Do you ever have the experience of a word, a single word, resonating so deeply that something seems to actually shift inside? It happened to me recently. I heard the word staylistening. Instantaneously something settled inside and I knew that’s what I would have wished for as a child and what I still want now. (They say “physician heal thyself” and therein lies a powerful reminder of why I do what I do).
I’m sometimes surprised at how well I staylisten for others given its lack early on but over the decades of professional practice as a therapeutic-coach, I’ve acquired the skill, honed it and can say with hand on heart that it’s something I find enormously satisfying. Equally, when it comes my way from those close to me, I know it’s healing some childhood omission.
So, what is staylistening? A term coined by the founder of Hand in Hand, Patty Wipfler, I’ve recently been in touch with her to find out more about its origin. She told me:
“In the 1970’s and 1980’s, I was meeting regularly with a small group of parents with young children–I had young children myself at that time. We moms all were doing peer listening to one another, and found that it worked amazingly well to reduce the stress in our lives, especially parental stress, if we focused on listening without giving advice, but listening to make it safe enough to laugh, cry, and if we were working on anger or frustration, to tremble and perspire and move our bodies in the process…”
She was the first to write about what they observed really worked and over the years developed an approach to parenting which incorporates staylistening (and stayplaying, special time, etc.) In effect, staylistening describes what to do when children’s heavy feelings arise – be with them, hold them, reassure them, give them space to express themselves without judgment, love them (when it’s the hardest thing to do!) This promotes the emotional healing process. Here’s a link to one of Hand in Hand’s blogposts on staylistening.
As you probably know, I don’t specialise in parenting or working with children, but I do specialise in healing trauma, the type which originates in early childhood when someone’s needs and wants were ignored, whether through ignorance, inability or deliberately. So for me, the notion of staylistening is as relevant for us as adults as it is for those children fortunate enough to have informed care givers.
Staylistening also resonates deeply with me given its relationship to Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing, of which I am a student. He developed a way to be with another human being – with intention, connection, commitment – in therapeutic settings and beyond that is truly transformational. My focusing oriented therapist and regular focusing partners all provide me with much needed staylistening. Truly, a joy.
If your curiosity is piqued, and you’d like to know more, do reach out via email.