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The Silence Between the Words

By Janey McCarthy

Listening — attentively, respectfully, and open-heartedly — establishes an honest connection with another in the present moment, when we choose to authentically express who we really are.

Me in a state of silent exclusive receptivity, listening. You in a place of sharing, speaking your gift of personal expression. As a species, we all long to be ‘heard’. Seen. Acknowledged. Valued for all that we uniquely are.

In the silence between our words, have we actually created an opportunity for much more than simply an exchange of ideas?

In these inaudible moments our nonverbal listening senses hear much more than is being said. We intuitively accumulate a myriad of impressions through touch, sight, sound, smell and taste, now consciously monitoring what form, quality and quantity of input will be selectively encoded and responded to.

We’ve all experienced this multi-dimensionality during interpersonal connections, and benefitted from the increased depth of conversational understanding we derive, similar to corresponding via email versus communicating in person.

Counterintuitively, this enhanced awareness of our own body’s responses and attunement to the outer world doesn’t make the experience more intense, uncomfortable or unwieldy. Instead, we feel more relaxed, centered, intertwined with “the other”, as if in some interlaced tandem dance movement.

Although the interactive speaking-listening cycle is perceived as an enormous air-time consumer, statistically it is our nonverbal exchange which repeatedly and more reliably gets “heard”.  According to researchers between 55 percent and 93 percent of performance and communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.

What arises in these self-muted moments is a reunion with our true selves, as we expand our view beyond how we’re being received or relatively valued, to being fully engaged with all our senses, feelings and surroundings, prepared to listen to ourselves.

As individuals in a vast human collective we can feel so anonymous, unrecognized, disregarded, and starved for attention, often exacerbating how much we talk versus how well we listen…especially to our own inner voice.

So who’s not listening to whom?

All one needs to do is look at the voluminous number of blogs, spawned by an insatiable desire for individuals to attract collective attention, to be heard. I believe this unfulfilled need emanates from our projection of not listening to (or valuing) ourselves, sadly reflecting back to us a lack of personal self-worth. This has been especially true of women, who for centuries have been bought, sold and traded as possessions, re-enforcing the message of human devaluation, feeding this insecurity.

At this turbulent juncture in human evolution a pertinent question emerges:

Can we choose to do this for ourselves, to begin compassionately and actively listening to that unrelenting inner voice, imploring us to get what we need? To express who we really are? To trust our feelings, sensations, and intuitions, and ask for what we want, need, and desire?

We watch ourselves repeatedly (over)invest emotionally, physically, financially, intellectually, and spiritually, in relationships with others … because the human need and experience of deep, loving, connectedness brings meaningfulness, passion and purpose into our lives.

So then why are we not as masterful at the art of listening to ourselves? Especially since it appears we have already acquired this skill set when it comes to being in relationship with another. What personal beliefs might conflict with the instinctual desire to get our own needs met?

Belief systems are inherited and learned. Some are borne out of ancestral teachings, societal mores, or religious and national laws, often feeding our insecurities rather than anchoring our sense of self-worth. Historically, and currently, we observe populations as more easily controlled if they hold self-perceptions of being undervalued or made to feel disempowered, spiritually weakened, or denied the freedom to individuate.

So, what commonly held beliefs might habituate and reinforce our inability to ‘listen’ to our own inner voice?

  • It is ‘better to give (our attention to another) than to receive (attention from ourselves)’. Haven’t we been taught it is shameful to prioritize our own needs over others?
  • We don’t deserve to be happy. Weren’t we born with original sin? Hasn’t it been our historical collective path, to be-in-suffering, ever since we equated the archetype of The Martyr to being ‘almost’ divine?
  • It would be too demoralizing to ask for what we wanted only to discover how self-denying we can be to ourselves. Would we continue to ignore our needs in favor of others’ demands on us?
  • We don’t have the courage to listen to what we silently tell ourselves we need and then actually make the effort to invest in ourselves to get it. Can we trust ourselves to do what it takes to get our needs met? Will we dependably show up for ourselves as we do for others?

When will it be your time to decide to make this commitment to yourself? That you will no longer be a slave to your behavioral past, or a prisoner of someone else’s dream or dictate of what your future must become?

The act of listening to ourselves, and becoming personally responsible for getting our needs met, establishes a foundational platform of safety and trustworthiness, where our emotions find their voice. Only when we listen will we each stop struggling with ‘the other’ for prominence, dominance and control over our own lives, because we will have ceased struggling with ourselves.


About the author
1998 was a life-altering year for Janey C. McCarthy. She became a professional Jungian Karmic astrologer, after enjoying 25 years in IT, three in human resources and organizational development, and five in art education. Out of her new world emerged a passion to help clients bridge their spiritual and material worlds, listening to their own stories told through the ancient archetypal language of astrology and sacred geometry. Janey is originally from Philadelphia, though she has chosen to build her ‘nest’, for now, in the Baltimore area with her soul mate and two kitties.


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