Valentine’s Day is upon us with the attendant promotions for romantic dinners, sentimental cards, flowers, or the “perfect” diamond necklace that somehow says, “I love you!” Wouldn’t it be something if your life were your valentine? It is possible. It might require a change in the way you interact with your loved ones, but the results can be life altering. Recently in one of my life transitions groups, we were discussing the importance of
active listening and the use of empathy. The next week one of the members gave this report. When her twenty something son began his usual long diatribe of complaints about his life, instead of trying to solve them or minimize them, as was her habit, she tried something new: she simply listened with ears on her heart. She stopped responding from her strong know-it-all “Parent State”; instead she relied on her feelings. The result was immediate and dramatic. Her son’s body language softened and relaxed. The anger that had been boiling inside of him seemed to evaporate as he comprehended that he was really being heard.
Imagine what the world would be like if we got more into our hearts than our heads and really listened to our family members, friends and coworkers. Perhaps the angry daughters would soften toward their mothers if mother would just LISTEN. Possibly the controlling husband would have a happier wife if he would actually acknowledge her point of view. Maybe the rebellious son would stop acting-out if he did not have to work so hard to be seen. Perhaps our relationships would become more authentic, less about keeping up appearances, or fulfilling a role.
As a career communications professor, I shared positive relationship strategies with my own children as they were growing up. When they were teens, I taught them to get out of the “House of Should” and into the “House of Choice.” I was trying to teach them to become mindful about their actions instead of acting on “auto pilot,” doing what everyone else wanted them to do. As the years passed occasionally one of them would catch me doing something that my strong “Parent State” said that I “should” do, when I was not listening to my own heart. They would parrot back, “Mom, get out of the house of should!” It made me laugh to hear my own words coming back, but they helped to keep me in touch with my feelings, and not let my head do all the ruling. They helped to keep me real.
Starting today you could take action to make your life your valentine. You could begin to listen more fully with ears on your heart. It may require some changes; becoming a more ruthless time manager, getting enough sleep so you are not short tempered, or exercising and feeding yourself properly. It may simply mean putting this new goal into your awareness. You can become the empathic listener the people in your life need you to be. Now is our time. It is up to us. I think we humans are amazing miracles and I believe we deserve to enjoy loving and peaceful interactions with others. I hope you will listen with ears on your heart and really get to know and hear the people in your life.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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Donna’s new book Cherish the Light: One Woman’s Journey from Darkness to Light was chosen as Top 12 Pick of the Year by the Spirited Woman Organization. Available in print or ebook at www.amazon.com
Donna L. Friess, Ph.D. is a psychologist and professor emeritus. As a best-selling author, she has written seven books. She is an advocate for children’s rights, currently serving on a U.S. Justice Department Office for Victims of Crime Consortium.