Are you really listening to yourself as respectfully as you might?

18 May 2021

Today, I’d like you to take a moment to think about how respectfully – or not – you listen to yourself. But first I’d like to share with you a little story of my own recent experience that might help clarify what I am talking about.

Last week, I had an eye operation. To say that I was not looking forward to it is an understatement. In fact, about two weeks ahead of the operation, I found myself becoming increasingly waspish. My poor, lovely partner – who had done nothing to offend – might as well have been living in a wasps’ nest.

Part of the issue, as I saw it, was that, unlike the previous one – a mere 6 weeks earlier – this one was desirable but not absolutely necessary. I could have got by – although it would just have been getting by – without.

“I feel traumatised”

When I saw my surgeon, pre-op,  and he asked me how I felt, the word “traumatised” rolled spontaneously off my tongue.

“I feel traumatised” I heard myself saying.

“Really? Why?” he asked.

“Because” I said, suddenly remembering it clearly, “I could feel hands on my eye during the first operation and I was very concerned that I was not sufficiently anaesthetized. I  actually ended up asking about that during the operation.”

Now, in order to make sense of the scale of the experience – for me – you have to understand that I am one of the most squeamish people on the planet. I can’t look at operations on television, or listen to accounts of operations. I can’t even touch raw chicken without wearing a pair of latex gloves.

But the point is, until that moment, I had half-forgotten that experience and was paying a high emotional price for that.

I was projecting that past horror onto my future experience.

In the event, having brought it up with my surgeon and then the anaesthetist, I was exquisitely well medicated and out of it.

The learnings from that trauma

The point of the story is the big learnings that I took from it.

First, I had not processed what had gone on and how it had affected me.

Second, I had reverted to an old narrative about being powerless in the situation when, in reality, that narrative was not true since I had managed to get my point across and affect the situation.

Third, I had – automatically and fatalistically  – anticipated that the next operation would surely be another traumatic event.

Now, in the great scheme of things, I would be the first to acknowledge that there are far worse traumas around than my eye surgery.

The problem with trauma

However, the problem that we all have with trauma is that our nervous system doesn’t leave it in the past where it happened. Instead that trauma gets projected into the present and future.

So, it is really important to take on board the “that was then and this is now” idea.

Obviously, trauma happens to us for different reasons during the course of our lives.  However, a lot of it occurs in situations in which we either truly are, or at least feel, powerless.

There have been times, especially in childhood, when we really were powerless.  But as an adult, thankfully, you most commonly have some power.

The point is to use that power.

How to open up an internal dialogue

Now, I can’t give myself too much credit as regards my operation. My brain hadn’t thought the whole thing through and worked out how to take charge of my situation more effectively.

Happily, my mouth jumped in and did the necessary.

What I should have done is ask myself,

  • What about this situation is bugging me so much?
  • What is my biggest fear?
  • What can I do to prevent that happening again?
  • Does the future have to be a replay of the past?

And that takes me back to my starting point. If I had been listening as respectfully to myself as I might have, I would have opened up a dialogue with myself – instead of simply allowing the waves of fear to buffet me.

I would have asked myself, “Hey, what is going on for you right now?” and “What would you need to do to make this thing feel more comfortable for you?”

And, thinking about it, I would have likely done that in writing – because I often get more sense out of my brain when I write things down or speak them out loud – than when I just allow the waves of fear and trauma to go sloshing around inside my head.

Being respectful means listening

Being respectful means listening to yourself, I know that.

However,  rather than listening respectfully to myself, I was letting myself be buffeted by my fears and that old pattern of powerlessness.

Fortunately, because I have long since let go of my old pattern of censoring what I say for fear of upsetting people, my mouth sorted out the problem for me.

Having learned my lesson, I shall make a point of listening more respectfully to myself in future.

That is my story.

Now, how about yours?

When have you not listened as respectfully as you might to yourself?

Your fears came about for a reason. They are important, but I do not believe that they are there to be relived over and over again. Instead, I believe, those fears can serve to teach us how we can live better in our own skins.

Are you willing to listen to yourself as respectfully as you can so that you can learn an empowering lesson from your fears?


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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