The Power of Listening

This paper[1] discussed three purposes of listening. The first purpose is compared with Rogers’ stated purpose for “reflection of feelings”. It is to check whether the therapist’s understanding of the client’s inner world is correct----whether the therapist is seeing it as the client is experiencing it at this moment. The reflection or mirroring seems to sharpen the feelings and personal meanings expressed and to make them more explicit. It functions as a kind of subtle invitation. In focusing, the focuser will check the listener’s response against his/her inner being----“the felt sense” and see if an effect of inner loosening (a resonance) be felt.

The second purpose of listening is to express an attitude of non-judgmental presence, a “caring-feeling-presence” that is non-manipulative. It is a state of being able to be with anything without taking sides. The qualities of presence include compassion, allowing, spaciousness, openness, acceptance, patience, gentleness… The third purpose is to support the client in facilitating and maintaining a positive inner relationship with what is inside him/her. It is a kind of “unintrusive contact” where an ‘I’ is attending to an ‘it’.

It also pointed out that the process of listening does not include asking questions, not even by tone of voice. Any question would lead the focuser shifts his/her focus from the inner being to the listener. The more the client is in contact with his/her inner being, and the deeper and closer the client’s contact, the more exact words are needed and will even be insisted on by the empowered client.

What to listen for?

  1. The ‘something’, pointing to the felt experience

  2. What is there and not what’s not there

  3. Whatever is fresh, new, something stirring, always needs support

What to reflect?

  1. Facilitating disidentification

  2. Enlivening the ‘something’

  3. Naming who’s saying it

My learning from this paper is how to go beyond a further step from person-centered therapy. It puts more focus and emphasis on the client and on the client’s client i.e. his/her inner being. The therapist facilitates the carrying forward of one’s experience and the coming out of one’s inner self. The three core conditions of effective therapy are to be transformed into the core conditions of one’s inner experience so that the ultimate goal of self-empathy can be achieved.

[1] Cornell A.W. (2001), The Power of Listening, A paper presented to the 13th International Focusing Conference in Shannon, Ireland.

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