As I write these columns I find my topics are becoming less about diagnoses or even the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience and more about the simple art of living. In my practice, much of the angst that brings people to therapy is about the need to be heard and finding one’s own voice.
Holiday get-togethers for families and friends can leave us with a certain nostalgia. Perhaps the reason is not being able to hear and say, “How are you, really?” Besides screens of tablets, and laptops, and cell phones, and TV, we have precious little practice in the art of truly communicating. For some, a lot of being with others feels more like being alone together. We have become too busy for small talk, and too impatient to listen. Our eyes feel more comfortable looking at a screen or at a page than looking into the eyes of another. And, yet, that is the very thing that we all most desire: to be deeply known.
This week also marked the anniversary of Columbine. While some focus on the availability of weapons, perhaps the real issue is the lack of availability of connection. This all begins during our earliest days when we begin to decide about our outlook on life. Who is there to hear us? Who is not too busy to be caught up in the business of home and school to really get to know a child and to consistently want to hear them in words spoken and unspoken– when they are ready to talk, and not just when it is convenient for us to listen?
“How are you?” does not have to just be a perfunctory greeting. It can be the beginning of a true conversation that may in time lead to “How are you, really?”—if we are prepared to stick around and listen.