Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wanting To Be Understood

I’m always curious about where I (or others) take action unconsciously. As many of you know I’ve decided to slow down a little because of recent health challenges. Amongst other things this has involved posting on Facebook only when the impulse to do so comes in the moment, and (more importantly) not responding to comments. Although I’ve enjoyed the interactive threads on FB, I realized that responding can distract me from my own inner rhythm and really speed me up. So I am (mostly) practising not responding for the moment.

What’s interesting is to notice when it’s hard not to respond. Sometimes, when someone has shared something difficult about their own life, I want to reach out and let them know their struggle has been heard, and prayers and love are being sent. But I’m doing okay with just taking a moment to send the prayers and love, trusting that is enough.

Interestingly, what’s more challenging, is not responding when I feel I’ve been misunderstood. Recently someone posted a brief quote from one of my books on their page and a conversation ensued. Several comments took issue with what they thought the quote had or had not said- and my fingers itched for the keyboard.

Let me be clear: I didn’t want to respond because someone was disagreeing with me (I’m actually okay with letting disagreements be) but because I felt what I’d written was being misunderstood.

And this got me thinking about attachment to being understood, to having our words or actions comprehended as meaning what we intended them to mean. It’s understandable really, and I’m not arguing against clear communication, (particularly in intimate relationships where misunderstanding can lead to serious difficulties and unnecessary suffering.) The challenge is consciously and wisely discerning where and when and how we expend energy to make sure we are understood.

The meaning taken from something said or done reflects, at least in part, the recipient’s frame of mind and heart. A “misunderstood” meaning may be what’s needed at this moment, and may even be wiser and more insightful than anything intended. (Many folks have told me that something I said or wrote was a catalyst for desired change in their lives- and sometimes, when they tell me what it was, I have absolutely no memory of ever having thought, let alone said or written such a thing. And sometimes it’s not even something with which I am in alignment! But that’s what they heard, and for them it seemed true and useful in that moment- and thank goodness for that.)

Attempting to make sure we are never misunderstood, wanting and trying to be understood everywhere with everyone is impossible and exhausting. Being aware of the impulse to correct what we perceive as being misunderstood gives us a choice, the chance to ask: Is this a place where I need to make sure I am understood as I intended or want to be? Perhaps not surprisingly, there are in fact very few places where the answer to that question is an unequivocal, “Yes!” Sometimes, just letting others have their own responses, reactions and understandings- even if they don't reflect the meaning we intended- is simply wiser.

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. How very comforting to read your words this morning. I,too, am cutting back on all my busy-ness. But more than that, in my 40+ years of marriage, and with his retirement looming, I find that communication and understanding will be one of our greatest challenges. I'm pledging today to be more clear when I speak and more patient when I am misunderstood. Thanks again for your wise words. Enjoy your down time.

  2. Oriah ~ Interestingly I am currently feeling like I'm not being understood in the comments that I leave on people's blogs! Very frustrating :) I find myself wanting to correct, to clarify, to make sure they understand what I was trying to say. I even tried a couple of times, only to make it worse. So I'm finding I need to give up the need to be heard and understood. A wise friend once told me that you can't help how other's receive what you say. Everyone will interpret what you say through their own lens and filters.

    I have recently posted quotes from you as well on my blog and it's probably not what you had in mind, but the quotes I chose from your book - The Call - fit the picture I posted. Apologies if I misquoted or misrepresented you.

    As to not responding to others... I have a hard time with those who have blogs but do not *engage*, who do not respond, unless I know that this is how their blog works - as you have announced here. One of my learning curves for me was that not everyone blogs to engage with others, but only to share their life experiences, or what they're thinking, or their writing, or to promote themselves. I recognize that this need for response says more about my issues than anything else. That same need to be seen, recognized, acknowledged, heard, understood :)

    So don't feel like you need to respond to this rather long comment... :)

    You could always turn your comment section off... I know several people who don't take comments. And then it is quite clear.

    Blessings - Christine

  3. I can identify with everything you say, I too have had CFS for a number of years,a parent with dementia,a will to want to help everyone, to put the impossible back on course and lastly and I say lastly because this is what I have found to be the very base issue for me a head that is always turning however hard i meditate,practise yoga,read all the books, turn off the television,try to stand back from the world Until just recently i realised that it is the very core of me that needs to find peace not just the visual.It matters not where I am, what I do or don't do until I am able to sit in the present moment of the now along side my soul I am never going to manage to let go. It is hard and it is taking time but when I manage it I can feel my soul telling me how good it feels and how peaceful it is. And in those moments my head stops its spinning and searching and rests allowing my soul to sing gently.
    I am learning to reclaim my crown I sincerely hope you do to.
    Thank you for sharing your world, take care x

  4. Christine, for some reason the blog feels different than Facebook- the process of comments being moderated slows it down a little and I always (on both the blog and FB) enjoy reading the comments. On Fb there is a kind of immediacy that can sweep me up in responding quickly- which speeds me up. As to why I blog or post there are two primiary reasons- it keeps me writing and sharing my writing in a regular disciplined way (always a good thing for a writer :-) and I think of it as a giveaway- an offering (for free) that others can use as they see fit (with the hope that it will be useful.) The exchange that happens,when it happens is often creatively stimulating- and for that I am grateful- so long as I give myself a real choice about where and when and how to respond. Oriah

  5. Oriah - Thank you for your response and clarification! It is much appreciated :) And I understand that blog would be different than FB. I'm not on FB for that very reason - over stimulation!

    I am just now finishing up reading your book: The Call. And just wanted to tell you that I resonated deeply with it. Will need to read it again...

    "Rest" well :) With gratitude, Christine

  6. Recently I had a situation on a forum I've always loved where I'd broached a topic and it was taken totally out of context by some people. One guy was so vicious in his wanting to correct me where he believed stoicly that I was completely wrong that he ended up bullying me on line. I couldn't have forseen that. Since then I've been careful what I say and how I say things. I've stopped posting on said forum and only reply to others where no passion can be misconstrude. It is so hard on this electronic stage to present ourselves and our thoughts and musings as is, as we intend, so easy to misunderstand when you can't 'hear' a tone or feel a rhythm. Don't stop blogging ;0) I love having regular thoughts and inspirations from you.
    Blessings x

    1. Rose, the interesting things about a FB page is that it's like running a group, and over time you establish group norms and surprisingly, people learn to adhere to those norms (like no name-calling) relatively quickly.

      My training and professional life has included group facilitation for over 35 years- but it was a bit of a surprise to me how those same skills could be applied and adapted to an on-line community. So, when I see pages where thread are habitually volitile and tolerate bullying, I just don't participate at all- not my kind of group.

      One of the really big challenges has been allowing, supporting and modeling respectful disagreement about issues that folks feel strongly about. Even within a community with a spiritual bent there are strong disagreements about things- and twice now threads have had exchanges where folks have disagreed strongly but respectfully and kept speaking to each other on line. It's not saving the world- but I feel very good about it being a teeny tiny step in the right direction. :-)

  7. Hi Oriah, so sorry I have just realised, I have placed my comments on the wrong blog! I am the 2nd anonymous person above placed at 10.00am. They were meant for your previous blog on your health and certainly do not make sense here with this one. Hope I did not confuse you too much.
    with love a x

  8. lol- well you made me go back and look. Yes, it didn't seem exactly to fit, but on the other hand one of the BIG challenges with chronic illness is not feeling seen or understood so I thought this post had stirred that aspect of the illness. :-)

  9. Oriah, xx So much love and support from me, to you. While I miss you on Facebook, l stand with you on this business of illness/over stimulation and TIME that Facebook/blogging can take on a daily basis...As you know I have Fibro/CFS, (yes, both), Cerebral Palsy, Diverticulitis and other ABC' the end of the day, while I love my Facebook friends, and inspiration from folks like you, it does take a toll on us to try to run faster and faster, trying to answer everyone's questions, misquotes and worse, mis-suggestions based on posting!!! It is rough to host, keep the natives playing nice, making sure no one is harming others, *and* somehow keep ourselves together, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. It seems that the stress of it all one wonders how anyone is supposed to follow all these blogs, walls on Facebook, posts/links and videos...I am exhausted just trying to convey this...I too, wonder how this fits into a balanced life and healing...thanks love for posting.. and if I only here from you here, that's fine too...many hugs to you, and a big one for your family. mary