Written On: Sunday, Oct 07 2018

How to harness the power of listening to feel better


I learnt to properly listen from an early age.  What people were saying, what they weren’t saying.  That the gaps between their words weren’t just there to be filled by my reply.  Giving space for silence is important and a dialogue isn’t like a game of tennis. It has served me well in my work. Recently I’ve been pondering the quiet, often overlooked, role listening plays in my life and I thought I’d share some thoughts to celebrate it!

I have a number of massage clients who live in care homes. Two of them can’t verbally communicate. What I’ve noticed though is that they are still powerful communicators – you just have to take the time to notice. Last time I visited them, for example, they were both agitated. By the end of their treatments one of the ladies couldn’t stop giggling, releasing pent-up emotion, while the other was gently stroking my hand, feeling relaxed after I had calmed her with massage, words and inviting her to mirror my breath. They had needed very different things from their treatments, despite initially seeming to be in the same condition.

Understanding what my clients want and need from their massage is crucial for any massage therapist and the only way to do that is to set your expectations and assumptions aside and listen – both to what people are saying and what they are not saying. It’s all about stopping, being quiet and allowing the communication to happen, without imposing on it.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. Bryant H. McGill

During my Herbal Medicine degree we were taught the importance of an in-depth consultation – and the role listening plays in that. Herbal medicine isn’t a one size fits all approach. Two people presenting with the same symptoms might turn out to need very different treatments, depending on their lifestyle, expectations, diet and medical history. Listening allows me to go deeper, tackling issues at their root rather than the surface level.
The irony is, this year it’s been pointed out to me I’ve failed to listen to myself. All aspects of my work deal with the importance of paying attention, looking after ourselves and treating ourselves well to be at our best and live life the way we want to.

Yet earlier this year, a catalogue of family crises completely derailed me. I was bouncing from one emergency to the next, reacting to each new issue without any pause in between. I knew I was struggling. Good friends spotted I was struggling, but it took driving in a rush to a meeting and thinking I might actually be having a heart attack or a stroke to realise I had to stop and grab my metaphorical oxygen mask before I could be any use trying to help anyone else on this plummeting plane!

A good friend offered me a free place on a yoga workshop – it was only when I properly stopped to relax that I realised just how much of my body hurt! And all the tension I was physically carrying every day. Another good friend offered me a reflexology session and I can honestly say I floated into another dimension for that forty minutes, which left me more relaxed than I had been in months.  I also chatted with a counsellor I know, who as well as listening, prompted me to realise that I had to share how I was feeling with others and I didn’t have to be superwoman!

My circumstances haven’t completely righted themselves (in fact we’ve had some more stresses thrown into the emotional rollercoaster) but that space has given me chance to breathe and make me realise I have to prioritise my self-care or I won’t be able to cope. Which is no good to those around me, let alone myself.

So as part of this celebration of listening, I want to invite you to listen to yourself. Stop, take three deep breaths and notice what’s going on in your body and mind. Where are you carrying tension in your body? What are the thoughts circling in your head?

Self-care is another term for listening to yourself. It doesn’t always look like a hot bath, sometimes it looks like changing your diet, organising childcare or making yourself go for a walk in the rain to get some fresh air.

If you’ve started to notice you need to build in some time for yourself, I’d love to help. Contact me to talk about how you can start to use herbal medicine (or massage) to listen to and work with your body, to feel better in the long term.
If you get in touch by 30th of October you can take advantage of my Autumn Wellbeing Reboot – 6 weeks to help you listen to your body and make the changes you need. 

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” –Karl A. Menniger


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