October 31, 2016
Ever find yourself in that “here-we-go-again” loop of arguments with loved ones over the same issues or sore points? You know the feeling … the conversation gets just a little testy, you’re beginning to hear the ice crack beneath your feet as you approach a topic in what you thought was just a comment or observation, and boom! The exchange explodes into a string of “you always’s” or “you never’s” and – everyone’s favorite – “you just don’t understand.” Suddenly you’re bickering, and… here we go again.
Ram Dass tells us “our interactions with each other reflect a dance between love and fear.” This dance is a reminder of the difference between the topic and the issue: the topic is what’s being “discussed;” the issue is the truth of what’s really at work. And what’s at work is either love or fear – it just changes topics.
We all have an “edit” button in our heads. That’s the button we’re supposed to use before we respond with something snappy in an argument that could add fuel to the fire. It’s the button that delays us just for a moment so we go from angry retort to really listening to what is – and is not – being said by the other person. In that moment, we go from defending to understanding.
Issues of powerlessness, vulnerability, fragility or anxiety can hide in topics of leaving dirty dishes in the sink, not mowing the lawn before the rain started, or forgetting to put gas in the car your partner needed for a long drive. The topic is the dishes or the lawn or the gas — but the issue is feeling diminished, unimportant or disregarded. The topic is the vehicle for the issue.
Ram Dass also said “the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear…”
Really listening to the topic lets us hear the issue our loved one is trying to express. Our edit button is a listening device giving us the space to hear – and it’s our friend.