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Talking to No One

I am a talker, a writer, a person who externalizes that which is internal. Over the course of my life until now, this has sometimes looked like over-sharing with friends, or over-confessional blog posts, or over-explaining myself and my reasons for my actions.

About 15 years ago, during a self-development workshop, I made an internal connection between my compulsive need to talk, and deep-rooted feelings of not being listened to, not being heard, and not being truly understood or acknowledged by significant individuals in my life.

I realized it was the almost existential experience of not being listened to that compelled me to keep sharing and sharing and sharing all that I thought and felt. As if one day, having shared enough, I would feel whole and complete, heard, acknowledged, appreciated,  forgiven, or approved.

It’s only in recent years as I’ve surrounded myself with better listeners, and become a more mindful and active listener myself, that I’ve begun to heal that imbalance in me.

This is still a work in progress. However, I’d like to share with you today a way I’ve found to strengthen my feeling of being heard that doesn’t require the participation of another human being necessarily. It’s handy and it’s a reason to be grateful for technology, even though it can also be done old school. You’ll understand more below. 

Journaling is one obvious way to “speak” your mind freely; to let loose all your anger, sadness, grief; to own your deep desires, greatest needs. As a writer, you would think journaling would come naturally to me. It did and does, but with one exception. I hardly ever feel as if the handwritten words I can get down into a notebook are as sophisticated and nuanced as the images in my mind or the emotions in my heart. My journaling voice seems to channel my inner 16 year old. This can end up frustrating me, and frustration is not typically a sign that we feel listened to or heard. 

When I speak out loud to a friend, I find that I can often be more precise and eloquent, which isn’t always the goal but does often leave me feeling less frustrated!

Instead of (or in addition to) journaling, try sending yourself a voice memo. It may sound a little awkward, and it may certainly feel weird and uncomfortable the first few times. However, I can tell you that if you’re a talker, or someone in need of listening, speaking out loud to yourself on a recording app (or a tape recorder, if you’re old school), as if you were talking to a very close friend, can feel surprisingly supportive, cathartic, and curative.

You know what’s even better? Listening back to the voice memos you just recorded! As if you were the friend on the other end of the line (as we used to say way back when there were actually phone lines.)

I’m very fortunate to have long-distance friends with whom I’ve kept in touch over the years we have lived apart. Because many of those long-distance friends live abroad and in different time zones from me, it’s almost impossible for us to coordinate a live conversation. We’ve kept our friendship going thanks to the invention (and free use) of WhatsApp.

During the most difficult years of my life, voice memos to and from close friends have helped me feel loved, grounded, and at times, even more sane.  

But my friends, as all humans do, have limits on their time and energy, if not their love. And sometimes, we can’t reach out to friends with particular problems or concerns we have — perhaps, the topic is too intimate for sharing; perhaps, we still carry some level of fear, sensitivity, or shame about sharing a certain upset with others. Perhaps, we are worried we will sound “crazy” or “too angry” or “too sad.”

You know who will never think you sound too crazy, too angry, or too sad? Yourself!

Or…sometimes you may actually hear the crazy, the angry, or the sad in your own voice when you listen back to it, and you will, in fact, think it sounds too much. Maybe in the listening of yourself, you will hear something you didn’t hear in the speaking. It may change your mind or your heart. Maybe all you need to do is speak your crazy, your anger, or your sad out loud, into a recording app, in order for it to dissolve, lessen, or disappear. Maybe in the hearing of yourself, you will find compassion for yourself or others.

It’s happened to me.

I’ll be sharing more here of tools to try out, as well as some of my  findings of my last few years of research on dreams, memory, time, love, trauma, and healing.

You can subscribe by adding your email (see the left-hand menu) but I can’t promise you an alert when there is a new post. I’m still working on resting, recuperating, and learning how to slow down. Just check back from time to time, when you feel so moved. I also publish a monthly “audio chat” on Patreon, another way I talk to no one, and feel heard.

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