Our deepest pain can come from being misunderstood. I see this over and over in my clients. The more they feel misunderstood the more they emphatically try to get their point across, which leads their partner to retort with a stronger assertion of their position. Both people strongly attempting to clarify and the volleys of misunderstanding escalate into a full blown war of words, war of perceptions.
What does it mean to feel misunderstood? One person reports their feelings, perceptions, experience of a situation…The other person counters with their own view of it. Back and forth. Neither feels the signal being received, just a crossfire of misunderstanding.
Strangely, the impulse is to speak, shout, scream the position louder, as if then it will be heard. But there is no receiver, neither in the speaker or their partner. There is nothing for the understanding to be perceived by. (This is some strange version of “what is the sound of one hand clapping,” but more like “which hand receives when both are clapping).”
In fact, there is a kind of attachment to the sensation of being misunderstood. The exact “resolution” they are looking to receive is sitting in the center of themselves as the ability to give understanding. Whether you give it or receive it, it is the same sensation in the body, but we get caught up on the pronouns!
YOU don’t understand ME! Understand ME! I don’t understand YOU!
YOU! ME! YOU! ME! YOU! ME!
Don’t take my word for it. Try it. The next time you are desperate to be understood, notice your closed circuit of misunderstanding and turn your “understanding” radar to face outwards towards your partner. See what happens in your body. For a moment there might be a “but I, but I but I.” Hang in there, track what they are saying carefully, try to understand. You cannot understand and be misunderstood simultaneously.
Plan B: if for some reason you can’t get to the place of curiosity about the other person that understanding requires, then you have a great second option. Do you notice how when you are trying to be understood, you are not really listening and understanding yourself?! Slow down and try to understand what you are feeling, perceiving, saying. Listen to yourself.
You are them. They are you. I am you. You are me. It doesn’t matter what the understanding “light” is shining on, the object is not important, the importance is that the light of understanding is on. On in you.
I see myself in my clients. They are my best teachers. I listen closely to their words, the nuance of their meaning, the sensation of their feelings, the deeper tug of their longing, wants and needs. I listen to understand them, to understand myself, as deeply as possible.
I love when I don’t understand, for then we are truly spelunking into our collective consciousness. What will you reveal to me? I am following the guide rope into the darkness, led hand over hand until a space appears, an opening below and we meet there, suspended for a moment, in a space of understanding.
Give understanding. Receive understanding. The truly miraculous part is the feeling of being misunderstood dissolves as the desire to understand expresses itself more fully either towards self or other.