Ben Ross is a person who lives in Western Massachusetts, where he practices getting out of his own way so he can clearly hear people as the love they already are, share with them in the deep goodness of life in all its vulnerability and struggle, and be as outrageously sensitive and creative as life wants him to be. He graduated from Naropa University with a Master of Arts in Contemplative Psychotherapy and works as a therapist in community mental health.
guest post by Ben Ross
I’d rather listen to someone than suggest they take psych drugs:
Because I know listening has helped me through times of powerful anxiety and despair, when medications did not.
Because I know listening and connection have effects on the brain that are more powerful and lasting than psychiatric medications.
Because I know that people are hardwired for empathy and connection from our earliest life experiences and that the neuroplasticity of the brain allows us to heal deficits in connection throughout our lives, soaking in the care of others and creating new internalized models of compassion for ourselves.
Because listening heals our deepest wound, which is the question of whether we’re actually alone with anything we experience.
Because I know that psych drugs can alter and create imbalances in the chemistry of the brain and body, and listening returns people to feeling the presence of their bodies.
Because psych drugs can numb feelings that are life-giving, when the deep wells of grief within them are welcomed and can be met (within a safe container and at the pace and timing that feel right).
Because even when feelings are arising from nutritional, hormonal or chemical imbalances in the body, real, attuned, empathic relationship balances the nervous system in a deep way by regulating attachment, which is how we experience our basic sense of safety in the world, regardless of the intensity of the feelings coming up or the distortion of thoughts.
Because the worst pain in any feeling is our sense that it means there is something inherently wrong with us for experiencing it.
Because pain often holds the key to our freedom, in that it brings us back to the present moment, where the basic awareness that holds all of our experience is vibrantly alive and untouched by any harm. Attuned listening and relationship allows us to see and feel this because a sense of being heard and of belonging as we are contradicts the painful belief that we are separate beings who must focus on overcoming or fixing something in order to be whole and belong.
Because all forms of oppression thrive on invalidating peoples’ experience by telling them that they are somehow at fault for the effects of living in a society that is itself unjust, violent, and uncaring toward peoples’ basic safety, health, and needs for meaning and belonging. When internalized invalidation is healed through active empathic attunement, people are able to name the injustices around them and stand up for their right to be treated with fairness and equality.
Listening validates people in claiming these basic human rights.
Because people are not machines that get out of whack, but are as beautiful and mysterious as the intricate interdependence of a forest ecosystem, a coral reef, or the entirety of the living universe, and the truest response of my heart is be reverent when faced with the actuality of life, to listen when the mind stops and the heart opens, faced with the actual truth, beauty, and amazingly diverse and complex wholeness of being.