Managing one’s own reactivity is especially crucial when the conversation takes place between people who share a close, caring relationship, whether in intimate partnership or within a facilitated peer group. In the container of such a relationship, there is potential for great healing, when listening is skillfully practiced with loving-kindness. When there is a breach in the intention and the attention, the opposite can occur, and there is potential for eliciting further suffering. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. The process of releasing what has long been held tightly can hurt even as it heals. It requires a conscious choice and a disciplined practice on the part of the listener and the sharer to make the most of the opportunities a relationship generates. We are often drawn to a partner whose complementary issues offer us the most challenging, but most potentially rewarding, mirror for our own growth. Relationship built on a foundation of trust and deep listening is not for the faint of heart. But the rewards are worth the work.
When I am listening to my partner with skill, I can see more clearly which elements of a conflict belong to him and which belong to me. If I feel a strong emotional reaction to what he says, it is almost certain that something tender and vulnerable in me has been touched, and it is useful to note that for when it is my turn to be the speaker. When I am in a conversation without consciousness and care, my subjective reactions can spill out with little control, and the listening temporarily comes to an end. When I can tune my attention with awareness to his core dynamic, there is a better chance that the container will be strong enough for deeper healing work to begin. I can see my own needs and wants as well as his.