Seth Horowitz defined the difference between hearing and listening quite simply in his article, “The Science and Art of Listening” for The New York Times. He wrote, “The difference between the sense of hearing and the skill of listening is attention.” If you were to tune into what you hear in your immediate surroundings, many different noises and sounds would come to your attention. That is “hearing”, the sensory-experience of sound hitting the ear and processing into the brain. If you hadn’t focused your attention to the sounds around you, would you have heard them? We often go through our day consuming noises to which we don’t pay attention. It isn’t that we don’t hear them, because the sounds are certainly making it to our brain and on some level our brain is processing them. It is that we don’t listen to them. We don’t actively focus our attention to what we are hearing. This dichotomy reaches far beyond the normalcy of background noise in our daily lives. When the difference between hearing and listening makes the biggest impact is when we are engaging with our loved ones. Particularly if our loved one is in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
Many parents, friends, and family members have a similar story when it comes to their loved one’s addiction. Addiction isn’t always obvious. As outsiders reflect after their loved one has come clean about their addiction and entered treatment, hearing and listening play a role. They never heard the cry for help. They never listened to what their loved one was saying. They simply didn’t pay attention. They heard but didn’t listen. They listened but never heard. Their attention wasn’t on the most important signs. Their attention might not even have been on their loved one.
Every human on earth has a basic requirement to be heard, to have their voice, their feelings, their autonomy at the very least recognized by the ear of another person. When one person’s livelihood becomes normalized background noise to other people, problems arise. Moreover, every human on earth has a basic requirement to be listened to. People, those in and out recovery, have a need to be validated. People express themselves differently. Sometimes they don’t say what they mean and other times they don’t mean what they say. Regardless, they are saying something which needs to be both heard and listened to.
Family therapy is an opportunity many families seek when a loved one is in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Together, families can learn how to more actively hear and listen to each other, validate one another’s feelings, and respond in kind. Through treatment, families can heal as loved ones find freedom from addiction.
Tree House Recovery is a men’s addiction treatment facility offering long term partial care options. Our program combines the best of clinically proven therapy, intense fitness regiments, and the adventure of the great outdoors. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474