This is the real question we all ask at some point in our life, is anyone there? Am I alone here, in the crowd, in the world? This article is about those moments, the times when we wonder if we are from another planet because it seems like no one can understand our feelings, thoughts and words. You may not have felt this often or recently, but I think that everyone has felt it at some time in their life, maybe only in childhood, maybe daily. This is a feeling of emotional and sometimes mental isolation.
This is not an article on dating or relationships, however there is some very good information that can give us a base for this discussion. I will start with this and then guide us to a less gender specific view.
There have been many studies on the difference between men and women, on how they interact. It has been commonly found that men take every situation as if it is a challenge or problem to be solved, and they immediately start processing possible solutions if they can find one, or at least try to find one. Women, when discussing their troubles, simply want to be heard. They are not really looking for a solution, but rather compassion and understanding, acceptance and comfort through conversation.
I suggest you observe this to prove it to yourself. When a woman says something to a man, does the man immediately try to respond as if it is a question that is looking for and answer? In the same situation, is the woman really asking for an answer or merely speaking out what she feels?
I believe that men have the same need to be heard, identical to women, as we are all humans, but merely expressed or dealt with in a different way. The question is why we all need to be heard, and are not having that need satisfied, which is what we will explore here.
As breathing, sleeping and eating have remained the same instinctual needs, so too must we accept that there are other instinctual drives and natures that have persisted in our species regardless of what we may think should be changed. Outward actions and changing the names is not going to change the nature of a species.
As a woman wants to be heard in conversation, so too does a man want to be heard, but rather than compassionate listening, he wants to see acceptance of his ideas and solutions. Either way, the need and results are the same, I am being heard therefore I am respected and I exist. How many children wonder at times if they are invisible because they are being ignored. When I was a child, doctors told parents to just ignore the baby if it cries at night and eventually it will stop crying. Indeed true in most cases, the baby will stop crying unless it is in some physical pain. But the message is clear, we are alone.
If I may take us on a fictional journey. Let’s say that psychiatry was invented by a man who wanted to get people to love him. He found that by attentively listening to their problems without trying to fix or solve anything for them, they would naturally get better, calmer and feel more relaxed, thus desiring to be with him more often. That discovery, mixed with a brilliant idea of how to make a fortune, gave birth to ‘the couch’.
There were two men who went to psychiatry school together. They never talked much but always exchanged the normal pleasantries when they met. After graduation, they both took an office in the same building, one a few floors above the other. On many occasions, they would see each other in the elevator. After about 20 years of practice, Bob had grown very drained emotionally and was wearing out while Peter remained positive and pleasant. One day in the elevator on such a chance encounter, Bob spoke up. He asked Peter, “Forgive me for asking, I know we have never spoken all too much, but I must ask you, based on the obvious difference in our health and moods, how is it that after 20 years of listening to peoples problems, taking their feelings deeply into your heart and mind, trying to resolve their issues, you have maintained such a happy positive energetic disposition?” The reply was immediate; “Who listens!”
That is the point, who listens. How many times, be you man or woman, have you had a conversation in which you felt some deep emotion that you wished to express, and as you spoke, you got frustrated because even though the other person was apparently paying attention to you, you knew they do not hear what you were really saying, or feeling.
However, on the rare occasion that you speak and are truly heard, the feeling is deeply satisfying. The comfort of being truly heard and connected, without being told you are right or wrong, but simply being heard by someone who takes your words and feelings into their own heart, allows you to release your feelings into a safe place in which they do not take root and grow in some other realm, but are received in a pure open heart and thus are dissolved, both from you and not effecting the other.
That is the pure heart of compassion, a selfless love that has nothing to do with sexual or any other type of love. That is the Pure Love of the Soul. Sadly many people who think they do this are just shallow and imitating what they think this looks like, thus making it even worse. You must become this way, not just act this way.
What we all want from time to time is to be heard. That means we are accepted as we are, which gives the feeling of safety and protection in another person who deeply and truly understands how you feel. If you are understood completely, you are released from fear of loneliness and the emptiness of isolation is cured.
We all have a fear of being alone to some degree, especially when people only see their friends once every few weeks and never really develop a very close relationship. It is common to have many friends, but rare to spend every day with them. Real friends are the friends of our childhood with daily contact, but adults are far too busy and active to have time to do that. Without deep and close friendships, we realise at moments how alone we really are.
We all have the innate fear of death, and the fear stems from that being a moment of entering a new realm in which we go alone and do not know if there will be anyone there to greet or guide us through this new realm. We do not know what will happen when we die and that great unknown is far more difficult to face alone without guidance or knowledge of the new territory.
This makes us innately scared of being alone, yet our modern world isolates us in obvious ways, and our mind isolates us in many other ways. This is where we must now focus, the isolation created by our mind which closes our heart and separates each one of us from everyone else. This is the breakdown of society which prevents true happiness on the human level and enlightenment on the spiritual level.
The comfort we get when we are totally safe is what we all seek. We seek money so that we can build our empire with walls and comforts to protect us, cars and houses to keep us safe and mobile, toys to keep our minds occupied or simply a companion we know will always be there. But all this is to satisfy the need to feel comfort due to the lack of the true source of comfort, sincere companionship found only in being truly understood. “Money can’t buy love, but it sure can rent some high class affection.” A teenager joke with great truth, we cannot buy love or true friendship.
A friend of mind was caught in the Tsunami that hit Samoa in 2009. Thankfully he survived this rare and traumatic experience with only minor injuries. A very strong man in character, he was not emotionally damaged in the least by the experience, however the only thing that would set off his anger after the event is when people said; “I understand what you have been through.”
How could they understand? No one could ever understand what it is like being in a washing machine of muddy water with cars and pieces of houses being tossed around with you, almost being crushed by a car floating to you as you are trapped against the top of a tree in 30 feet of water. Hopefully, no one else will ever have the experience to be able to understand his feelings. Other survivors of a less strong character had lengthy psychological counseling, which naturally could not help, and if it did it took so long that it is more likely they healed on their own. This is obvious, how can any person no matter what their training help a person release any trauma from an experience like that if they have not gone through it themselves. The therapist just enrages the problem by not having the slightest idea of what they are dealing with. The point is that the patient rarely gets healed because they know they have not been truly heard with sincere compassion from deep understanding.
To be truly understood is what we all want, but that cannot happen unless we are also capable of experiencing the emotions of another person. And that cannot happen as long as we are fixed in our mental and intellectual opinions of how to listen or communicate. If you have the desire to make everyone happy, focused on helping people for the sake of doing good and making their lives better, but you did not experience the same suffering as they have, then it is impossible to give them the most important emotional food, the true compassion of profound understanding and union in their emotions.
This was beautifully expressed in the Robin Williams 1998 movie; “What Dreams May Come”. Robin’s character had died and then his widow committed suicide. She ended in hell because that is what happens to people who commit suicide (at least in this story). Robin went down to hell to save her, and the way he got her out is at one final moment, he accepted staying in hell with her so he could truly understand her feelings rather than return to heaven alone. That act of selflessness was an act of such pure love that she was deeply understood and they returned to heaven together.
Of course we cannot all have the same experiences of everyone else, but there is still a way to feel all feelings. First we must find our block and remove it. The block is thinking you actually know and understand. We can never completely understand another person because whatever the experience they have, they have it from the point of their own character which was formed through the experiences of their life. No two people, as no two snowflakes, are identical. Thus, no two people really can see the same situation the entirely same way. When you think you understand, your mind is active and your heart is closed.
Don’t think, just listen.
You may feel yourself to be compassionate and want to help people through solving problems in the worldly sense, providing a solution to anything that arises. True in many cases that is a very good attitude and quality, and does very often fix the problems of the world, but it leaves the problems of the heart and soul unresolved.
Does anyone hear me? Am I totally alone in this world? Will anyone be there to help me in the way I need help if I ever do because they truly understand me? The answers are most often ‘no’ to all these cries of the heart because we know they do not understand, they are not really listening.
To be able to hear in this way is to hear what is being felt, and not what you think is being said.
How can any couple have a truly loving and lasting relationship if one or both do not feel they are heard and understood? That is clearly not possible. I think I have now exhausted the point of the problem, and now for the solution. Unfortunately the solution is one that cannot be guaranteed in a certain time frame, although is possible to achieve.
You can become a person who truly hears but how long that takes is unique for everyone, so we shall proceed with a little more maturity than the child on a long drive who continually calls out; “Are we there yet?”
I look up to the beautiful blue sky, as I am now on the beach writing this article, and see the few clouds, and I call up to the heavens; “Is anyone there?” At first there may not be an answer, because we listen with our ears, but I have learnt to listen with my mind, (heart, soul whatever you like to call it) not intellect. There is nothing mystical or spiritual or religious about that, simply, it is to listen as if your ears are in the centre of your chest, at the sternum, the dent in the middle of the rib cage.
I hear the waves gently lapping on the shore, that I hear with my ears. I am aware of my ears, feeling them physically, which is as simple as if a fly was on your ear, you would be very aware of that part of your body. Feeling an itch puts your mind in that part of your body. In this way, I hear the sounds of the world and know that I hear them through my ears.
Then I put that same awareness and attention to sensations in the centre of my chest, not just the middle but the center, the middle from side to side as well as back to front, and I listen there.
Now I look up at the sky and call again,, “Is anyone there?” And I hear an answer, in words that are not words, feelings that I understand in english, but combined with a physical sensation which permeates my body far more than words and intellectual communication can ever do.
And here I have learnt how to listen to another person’s soul and heart, to feel their true feelings, even when they themselves cannot fully express them. And when I am alone, I can hear my own true feelings, and know what is in my own heart, my true desires and pains.
To do this we must go beyond our intellectual hearing of words and processes which turn those words into images and create scenarios that we think we understand and then intellectually provide solutions to alleviate problems on the material level. The problem is not material at all.
Many people are a chain of disasters. They get out of one hole to fall into another, and are a series of perpetual complaints. Somehow, those people tend to find one or two friends who put up with their disastrous life and are there to support them, but disasters continue. Why do we make the same mistakes again and again? Why don’t we fix the problems that objectively are really quite simple and with minimal effort could be resolved or prevented? There must be a reason why we get into troubles at some time or other, some of us more than others.
When a person commits suicide, or those who mutilate their body in some way, there is a good reason, to them. It may not be a good reason to anyone else, but to that person, it is a very good reason. Friends and family are struck with incomprehensible shock, failing to be able to truly understand how someone can do this to themselves. This could equally apply to people who have body piercing or other mutilations which they deem as cool or a style they like. Why would anyone inflict pain on themselves? This is completely against the animal survival instinct.
There must be an even greater need than the act. A human is a social creature but as you know, there are many so called friends and acquaintances who you spend time with yet feel empty afterwards, as if you wasted your time. We need to be with people who understand us and there are far to few of them, which is the point of this article, to help you the reader become able to hear what the other person is really feeling, not just stop at the words and think you understand.
Ultimately, turning back to our unavoidable death, we fear being alone. Some people realize that we are going to die alone and there is no way our of that, so they turn to God. The birth of religion!
The mystical path of seeking God is one in which the seeker faces their needs, faces their true condition of distorted separation, faces that they cannot truly hear another person because of the reasons we have already discussed among others, and then faces that in order to truly find God, not a personified God but God in the sense of the essence of ALL beings, not of one religion or other separation, they must open their heart to be able to truly hear.
When you have turned your ears inward, and listen with your heart and soul to everyone you meet, you will find that you know things that they have not been able to express themselves. They will feel comfort in your presence, and that is a great gift.
In this way, both you and those you meet will go beyond the separation of individuals and find there is a connection and unity to all beings. If we could do this, there would not be war. If we could do this, the world would be populated by Gandhi’s and Buddhas. Since there have been those great Beings, and there has always been war, we can see that what I have said is possible although difficult and that the ways of the world are designed and running with great force to prevent us from attaining this state of awareness and comfort, but it can be done.