Just been reading this great blog post about the power of empathy, though I think it ought really to be titled the power of listening. It describes a teacher’s experience with a student who confides about the hard time they’ve been having.
The teacher has a reflexive desire to intervene and help the child. But they stop themselves and instead remain in alert presence with the child, listening consciously to what the child needs to communicate. The result is that the child finds their own way to the real heart of what’s been troubling them.
It sounds cliché but it’s nonetheless true that really listening to our kids is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. But listening is hard, especially when your child is relaying a painful experience. The first instinct – as the teacher noted – is to pour salve on the wound by comforting the child. But resisting this urge, accepting that you don’t have all the answers and that your child knows themselves much better than you realise, may ultimately lead to way more real growth. Both for the child and also for you.
As the Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson noted: ‘It is a miracle to listen to someone (even oneself) say, “Perhaps this, perhaps that, maybe, it follows that, I wonder if” – all like a dog chasing its tail. But gradually, the two disparate circles begin to overlap and the mandorla grows. This is healing.’