Dragonfly. Sorry for the confusion.

        Like

      • drgeraldstein

        No problem.

        Like

      • dragonflythinktank

        Hi Nancy! THANK YOU! 🙂 I missed all of you! How are you doing?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Dragonfly…I just saw your greeting and question. I was not notified by email. I am doing well and am starting to renter society since I am fully vaccinated, but am having a lot of anxiety about becoming social again and the loss of my quiet cocoon as a result. Hoping I will adjust. 😊

        P.S. I just downloaded the Word Press app (thanks to you) and I think this will work for me. Did not know an app existed and I appreciate you mentioning it in your post!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oops…I thought this was a private message through Word Press. I guess I have a lot to learn.

        Like

  4. Lots of food for thought, Dr. Stein. Our relationships can be minefields. What makes them even more challenging is, as you say, “understanding that none of us are the same as we were.” I suppose the greater our commitment to the relationship, the greater our effort to listen, accept, and grow with the changes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • drgeraldstein

      That is the hope, Rosaliene. Two moving objects can make it a bit of a pinball game. Commitment and continual effort count for a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My communication has improved now that I am well into middle age as I am less afraid now than I was in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

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