“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.
When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”
I discovered Brenda Ueland a couple of years ago. She died long before I discovered her writing–I would have loved to have met her. She was a journalist, a writer, and a teacher of writing. If she were alive today, and still teaching, I’d go to wherever she was to attend one of her classes, for she taught not the picky things of sentence construction and perfect grammar, but how to reach into our souls and bring out the wonderful things that we all have inside, for she believed that we do, indeed, all have wonderful things to give to the world, and her belief is a gift to us all.
In her best-known book, “If You Want to Write: a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit“, she says:
“Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say.”
“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.”
“I found that many gifted people are so afraid of writing a poor story that they cannot summon the nerve to write a single sentence for months. The thing to say to such people is: “See how bad a story you can write. See how dull you can be. Go ahead. That would be fun and interesting. I will give you ten dollars if you can write something thoroughly dull from beginning to end!” And of course, no one can. ”
She removed the duty and chore out of writing, encouraging us to make it easy:
“….you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like child stringing beads in
kindergarten, – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”
Well, that’s all very well, but what’s it got to do with losing weight, or re-wiring our brains? I just wanted to give you a feel for this woman, before introducing you to what she has to say about the Art of Listening.
“A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen.”
(That’s not Ueland!)
I think that the most important factor in Together We Can, the most important thing that will help to heal us, to make us whole and to reach for comfort in some other place than the cookie jar, is a “friend who will lay down beside us, and listen”.
But who will listen to us?
Here’s the beginning of an article on the Art of Listening, by Ueland:
I want to write about the great and powerful thing that listening is. And how we forget it. And how we don’t listen to our children, or those we love. And least of all – which is so important, too – to those we do not love. But we should. Because listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultraviolet rays.
This is the reason: When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life. You know how if a person laughs at your jokes you become funnier and funnier, and if he does not, every tiny little joke in you weakens up and dies. Well, that is the principle of it. It makes people happy and free when they are listened to. And if you are a listener, it is the secret of having a good time in society (because everybody around you becomes lively and interesting), of comforting people, of doing them good.
Imagine a good mother, and you’ve had a bad day at school; maybe you said something in class that the teacher criticised, and then the other kids laughed at you, and on the way home you fell over and scabbed your knee, and you’re holding in the sobs, and when you get home you rush up to your room, throw yourself on the bed, and bury your head in the pillow. And your mum comes in, lays down beside you, cuddles you, and after a moment says, “come on then, tell me all about it”, and is then silent while she waits for the words to well up, and silent while they flood out.
But what if you never had anyone like that? Well, Ueland has a suggestion:
“… those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is:
“Tell me more. Tell me all you can. I want to understand more about everything you feel and know and all the changes inside and out of you. Let more come out.”
And if you have no such friend … well, then you must imagine one. ”
In Together We Can, we spend a lot of time learning to be such a friend, but if that resource isn’t available to you, then spend some time reading Brenda Ueland, and imagine her as your listener, because, as she says:
… when someone has listened to you, you go home rested and lighthearted.
And when we have been truly listened to, thoroughly listened to, and we go home rested and light-hearted, then we never even think of the cookie jar. And when this happens on a regular basis, our brains get re-wired, and should we notice a cookie jar, it hardly even registers.
You can find the whole article: The Art of Listening, by Brenda Ueland, here.