By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
”Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
How often have you heard yourself say:
“I just want someone to understand me.”
“I just want to be heard.”
“I feel invisible.”
“I just want to be seen.”
I know what it feels like to not be understood, heard, or seen, as I spent most of the first 45 years of my life feeling invisible.
It feels terrible.
By that time I had learned to do what Stephen Covey recommends. I was very good at understanding others, but I still didn’t feel understood by them.
It only took me 45 years to understand that what was really happening is that I wasn’t seeing, hearing, or understanding myself, and the people in my life were reflecting my own inner system. I had worked so hard to hear and understand others that I had completely forgotten to hear and understand my own feelings and needs. I fully believed that since I was good at hearing and seeing and understanding others, they should do the same for me.
That never happened until I learned to see, hear, understand, and value my own feelings and needs.
It wasn’t easy to start to listen inside. I was so focused on others’ feelings and needs that I was completely out of touch with my own. And I had to come to grips with the fact that my listening and hearing and understanding others had an agenda attached. It wasn’t coming from love but from neediness – I NEEDED them to listen to and understand me because I was completely abandoning myself.
Today, many years later, life is completely different. Sure, I love it when someone hears me and sees me and understands me – but now it’s the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. Now I can listen to others from my heart and truly see and understand them because I don’t need anything from them.
I don’t need anything from them because the little girl in me feels me with her all the time – listening to my feelings, taking loving action in my own behalf, learning about what my inner child needs from me as a loving adult – a loving inner parent. Because the child in me – my feeling self – feels seen and heard and valued and understood by me, I can offer my caring and understanding to others from a full heart.
This is the inner work that we all need to do if we ever want to experience the wonderful feeling that comes from being truly seen and valued.
The thing that was in the way for me is that I always believed being seen and understood by others is what was truly important and fulfilling. Before practicing Inner Bonding, I had never experienced the profound joy of seeing, hearing and understanding myself. I could not even conceive of it feeling better than being understood by someone else. After all, wasn’t my value, as the wizard said to the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, not in how much I loved, but in how much I was loved by others? (The typical false belief of a narcissist!)
Now, I still love to be understood by others, but I don’t NEED to be understood by them to feel worthy and full within. Now, when someone important to me doesn’t listen or see or care or understand, I can fully and compassionately understand and care about the loneliness and heartache my inner child might feel, without taking their behavior personally. Seeing, caring about and understanding myself is profoundly powerful and fulfilling.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You? and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Learn Inner bonding now! Visit her website for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.comor email her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone sessions available.