Are You What Others Think of You?

A client of mine (we'll call her Mary) was telling me about her time at a full-weekend self-development seminar.  During one of the breaks, the participants were instructed to go make a "difficult" phone call, for example, to an ex-partner or an estranged family member, for the purposes of reconciling or forgiving.

After the break, Mary and her workshop partner, whom we'll call  Susan, rejoined to discuss the calls they'd made.

Susan began telling Mary about her call and referred many times to "adoption," so Mary offered something like, "Oh, there's tons of adoption in my family, so I have an idea of what you're talking about."  Susan countered with "Shut up!  Just shut up!  This is my time to talk!  This is my story!"

As Mary was telling me this story, she said to me, "... and in that moment, I realized that I really am rude!  I really do need to learn to just shut up and listen!"  

So, I asked Mary, "What if Susan had said, 'Oh, sweetheart, thank you so much for letting me know that you understand what I'm going through. I feel really heard right now.' Would you still feel like you're rude and a bad listener that just needs to shut up?  Or conversely, what if you had been listening really deeply, not saying a word and she said, 'Why are you just ignoring everything I'm saying!'" 

Mary had lived with this story for so long that it looked real to her that she really was rude and a bad listener, and tried to convince me of the same. With a bit of gentle prodding, she realized that it was only Susan's strong reaction that had planted the seed in Mary's head that she was a rude talkaholic.  

She realized that she could be free to be herself in any moment, that some people would like what she had to offer, and some wouldn't, but neither were a reflection of who she really was. 

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