Listening to the Seen and the Unseen

— Carol O’Dowd, MPA, M.Div, RP President, Colorado Association of Psychotherapists

Recovery, whether from addiction or a difficult situation, is aided by listening to the seen and the unseen. Often, how we listen causes us to not see what is in front of us. Have you ever walked into a familiar room to meet with family, friends or business associates and someone points to a new decoration or a piece of furniture in the room? You sat there wondering, “How did that get there?” Sometimes objects go for days being unseen. Our ancestors go unseen flowing as DNA in our veins while being powerful forces making us, us. Some of us grew up in households where we were trained to be addicted whether to alcohol or other substances. We learned to be pawns in a game with our unseen emotions.

Another option is to listen and notice the messages we hold and consciously choose which ones we want to play with instead of letting them play us. When the voice in our head is an old message from Mom, Dad or a memory of destructive family argument from long ago, we can create space between us and the message. We can take a moment to breathe in and hold in our fist the ghoul of anger, fear, frustration or the voice crying out “Go get a drink.” We can then set down the unseen emotion, unclasp our fist and release it. We can breathe out lovingkindness into our pain and sorrow. We can breathe in lovingkindness that we send to that space in our body where we held the destructive emotion. We can tell that portion of our body to relax. We can breathe out lovingkindness to the ghoul in front of us and tell it, “I do not need you right now. Please stay here. For the next 20 minutes I have a project to do a without you.”

Yes, those unseen emotions and old tapes can be so powerful, they keep returning. The practice is to listen carefully so that you can choose the ones you want to influence you. Seeing them as thoughts or emotions gone awry, you can put them inside a doll, rock, pencil holder or other object. Then pick them up and set them aside. If only for a moment, you can walk away without them. Although they may return, each time, they do so with less force. You can listen instead to acts of kindness from those in your past. In one moment you can listen to messages from the unseen to guide you to see more of the world right in front of you. You can consciously choose to spend time with people, animals and spirit beings who inspire you to live in a world of peace.

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Contact me at if you want to join a group that will be exploring the practice of deep listening on Sunday mornings starting in February.