“There are two types of people in this world: those that listen and those that are waiting to talk. Which one are you?”
This is a quote from a deleted scene in which Uma Thurman questions John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. I can’t say I enjoyed this movie. The violence, the anger and the almost comical way people died or were killed struck a very wrong chord with me. I don’t know if movies can truly affect people’s behaviors. But, I imagine people watching this and becoming inoculated to violence. I heard a report on NPR that there were 854 acts of torture on prime time tv this year. Last year, 100. Torture has become more accepted. They reasoned that torture is spoken about so much, and used so often, that people no longer care if they see it on tv. This is not a trend that I want to be a part of.
When I heard Uma Thurman’s question, it moved me to think about my own actions and my inability to be present. I often find that I’m not truly listening to someone else but waiting to find a place to jump in, state my point, and have it be heard. It is an uncomfortable way to exist. I would prefer to be present for others, listen to what they are saying without forethought about what they may be thinking, and not feel pressured to state my own opinion.
I’ve taken meditation classes and have noticed that is is possible to achieve. When I’m calm, I experience much less forward thinking or planning. I notice that the sentence itself was not the point, but to hear each word as an individual piece that would tie into something greater is what seemed to matter. I think I’m much more able to do this when I’m at my job working as a therapist. I try to pay attention to each word the client mentions and this allows me to be more present with them and more patient with what needs to be said or attended to according to each client. It is their space and time, which, in effect, gives me space and time to work with them.
The usual belief is that therapy sessions should be 50 minutes long. I disagree with this. There is no scientific evidence stating that a 50 minute session is more useful than any other time limit. It is a constraint built on ideas and insurance. I have learned that longer sessions are more useful and tend to have the desired outcome much more quickly, and with less pain.
Think of it this way: If you had surgery for cancer, would you want a little bit removed each time, with the very real possibility of it growing back as you waited, or would you want it removed all at once and then follow ups every once in a while to make sure it is gone? I know my answer.
By the way, John Travolta’s character responds with, “I have to admit, I am always waiting to talk, but I’m trying real hard to learn how to listen.”
I have to admit, I am quite happy I was able to hear the message and be present.