So often what we want most when we’re overwhelmed, afraid, exhausted, lost, a foreigner in our own bodies is to be seen. To be heard. To have another human being understand, really understand, what we’re going through, where we’re coming from. To have another human being listen, without texting, without looking around, without criticizing. To look at us directly, to look into our eyes. To be present with us wholeheartedly.
To say, I see you, I hear you, I am here.
We don’t want advice. We don’t even want reassurance that everything will be OK. No. What we want is to be witnessed as we are. The pain. The longing. The confusion. The uncertainty. The anxiety. The shame.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
As David Whyte beautifully writes in his book Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words: “…the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”
Who can you give this gift to? Who can you walk with? Whose story can you listen to without judging, without interrupting, without assuming you know the truth? Who can you share this sacred space with? A space of compassion and empathy and patience.
This is not easy. It’s especially not easy if we’re not used to looking at ourselves, directly into our own eyes. By that I mean looking at our pain, instead of looking away. By that I mean naming our emotions and experiences, not dismissing or ignoring them, not trying to push them away, not trying to bury them in the backyard, not yelling at ourselves for feeling a certain way. Not condemning ourselves for still thinking about the experience, about the hurt.
We can practice seeing and listening and witnessing with ourselves, and we can practice this with others. Because it’s so important. Because it’s really the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and those we love.