For me one thing about listening is that while I do listen, I am a “fixer” – I take on other people’s problems as my own, I carry them on my shoulders, they occupy me; and I will try to fix them, offer helpful suggestions and all that. I had a sponsee for a while who was incredibly negative and I ended up carrying the weight of that, possibly more than she herself did. Because I take people seriously, I take their concerns seriously, but I have somehow not learned how to draw the line of caring. The result of that is that I avoid getting into people’s lives altogether, I avoid intimacy and true friendship – I am distant. This way, people aren’t comfortable about sharing their problems and issues with me and I don’t have to take them on. This is a big character defect I discovered through my 4th Step.
The community has started me on the road to change in that. In a group setting, I can watch how others respond to someone’s share, how they deal with that person’s difficulties. I don’t have to go up to the person and offer my help. I can, but I don’t have to. I get to see sane reactions by other people, who respond by sharing their own struggles as they relate to the issue at hand, which builds relationship, which is so much more nebulous than a simple “here’s how to fix that”. Fixing someone doesn’t build relationship, I have learned; what it does is it makes someone dependent on me, and that is the *last* thing I want because I feel suffocated by needy people.
So, the GS community has taught me this in a group setting. I have yet to learn it in a personal, one-to-one setting. It’s not a problem I face on a daily basis because I have set my personal boundaries so far out that nobody approaches close enough. So, this needs to be the first thing for me… how to become open, how to make others comfortable. I have done the opposite for so long that I don’t even know how to achieve that.
All I’m saying is that it’s a growth process for me… I have never had a problem with sharing, I have always told my story openly and without shame. And listening comes easily to me, too. The issue is in how I process what I listen to, how I react to it, what it does to me. The fear of that is what has kept me from being a true friend, from being open and loving as I would like to be. It’s the fear.
One day at a time.