Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity—and preserves our own. ~ Valarie Kaur
Being able to respectfully hold space for different points of view is key for relationships.
It requires an internal stability within me to be able to do this.
I am able to listen when I am emotionally stable, but when I take things personally my nervous system gets dysregulated, and I am often not able to stop my coping mechanisms from kicking in. I can get defensive and engage from an activated state or I can shut down and withdraw.
Neither of these responses is unhealthy. They are me doing my best based on how I see things at that moment. My nervous system is giving me the signals that make sense for my survival based on my perception.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t create space for listening to understand or leave a lot of room for seeing the humanity of the other person.
But I can’t override my nervous system. My intellect doesn’t have the power to do that. Although I have learned to mask my internal experience over the years, my emotional dysregulation eventually spills out if I keep that up for too long.
Listening for humanity requires an open heart as well as an open mind. When I am upset I am not able to do that.
The good news is I don’t stay upset forever. I always come back to an open-hearted state.
I am comforted when I remember this. I feel less pressured to try and work things out from an unstable state of mind when I am not able to listen to understand.
When I feel unstable that is when I need my compassion and kindness the most. When I can meet my own humanity with acceptance and embrace myself with love it is healing. It is freeing. It is transformative.
I am humbled on this journey of meeting my humanity with love.
It always surprises me how there is more unconditional love available. There is a continual peeling away of the layers of judgment.
This is not a judgment against myself. It is an observation. I am in awe of the infinity of love.
I will always have my blind spots. There will always be limitations to what I can see, but they don’t matter. Opening up to love is all that matters. There is nowhere to get to, no place to arrive just more to see and uncover.
The discovery process is worth it not just for myself, but also because the health of my relationships starts with my health.
My capacity to be stable is just one aspect of my health. Health also includes my capacity to meet myself in love when I’m not stable. Health is not just loving the parts of me I like. It is loving the wholeness of who I am. The fullness of my human expression.
That love is the foundation for all my relationships. As Syd Banks said, I can’t give what I don’t have.
The depth of love that is available to me in my intimate relationships, is a reflection of the depth of love that I experience within myself.
I am not perfect at this. I am, as Carl Jung would say, a wounded healer. Not because there is anything wrong with me, but because being in form naturally creates a veil that prevents me from seeing the totality of who I am.
This limited perspective is not a curse. It is the way. It is what is. It is my learning curve.
My journey of discovering how to grant myself room for my humanity, room for all of me, room to f@*#! it up and to still love myself with my heart so wide open that my judgments melt away.
This journey is what allows me to get better at being able to listen to others with love. It is much easier to do that with people who I am not intimate with. I am much less likely to take things personally then because my nervous system doesn't get reactive.
The real lessons are with those who I love the most. That is where I get to swim in the turbulent waters of intimacy and learn how to hold a loving space for myself and others.
I hope you will join me in these waters. Let's swim together in the name of love.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.