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The Entire Self As An Ear: Listening Practice

“Now the ears of my ears are awake and the eye of my eyes are open.”

–E.E. Cummings

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

– Martin Buber, I and Thou

Last night as sleep came over me, on my mind were the many times I’d recently heard from people how incredibly lonely they felt, the frequent lament “no one listens to me, they don’t want to hear it, I’m a burden.” As if these thoughts had been heard by an inner witness, I dreamed all night of various listening experiences. Having been involved with energy medicine and bodywork for a couple of decades, the very first image was a hand holding an ear in offering. There were many metaphoric pictures that followed, most importantly I awoke having been rattled viscerally into a sense remembrance: listening precedes all else in relationship. While we are culturally obsessed with communication and conveying ourselves with ‘impact,’ the crucial missing piece in the puzzle is an emphasis on being with, being together, an open field for hearing the soul signature of the Other, however unusual its language might feel. “It is not the universal and the regular that characterize the individual,” stated C. G. Jung, “but rather the unique. He is not to be understood as a recurrent unit, but as something unique and singular which in the last analysis can neither be known nor compared with anything else.” (CW 10, par 488-588.)

Why do so many people often feel lonely? (Hands of Technology, Steve Jobs - Mary Younkin)

Perhaps this individuality is the reason practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine are trained to take twelve different pulses. These observations, however slow going, were established as methods for attuning awareness to varied information about a patient’s blood: their unique volume, tenor, speed, strength, and rhythm, expressed in twelve different locations, each with its own quality. Historically, our senses were acutely trained to environmental proprioception. We were geared to be highly sensitive receptors to even the most subtle distant movement, sound, or smell signifying danger, or in the case of the hunt, the presence of a potential meal. We listened to stories told communally for metaphors instructing our development, and related to the group through systems of initiation that included mastery of sense information. Modernity has brought with it a separation from our senses, including the sense of Self, and the nuanced sensing of the Other. In part, psychology developed to treat the many complexes arising from the dramatic change in our awareness, orientation, and purpose. Depth psychology in particular creates the kind of alliance intended to evoke material from the unconscious exclusive to a person’s individuation. Therapeutically, it’s a multilayered style of listening, as Carl Rogers acknowledged in his well-known text, A Way of Being.

Has modernity cost us our ability to truly connect with others? (The Laugh - Mary Youkin)

Rogers’ attunement to the entire person, his emphasis on non-judgment, on unconditional positive regard, could be taken into consideration as a relational practice for all of us. Emphasis on sensitivity to the space between us allows creativity and ambiguity to exist simultaneously in our experience of understanding. We listen with our entire self, receiving information from all five senses and responding to it with presence, rather than an agenda for recognition and impact. Essentially, these are the elements Martin Buber highlighted when he suggested that the sacred is found in the relationship between Self and Other, rather than in constructed ritual and ego. According to Buber, in experiencing the Other as Thou the possibility of true aliveness becomes real. “The relation to Thou is immediate. Between I and Thou there is no terminology, no preconception and no imagination, and memory itself changes, since it plunges from singularity into the whole. Between I and Thou there is no purpose, no greed and no anticipation; and longing itself changes, since it plunges from dream into appearance. All means are impediment. Only where all means fall to pieces, encounter happens,” Martin Buber, I and Thou.

Relating to others as "Thou" allows for deeper connection. (Tumble - Mary Younkin)

It strikes me that this Entire Self As An Ear, a holistic tool for listening, might allow us to encounter difficulty in a much more responsive, rather than reactive fashion, as if Thou were music, the most curious of every genre. Could this be a road toward eliminating our culture of loneliness? This notion of nurturing a capacity to become compassionately responsive to what is unfamiliar, even repelling, in the Other; could such anxious times be instructing us it is this skill we desperately need to cultivate for our evolution?


~ Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Social Media Manager
Jung Society of Utah


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