A number of years ago Oprah introduced a prominent psychologist to her viewing public. His name is Harville Hendrix. In fact, his concepts were so pertinent that she actually had him return 16 more times. He authored several books, one of which was Getting the Love You Want. He also introduced his own form of relationship counseling and called it Imago Therapy. Basically, his theory states that we subconsciously choose our partners to heal childhood emotional imprints. I was always impressed with his theory because I absolutely believe that this IS the case, but I got there astrologically, and as many of my callers will attest, I often go there in my readings. I did have the opportunity to experience Imago Therapy firsthand during a stressed relationship of my own. This is where I learned of Active Listening.
We depend so much on verbal communication. One of my favorite “misquotes” is that we all make the false assumption that when we string a bunch of words together that communication actually takes place. I have been taught in my hypnosis training that only about 20% of communication is verbal. 80% is non-verbal, mostly through body language and omission, but this all occurs on a subconscious level. I had this pointed out to me years ago in an embarrassing fashion during a local hypnosis meeting. I was sitting on a couch with my female friend who was also a professional colleague. The speaker was discussing body language and made a subtle reference to my friend and myself that indicated our personal interest in each other. Apparently we were telegraphing on a subconscious level what we did not yet know on a conscious level Our relationship did in fact go to a personal level a few months later.
The way we communicate is only half of the issue. The other half is what we are hearing. Anais Nin once wrote, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as WE are.” I will add that we hear things as we are also. Our experiences have created a filtering system, a lens, if you will, through which everything we hear gets interpreted. This further interferes with clear communication. Harville Hendrix was very aware of this issue and developed a technique within the Imago process to facilitate clear communication between two people in a distressed relationship. He called it Active Listening.
Here is how it works. My partner would tell me what her feelings were concerning a relationship issue that was distressing her. At a certain point she would stop and say to me, “Do you understand?” Then I would be required to repeat to her as much of what I just heard as possible. If I heard her correctly, she would go on. If not, she would repeat it. Once again she would say, “Do you understand?” This cycle would go on until I repeated to her precisely what she intended to communicate. This turned out to be a very tedious mode of communication because in one instance I actually had to repeat one paragraph 6 times before I got it right. It was no coincidence that this particular paragraph pushed an emotional button in me that caused me great distress. So, my filtering system was rejecting the information. Eventually we would reverse roles and I would do the communicating and she would be the active listener.
There is a reason why I am emphasizing listening skills. Very often a caller will inadvertently repeat to me something that their partner had said, but the caller was not processing the information appropriately, indicating a very powerful filtering system at work. I often hear, “I am so confused.” Even though what I just heard was very clear to me. But you see, in this case I was not viewing the situation through THAT caller’s filtering system. This is where the term “seeing the world through rose colored glasses” originates. We all have such filters. They are both a necessity and a burden, but when clear communication is critical it really helps to LISTEN.