Listening makes me feel good. I don’t do it out of love, or duty; I do it because that is who I am. It confers no rights on me: I have received my reward in full; yet I am well rewarded.
One could not listen without communicating first. I am a person who will not judge you, not your past acts nor your character. You check this out, first, a toe in the water before diving in. You need to hear it before you can trust and unburden. Though some people appear this way, and are not: my philosophy student friend remarked that people told him things; he mimicked this sympathetic type, without being it.
People talk because it is a relief for them. You judge yourself, you tell me, I absolve you, you gather the ability and energy to absolve yourself. Or you feel badly hurt, and resentful: I agree it was not fair and you gain relief. When my mother was dying of cancer, she became dependent on morphine. In hospital, some idiot doctor decided to wean her off it- as if addiction could harm her, at all, then. Reducing her morphine gave her needless pain and probably shortened her life. I told this, later, to a trans man, a consultant in palliative care, and he said that oncologists should have known better; and his few words took away so much of my pain.
Sometimes a person is like a bottomless pit of misery. S/he could talk for an hour sharing pain and gain no relief from it at all.
I feel I earth the pain. I do not take it into myself, but offer it up to God, or let it go. I must sympathise: while listening, I am in the moment with the person, feeling with them, accepting them; then after, I shed the pain, taking a moment to cleanse myself of it.
I loved listening. While it was a necessary part of my job, to delve into secret suffering, what a person could not face, so as to get evidence for DLA or IB, I felt as well as helping with appeals I was giving relief. A person would feel less alone.
Some people are good at it. F was the doctor in the genito-urinary clinic, where all the patients are terrified, who would hear the story of the patient being abused as a child. Other doctors would deal with the presenting physical problem.
So why do I not do it now? There are opportunities, such as the Beaumont Trust telephone line for trans folk to call about practical issues or for a listening ear; for more commitment, there is the Samaritans. I do not want the commitment. I see that commitment as holding forth only possibility of failure, rather than fulfilment. I need to learn to trust.