Read Time:4 Minute, 18 Second


[

I often find myself thinking about the famous question that ends Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Late capitalism has a knack of sapping the life out of beautiful things by printing them on mugs and pencil cases and, I don’t know, probably toilet paper. But I’m trying not to let the inevitable Etsyfication kill that line for me. It helps to ask it as a genuine question: what will you do with your one wild and precious life? What? Instead of a deadened swirly quotation, the line becomes a dare, perhaps the most important question you could possibly ask yourself – the starting gun for thinking about how to build a better life.

I remember clearly asking myself a similar question more than a decade ago when, having just left my job in journalism to go freelance, I was commissioned to interview Fred Sirieix, the charming Frenchman who presents Channel 4’s First Dates, about the differences between dating in France and in England. It turns out there really aren’t many differences, and that painfully awkward (and short) conversation led me to conclude that I needed to find a new direction for my journalism. I began studying mental health, and it snowballed: I became a psychodynamic psychotherapist working for the NHS, a patient in psychoanalysis myself – and now your new columnist.

My experiences as a psychotherapist and as a patient have, inevitably, shaped my thinking about what it means to live better, and I’m thrilled to explore some of the possibilities. If I had to pick just one, I think it would be this: learn to listen. It takes graft – I have trained and worked for years and am still a beginner – but I’m not talking about learning in any formal way. Why not try to open your ears and your minds to the people around you, people on the radio, people in books; to drink in the beautiful, devastating humanity that surrounds us, and try to understand? Notice when you find yourself assessing, or judging, or picking a side, and wonder: why? See if you can listen instead.

One of the many things you will learn is this: people are fascinating. Every single one of us. It was thought-provoking for me to learn during my training that if someone is boring, it may well be an unconscious defence to keep others away. They are boring not as a passive adjective, but as an active verb: the action of an individual petrified that being heard will uncover the truth of what they really feel. Living in fear of being known by others – and of knowing their true selves.

While researching my book, When I Grow Up – Conversations with Adults in Search of Adulthood, about how to build a better life from 18 into old age, I learned that one of the most important things you can do to prevent dementia is to wear a hearing aid if you need one. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, not smoking – they all help, as you’d expect, but not as much as a hearing aid. The danger is not in the physiological change of hearing loss – there is no increased risk if you are deaf but use a hearing aid – but in losing the ability to listen. To protect our brain cells from dying, to nourish our minds and live better throughout our lives, we need to deepen and enliven our relationships by listening.

It was a man called Miller Reese Hutchison, born in Alabama in 1876, who invented the first electrical hearing aid, which he later named the acousticon. I was touched to discover the story behind this innovation: he had a childhood friend, Lyman Gould, who lost his hearing after having scarlet fever. Perhaps it was a childhood wish to be heard by and to help his friend that led this remarkable man to conceive of a device that would transform the lives of millions of people.

I believe that to live better, we each have to find our own acousticon. Something that helps us to hear not just others, but also ourselves – to make closer contact with the parts of ourselves that we tend to silence with screens, exercise, alcohol, drugs, whatever. I found my acousticon in psychotherapy – receiving it, and offering it to other patients. Finding your own might help you to develop perhaps the most important foundation for making any kind of change for good: to listen – really listen – to your innermost feelings and thoughts. Building a better life begins with being as truthful to yourself as you can, and listening to whatever it is you find. That life may or may not be wild, but it certainly won’t be boring. It is precious, and it is your only one.

#question #tune #answer

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

‘It’s never acceptable’: NRL boss backs Hughes’ ban for ref-push to ‘ensure officials are protected’ Previous post ‘It’s never acceptable’: NRL boss backs Hughes’ ban for ref-push to ‘ensure officials are protected’
While Earth enjoys an eclipse, a NASA probe is ready to ‘touch the sun’ Next post While Earth enjoys an eclipse, a NASA probe is ready to ‘touch the sun’