Search

The Practice of Understanding

Often when someone we care about is distressed, we are tempted to give advice. Occasionally, this is even helpful. But the times when it is helpful are surprisingly rare. When we are distressed, our most important need is often simply to feel that someone understands. When someone understands, we don’t feel so alone, and that already begins to change our state of mind. When someone gives advice, often the advice is out of touch and reactive, and we feel even more alone than ever, as well as misunderstood.

There is neurology underlying this. When the limbic brain or emotional brain is agitated, it can’t be calmed by logic or reasoning. But when we feel understood, the agitation can begin to calm down, and we can begin to find our way, to see things more clearly and calmly.

Perhaps the reason we want to give advice is because it makes us feel better. It is difficult to enter into the experience of another’s distress, and we defend ourselves from that experience by offering our opinion, despite the fact that it so seldom helps.

To understand is a simple practice, but not an easy one. The word itself contains the notion of standing under—that is, temporarily subordinating our own concerns and fears, opening a space within us to be present to the other and to their experience, even if we are aware that there is a lot of misperception going on.

So to truly be helpful, try to understand, and to show that you understand. At least, that is my advice!

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Facing Mortality

Perhaps because of the Covid virus, it seems that I am having more conversations than ever with people about death. Unfortunately, there was no course in graduate school that taught me what to say ab

The Winds are Blowing

It’s a windy day here in New Mexico. More harbingers of the winter that is coming, which by all accounts looks like it is going to be a difficult one. This windy day made me think about another kind

On Not Becoming a Buddha

When you meditate, when you practice mindfulness in daily life, don’t aim at becoming a Buddha: Just meditate to enjoy the peace of meditation. Just be mindful to enjoy being mindful. When you eat you

Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 7.46.41 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 7.47.18 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 7.47.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 7.46.49 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-12-20 at 7.46.58 PM.png

Books

Contact Me

Mail: Tom@mindfulpsychology.com

Tel: (505) 242-2603