Hearing is healing

Copyright: mnsanthoshkumar / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: mnsanthoshkumar / 123RF Stock Photo

I’m realising more and more just how powerful listening is. Last night, I was doing reflective listening with my son, i.e. I was repeating back in my own words what I understood he was saying with a particular focus on his feelings and needs. It was satisfying to do because it helped me to be present with him and not go off into my own thoughts. Some time into the conversation, there was a lull and he suddenly said “I love you so much. I’m just feeling so full of love at the moment. It’s strange but lately I’ve been feeling this kind of overflowing love feeling a lot”. I think it’s because he felt so heard and because I was so present with him. My pattern is to be very busy and distracted and wanting to do my own thing and I think I haven’t been present enough with him over the years (particularly when he was little). This year, I’m really focused on trying to be present with him and I’ve noticed lately how he frequently expresses this “overflowing with love” feeling to me.

I watched a very powerful documentary this week on how listening can help people to heal from major conflict and trauma and how it can facilitate truth and reconciliation processes. This 55-minute documentary (below), Raamro Aakha Ma (In the Eyes of the Good), shows parts of a 7-day workshop “Healing and Reconciliation through Nonviolent Communication” that was held in Nepal in December 2014. The workshop was held to help people heal their trauma from the 10-year civil war in Nepal and to facilitate peace and reconciliation between victims and former combatants.

The main facilitator in the workshop, Duke Duchscherer (an international trainer and practitioner of Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Circles), uses reflective listening to help the participants hear each other. One person talks about their experience and their feelings and then Duke asks someone from “the other side” to repeat back what they heard. He then asks the first speaker if the listener had heard everything they wanted to be heard. It is so powerful to see the release of emotion and relief that people feel once they feel fully heard and understood.

There was a man in the workshop who had suffered a lot of trauma (including torture) during the conflict. During this process, he was able to cry for the first time in 12 years. A young woman was able to tell a government official that she didn’t want the financial compensation she had received for her father’s disappearance during the conflict, she just wanted to know whether he was alive or dead. During the 7-days, people from both sides were able to connect, talk and understand each other’s pain and suffering.

I found this documentary powerful and inspiring, but also helpful for learning more reflective listening skills. Here it is if you would like to watch it:

This documentary tells the story of former Maoist combatants, conflict victims, and government officials engaging in a restorative dialogue, following the aftermath of the 10-years armed conflict in Nepal. It shows what can happen when people are able to connect with one another across divides, beyond fear, stereotypes, and enemy images. The Nonviolent Communication training including the restorative dialogue, was organized by ZFD peacebuilding advisor Jeannine Suurmond, together with partner organization Pro Public. The goal was to offer those involved with the transitional justice process in Nepal an opportunity to experience a restorative dialogue first hand. The documentary was produced in order to support the various parties to the formal Truth and Reconciliation process in Nepal and to raise awareness about Nonviolent Communication and restorative dialogue as tools for healing, reconciliation, and justice.

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4 thoughts on “Hearing is healing

    1. Thank you. I’ve just been noticing this year how often he expresses this feeling and I’m pretty sure now that it’s linked with when he feels fully heard and held and loved. He craves autonomy and equality (as do I) and I think the more he gets this, the better he feels. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for “stopping by” Hillel. Yes I’ve worked out it’s not an instant skill we can acquire once we know about it but a constant practice and it’s so different to how we’ve generally been listened to all our lives that it’s very hard to make it a habit. 🙂

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