Thursday, July 29, 2010

Listen

I had a very interesting afternoon yesterday.  I spent time with children, parents and professionals in the autism community discussing everything from sports to video games to homeopathy.  I felt totally confused at so many points in the afternoon!

I have spent a lot of energy peeling the layers off my neatly packed away emotions over the last several years.  By the time I was 14, I had decided that excessive displays of emotion were wasteful so when I did stress, I did it computer style (see my comment on stress styles here).  Exploring my beliefs has meant acknowledging deeply covered emotional responses and practicing my awareness.  As I grew in awareness, it was as if I was angry all the time.  The problem with a computer stress style is that both the positive and the not so positive feelings are minimized.  My 'coming out' process has had some incredible highs and fascinating lows.

So yesterday, a little boy with autism looked at me and offered me some Doritos, all with his eyes and gestures.  He was beautiful, his hand flapping reminded me of Jaedon and I felt a rush of oxytocin, usually perceived as a combination of ecstasy and overwhelmedness.  I was briefly tempted to run from the room, but took note of the feeling, talked to myself a bit, and was fine, exchanging playful glances with the little boy.  After a few glances, his mother asked me not to look at him.  I think she thought we were being disruptive.  We were all listening to a presentation on helping children with autism.  Although I understood why she asked me to stop looking at her son, I felt disappointed and quickly realized that I had judged her. I decided that she was not appreciating an obvious strength in her son.  My mind went down the road of ..."so many children do not.....(like Jaedon)... and people can't see when they have something wonderful happening...."

Later in the afternoon, I chatted with some other mothers of children on the spectrum.  As comments about functioning "like animals" because of the need for detoxification, and the need to "stop the behaviors immediately", I felt tension rise in the back of my neck and across my shoulders.  Again, I judged the moms as insensitive and unappreciative of their children, I wondered, "Do I want to help all the parents of kids on the spectrum?"

A wise friend reminded me that it was about understanding another person's point of view.  The confusion vanished, my shoulders relaxed and I remembered.  I remembered the times when I tried to explain my own thoughts and feelings to people who didn't seem interested in listening, who were going to move forward with their agenda no matter what I said.  I remembered trying to explain how driven I felt to find help for Jaedon, and people telling me to come 'to terms with it' (a.k.a. don't try so hard).  I remembered hearing Jaedon's behavior was my fault.  I do understand.  If I really believe that what I have to offer can be helpful, I enter the discussion through the door of understanding.

I'm grateful for yesterday.  It is helping me be clear on how I want to show up in my interactions with other parents::

  • I don't think I can work with ALL the parents of kids on the spectrum, or even that I can help ANY parent, but that I will have particular parents who will be attracted to what I offer
  • The set of people that I do not ever judge appears to be very small so I won't be helping too many parents if that set becomes my target market
  • How come I find it so easy to judge parents? Especially those with kids on the autism spectrum?
  • Speaking of judging parents, I'm apparently on the list of parents I can't help, since the speed of my judgements directed towards anything is directly proportional (with a large multiplying factor) to my speed of self judgement!
  • Getting back to Jaedon as a starting point, my goal in any interaction is to bond, develop rapport, to understand.  No matter where I am, who I'm with, whatever the context, I will maintain my intention to understand, to lay down my own agenda and to engage people in their journey exactly where they are
All in all, I appreciated the experience yesterday.  I was glad to notice that I had (many) moments of absence, internal dialogue, judgement, which dilutes my intention to be curious, to listen, to love, to learn.  I'm glad I was able to be curious about my response.  A couple years ago, I would have judged myself for my judgement!

I hope you are are taking the opportunity to tune into someone else today, to listen deeply to them deeply and completely.  More than that, I hope you are taking the opportunity to listen to yourself today.  There is so much yet to discover in the infinite universe of you!

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