Have you ever noticed that when you are having a hard day and you are able to tell someone about your feelings without being judged, criticized or fixed, that you realize you feel soooooo much better?
This is something I have been working with these last few years. A “fixer” myself, it has been hard at times for me to listen to someone who is voicing their pain…not because I was annoyed by their feelings, but because it was hard for me to sit with it unless I felt I could make it better.
Acknowledgment is the thing that frees us…the full presence, witnessing, listening and empathy that we can each provide for another when we have no agenda to make the other person feel differently than they do.
Yes, active healing or fixing or problem-solving can be useful, too. But in the realm of emotions, just the simple act of being acknowledged can dissolve and diffuse the feelings immediately. Easily. Poof.
I had the great fortune to have been on the receiving end of acknowledgment a few years back…it happened so effortlessly and subtly that I almost didn’t notice it. I spoke with great feeling about something that was bothering me to a woman, and she just listened…didn’t say anything, didn’t make clucking noises, didn’t hug me and tell me it would be all better. She just listened and gave me her full attention. When I didn’t have anything to stop the flow of my sharing with her, I just kept sharing…and sharing. Finally, there was nothing left to say…and my feelings of anger, sadness and frustration were gone. And all she had done was listen to me without trying to change how I felt.
In Non-Violent Communication (NVC, a communication approach developed by Marshall Rosenberg), this practice is referred to as “Empathy”, and is touted as being the go-to-strategy for building connection with others. It is a simple act that requires no training, merely that we agree to show up and hold the space for the other person. The skill I find necessary to be on the “holding the space” end is the skill to keep my mouth shut when I get those urges to “help” the other person who needs my deep listening so much.
Now, I am also practicing acknowledgment with myself. This is really where it’s at for me! If we can give ourselves permission to feel and express how we feel without any inner pressure to feel different, it moves mountains within.
I had this come up just the other day when I had a dream in which my body was processing a memory of sexual abuse. My old pattern would have been to apply my learned mental therapeutic processes, or to loom larger and get a spiritual understanding of it, but instead I let my animal body and my human emotions have their way.
I consciously gave myself permission to feel and started journaling. As I wrote, I experienced sensations in my body, tastes in my mouth and emotions of terror, grief and shock…all things that I could not allow myself to experience in the moment of this particular abuse.
Was it uncomfortable? Yes. Was it unpleasant? Yes. Did it last for ever? No, it lasted about 20 minutes, and then it was done. As the waves of the memory were freed from my body and expressed through my writing and crying, I felt a peace and settling come over me. The fact that I allowed it to come up freed the frozen energy of that memory from my body.
Since that day, I have felt a change in my body. I have yet more energy, my mind is clearer, I feel lighter. And something really weird…my metabolism has taken a quantum leap forward! I am puzzling over this one, believe me. I’ll keep readers posted as to the unfolding of that little unexpected gem!
In the mean time, may I gently advocate that you give yourself the gift of acknowledgement over the holidays, and on into the New Year? The precious nature of your being deserves it.