A while ago I was working with a female client. After a few sessions together my view over how she saw her life and how she dealt with her thoughts about it got more and more clear. It was obvious that she easily got stuck in old patterns. Patterns which caused her great discomfort. It was also clear that she wanted to feel different but she wasn’t that willing to let go of her way of thinking although she suspected that that was the real source of discomfort.
How was I going to help her out of her suffering?
On a level of pure logic and compassion the best thing to do would be to do everything within my power to help her out of her misery, which I normally do that by showing clients how thought works and how it affects our lives.
But how can I possibly know that this is what this person needs right now?
What if she wants to stay in her misery? How could anyone ever want to suffer you might wonder. That is a relevant question but the point here is what is appropriate in this moment.
Who says that suffering is wrong?
What if more suffering is exactly what this person needs to break free from destructive patterns of thinking? How can we ever put ourselves in the position of knowing and be sure of what the person on the other side needs?
I said: “If you want to hold on to how you think it implies that you want to keep suffering. Is that really what you want?”
My question opened up our conversation to a completely different level which really made a difference for her.
Did I know what my question would lead to? No, to be completely honest, I had no idea. And this was exactly what made the difference. That I didn’t assume that I somewhat knew what would be good for her to learn or realize but that I in a neutral way just made it clear on how thinking affects our emotions and how that creates our experience of life.
During my training I discovered the value of something that can be described as deep listening and when I meet other people, professionally or in private, I always try to meet them with this attitude.
About deep listening
To me deep listening means:
- To listen with an open mind. Another way to say this is to listen with your heart.
- The other thing is to try to avoid to jump into any conclusions about what we hear. That is, don’t let your mind touch any of the universal norms and morals that usually permeates our societies. For instance, when someone tells you that they have just broken up with their spouse, should we tell them that we are sorry or should we congratulate? I call this assume nothing.
To help someone we first need to understand. Once we understand we can move to be understood.
To remain still and keep our mind from reacting to anything when we listen to someone else’s story is one of the most difficult things for a human being.
Recently I met with someone who learned that I was finished with writing my first book. This person started to ask me about the process.
“Doesn’t it feel good now that you have finished it?”, the person asked.
“Well, I don’t feel anything particularly. I re-wrote it a couple of times and it was interesting to watch it change form” I answered.
“That must have been hard.”, the other person noted.
“Well, not really. It found it interesting. A couple of days ago I sent the manuscript to an professional reader to get an objective assessment on the literary quality.”, I replied.
“You must be nervous letting someone else evaluate your life’s work”, the person said.
“No, it doesn’t feel that at all. But I am curious to see what they will make of it.”, was my reply.
How this conversation was carried out doesn’t really say anything about the person I was talking to but it does point to that in our conversation the person I was having it with seemed to be more interested in their own thinking than of mine.
The point I want to make is that the more we let our attention focus on our own thinking the harder it is for us to get closer to other people.
What is before right nor wrong?
Helping other people is a difficult task if we assume an attitude of knowing. What is helpful is to keep neutral and let go of what we think is right for them. It is also helpful to let go of what helped us and others.
In nature there is no right and wrong but nevertheless people are having the most difficult time seeing that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Are we different/apart from nature? Right and wrong exists only in our heads, in our minds.
To draw this a little bit further there cannot be right thoughts or wrong thoughts. There are however as many thoughts about right or wrong thoughts as there are people on the planet. To be free we need to let go of this notion of right and wrong thoughts and realize that before we show up and make “right” or “wrong” there is only thought.
Thought wants many things, but who is there to let thought get what it wants?
What if it is that simple.
What if thought is just thought. Nothing more.
And what if we really don’t have to believe or act on any thought at all?
Thank you for reading this article. It is inspired by my own life and what I have observed.
Feel free to leave a comment or share it with others.
About the author: Patrik Rowinski is a specialist of State Of Mind and mindset change. He is a certified Transformative Coach and Three Principles Practitioner. For personal coaching or inspiration please visit patrikrowinski.se.
Through StateOfMind Institute and the non-profit organisation 3P Center Stockholm he is helping organisations, leaders, teams and individuals to bring breakthroughs in performance, results and well being.