We never really know what this means until we don’t hear it. As children we struggle with so many confusing encounters with other people. Our feelings are hurt. We are laughed at. We are dismissed by teachers, friends, parents. Our hearts break. We feel alone. Sad. Angry because we are not understood. Am I really that different? Do I look different? Do I talk different? Can they really see my abuse? I just want to fit in. I want a friend. I don’t want to go through this life alone. Why doesn’t anyone understand me?
Children often feel lonely, devalued, unwanted, not important, and not enough from the very people that they need to be cared for by the most—their parents. Unfortunately, parents can be very distracted with their own inadequacies or trials of adulthood. Hopefully not purposefully, but inattentive just the same. The quick “you’re okay,” “big girls and boys don’t cry,” “shake it off,” or “what did you do to cause this?” is likely to leave the child feeling that they have indeed done something wrong.
Many of the people I work with either, no longer have their parents around so that they can reconcile these feelings or are unable to receive what they are still seeking from the parent(s) because of the unhealthiness of the parent. What if a parent could simply listen to their child? Use effective communication skills, such as active listening, paraphrasing, and value their child’s opinions and emotions? What if the parents would say, “I hear you”?
I have seen people who “need” to be heard find unhealthy ways to get people to listen- whether it be their parents or other significant people in their lives. The most common way that I have encountered is through anger outbursts. When people do not feel heard, they may raise their voice, shout, stomp their feet, threaten others, throw things, “pitch a fit,” or “throw a temper tantrum.” “You’re not listening to me!” They get the attention they seek. The typical response from the recipient is not what the unheard person is really trying to get or achieve, yet the person is now being heard. “All I really wanted,” says the little girl inside, “is for you to hear me. To love me. To be with me. To accept me as I am.” I want to know that I am important. I am somebody. I am enough. Just to be told “I hear you.”