As a trustee of the HKF with a particular interest in psychotherapy and wellbeing, I was asked to write our July blog on “It’s good to talk”.
As a charity, we have always encouraged our bursary winners to talk to us, to engage with our pastoral care system and advisers, and to sign up and communicate with the mentors in our mentoring programme. On a personal level, this is something I believe in passionately – the opportunity and ability to speak what we think and feel, and to be listened to with understanding, acceptance and without judgment. Hearing oneself formulate and say out loud often previously unspoken thoughts and feelings and having them received and acknowledged openly and with compassion is invaluable and deeply comforting.
But how many voices are actually involved in our dialogue? How do we actually speak to ourselves? What about our internal voices? What part do they play in this? Many of us have a fierce inner critic or an internal voice that shames or belittles us, that tells us not to bother others or that we are making a big deal out of nothing. These voices often stop us from speaking or distort what we are saying. Sometimes they distort also what we hear from others.
In order to speak freely to others and to truly hear them, we also need to learn how to speak and listen kindly and with understanding to ourselves, as it is often the inner voices that stops us from speaking, hearing or understanding others and ourselves.
“It’s good to talk” is therefore a good motto, but a much wider one than we tend to assume and one that is just the very start of the process. For talking to be effective, all parties involved, speakers and listeners, need to continually practice kindness, honesty, compassion, acceptance and understanding both of themselves and of others. It’s far from easy and is a constant work in progress, but worth the effort and worth trying, as long as it does not in itself become yet another rigid “must” that can inhibit us.
Let’s start, therefore, by being present and accepting that not everyone can talk or can talk yet. Let’s try and be mindful of the quality of attention we pay to ourselves, others and the world around us, so that when we start talking, we can do so freely and listen welcomingly.
24 July is Samaritans Awareness Day. This year, the day is focusing on how we can become better listeners to support our loved ones. Find out more here.