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The Wisdom In Deep Listening

Colorful Tree

Psychotherapy is about finding those parts of us which have been lost from awareness. What has been lost from consciousness leaves a hole , a place which feels empty –  an inner sense of deep deficiency or unworthiness.   When we turn our attention to exploring these empty places within,  we can find memories of hurt feelings and conflicts that block our natural ability to connect to others.

Our most habitual and compelling feelings and thoughts define the core of who we think we are.  When we are caught up in a sense of being unworthy, the universal sense that ‘something is wrong’ turns into the feeling that ‘something is wrong with me’.  This felt sense keeps us on the run, driven by desperate efforts to get away from ourselves.

In psychotherapy we pay attention to what someone is doing to ‘fill’  the holes they feel within:  addictive attachments to substances, activities, and people.  Ironically, our improvised ‘solutions’ to pain most often result in new, worse problems!  By exploring the strategies used to block the feeling of what is painful,  and by bringing awareness to the underlying feelings,  we find the path to healing.

Our empty places, our ‘holes’, can ultimately only be filled by connection: by being listened to and by learning to listen deeply to ourselves.   In psychotherapy, this involves bringing attention to what is being said and what is not being said.  This quality of deep listening connects us heart-to-heart and cultivates the capacity for self-compassion.

Finding the Opportunities Within Problems

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Problems are the leading edge or horizon of change in our lives. Before real change is possible, we first have to see, feel, and understand what is. What is the source of the reactivity we are encountering in ourselves? What do we perceive to be at stake? What assumptions are we making? What representations of ourselves and others are involved?

Finding the opportunities for growth within problems is possible only when we can learn to look at them in a way that reveals what we most need to see. There is intelligence in the ways that problems are constructed in the mind. This idea is expressed in the image of a lotus flower with its roots in the mud and beautiful blossom above. Metaphorically, this evokes the possibility that the mud of our struggles can give rise to growth in the sunlight of awareness.

These reflections can be the subject of deep inquiry in mindfulness meditation practice and/or in psychotherapy. We can learn to practice with problems: to bring self-reflective awareness to the mind-set we bring to problems and to cultivate a wise relationship to problems.