You Must Be Feeling So...

I know. I know.

One thing we may not be so openly willing to admit is our need to be heard. Our deep and possibly daily desire to have someone acknowledge what we feel. Particularly at certain moments, we need...

  • Our pain to be known

  • Our worries to be seen

  • Our sorrows to be given validity

Having someone agree with us may not be the most important issue, we simply need someone to understand and legitimize our feelings.

  • When we are angry, we want to hear: ‘I can see you’re a bit bothered right now. Troubled. It must feel very turbulent inside you right now.’

  • When we are depressed, we need to hear: ‘I understand you’re a little more down than usual, and I understand why.’

And when the world is really crushing us and we just aren’t sure if we can handle the pressure anymore, we need a soft voice to tell us: ‘It’s all been a bit much lately. I can see that well. I mean, of course, it has.’

Obviously this all seems so obvious. Yet, it is often the case that the simplest things to do in theory are often the most difficult things to accomplish in practice. If it is so obvious and simple, why would we not use this soothing balm of realization and acceptance to give to one another more often? Why is it we feel so unheard and misunderstood so often ourselves?

Back to Childhood

He just needed somebody to listen.

We start to learn and develop the habit of not being heard, of having our feelings going unnoticed, in childhood. Even the best of parents, no matter how loving they are, will often fail to see and hear their child from time to time.

It isn’t that they don’t care. No doubt most parents devote their lives intensely to their children. It’s just they didn’t know how to help the child to psychologically deal with their feelings. Rather than hearing the child and reflecting the emotion back to the child, they perhaps dismiss or deny the feelings really exist.

Who's the brave on here?
Son: I want to go home. I feel sad.
Parent: That’s ridiculous! We are on the beach. You should be happy.

Daughter: I don’t know if I like this. I feel scared.
Parent: Don’t be silly. There’s nothing to be scared of here.

Son: Do we really have to go to school? I don’t ever want to have to go back to school. Ever.
Parent: Well, you know we can’t do that. Now, hurry up, get your things. We have to be out of the house by seven.

Your beard scratches my baby cheeks.

The parent doesn’t mean to do the child harm, but a slight modification to their responses could go a long way into helping the child grow.

Son: I want to go home. I feel sad.
Parent: It’s funny how we get sad sometimes, isn’t it? Even on vacation.

Daughter: I don’t know if I like this. I feel scared.
Parent: I can see why you’re scared. That thunder is really loud, eh?

Son: Do we really have to go to school? I don’t ever want to have to go back to school. Ever.
Parent: I know school can be tough. Your first class is English, isn’t it? I didn’t like English first thing in the morning either.

The Unease about Uneasiness


What might be an underlying reason as to why parents fail to acknowledge their child’s feelings? Fear, like many things, prevents us from doing what we normally feel we should do or want to do.

All these feelings of sadness and anger are emotions that can be concerning, alarming, or tiresome. More than that, it is hard to imagine this creature we love so much having a hard time, be it with school or friends or interests.

We also may be afraid that if we tell them it’s okay to have these feelings, we are encouraging more of the same. We will be helping them to grow even more into these negative emotions that will result in more intense and more frequent episodes of said moods.

  • If we say it’s okay to be sad, they will grow to be tragically depressive.

  • If we say it’s okay to be shy or scared, they will grow to be impossibly cowardly.

  • If we tell them it’s okay to not want to have to do things we should, they may never do anything at all.

Truthfully, if we tell them they have to go to school and it doesn’t matter how they feel about it, they will grow to resist authority to the nth degree.

Now she doesn’t go to school and she smokes.

Perhaps, if we stop and think about it, we can see that most of us, once we have somebody just listen to our woes, we become far less likely to hang on to the feelings we are under siege by.

  • The angry boy gets less enraged rather than more infuriated when somebody actually sees why he is angry.

  • The rebellious daughter will be more likely to do her homework rather than burn the school down if we just stop and listen to her for a few seconds of our time.

I have never seen someone want to become a bully because their parents listened too much. It is when no one listens they force themselves to be seen. Feelings only get stronger and more domineering the more we try to push them away or deny them. Just giving them a bit of time and air to be released and seen for what they are is what we need.

Now We Are Adults

I hear you. I’m here for you.

Unfortunately, this game isn’t only about raising children. It is carried into our more adult relationships as well.

Her: Why are you ignoring me?
Him: Ignoring you? That’s stupid. I do everything for you. For us.

Him: I’m kind of worried I will fail.
Her: Don’t say that. You work so hard. It isn’t possible for you to fail.

We may think we are averting these pesky feelings by proving they shouldn’t exist or simply pretending they aren’t there, but this is paving a road for couples to end up in affairs and/or divorce courts in the hopes of finding someone that will finally see them and hear them.

It doesn’t take that much effort to stop and listen.

We can start to change the mood in our partners and relationships by changing how we respond to their ‘I’ moments. They are saying ‘I’ because they need your attention.

Yes, it all seems a bit ‘needy.’ But that’s just it, they need you. They need to talk about themselves and they need us to hear them and see them. And they matter to us, so we should listen and we should keep the focus on them and their feelings by reflecting them.

It sounds like a dirty trick, but if you are taking the time here to learn it and to use it when appropriate, it isn’t a trick or dirty. Here are a few ways to start your sentences when trying to playback your lover’s feelings to them:

  • You must be feeling so…

  • I understand that you should…

  • I see you are…

  • I hear you completely about…

These sorts of talks, or more accurately put ‘listens’, can keep us on course in our lives. Once the person that needed to be heard has felt heard, they will not use their power to create more condemnation or suffering for you.

It’s a law of psychology and common knowledge for a Buddhist that a crisis will start to dissipate once it has been released and seen in an equanimous way.

I feel better already.

Clearly, we don’t need the whole world to listen to us at all times. We are pretty resilient as the fragile creatures we are at going unnoticed in our strife by the mass majority.

However, when we are a child we should have a caregiver there to listen. Ideally, as an adult, we will have a person we can count on that we share our bed with. And perhaps we may need a good friend or circle of friends who can be there for us from time to time.

It is a great honor to have someone and to be there for someone to simply hear them out and mirror their feelings to help them cope with these often confusing emotions we go through - no matter how bizarre, depressing, or inconvenient they may be.

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© 2017 Created by Warren Stribling