A friend told me, one day out of the blue, that he was looking for a listener to help with his problem of Depersonalization Disorder (DPD). His wife of 30 years had just died, and it was a great shock to him.
After this shock to his mind he felt that all that used to be familiar was now foreign to him!
A Listening Helper is someone who helps another to explore their issues by using listening skills.
Most people find talking to an interested listener is good therapy. People want to unburden themselves to another person.
My friend told me what was important to him when talking to a Listener:
He wanted to feel that the person he was talking to had some empathy for his feelings that arose in his situation.
He wanted the Listener to offer ideas but only after he talked his problem through and he is clear about the situation.
He wanted to talk to someone who can be calm, unbiased and demonstrate understanding and shows that he is listening.
The Listener can ask questions to clarify the problem.
The Listener can give ideas to help solve the problem.
He wanted someone with good counseling skills such as:
Listening intently to the speaker to find out how they feel about their problem.
Prescribing and setting a course of action that the speaker can commit to.
Questioning to set the agenda, deciding the course of the conversation.
Then my friend started telling his story:
After the death of his wife of 30 years he became very stressed. He felt disconnected from the world, unfamiliar with people, objects and surroundings that were familiar before the trauma. He felt numb, like he was broke mentally and had lost his “self”.
He tried to act normal around others but really felt like an outsider.
He wanted to unburden himself by telling me his story.
He finished and stared blankly out the window.
I suddenly realized I was the “Listener Helper”.
I took psychology in college and I’ve read about DPD.
Because he came to me with his problem I had to try to help him.
His name is Jim.
“How do you feel right now, Jim?”
“Lately, I have not felt anything but fear, confusion and despair.
Things feel UNREAL to me and I feel detached from myself.
I feel like I’m floating around. I wonder why this is happening?”
“Well Jim, I’ve read that this disorder is the mind’s way of coping with overwhelming shock or stress.
The mind detaches itself from the surroundings for the purpose of survival.”
“ But Listener Helper, please tell me why I feel so weird?”
“Jim, this disorder is called, “Depersonalization” for a reason.
It attacks the one thing that you carry with you everywhere, every day—your SELF! It destroys the things that make you a person, and it drains your ability to make things personal and real.”
“Sometimes, I feel like the stranger inside of me is talking to me.”
“What does the stranger say, Jim?”
“It says: “I am the stranger inside of you and I will make you feel like a stranger to yourself. I did NOT have to ruin your life. You let me do it!”
“Well, that tells you that you CAN expel the stranger with the right therapy.”
“But I think about what’s wrong with me constantly!”
“Jim, you can’t THINK yourself out of DPD!
When thoughts about your problem get stuck in your mind it becomes an obsession.
Also, mental rumination constantly mulls over problems which, in turn, creates chronic worry. Excessive self-focus only will add to your discomfort.”
“What can be done about my DPD?”
“I’ll make a suggestion but YOU have to apply it.
ACCEPTANCE is the key to psychological flexibility.”
“You’re telling me to accept my suffering, how dare you.”
“Struggling and fighting against suffering keeps perpetuating the distress and intensifies it”
“Carry on, Mr. Listener Helper.”
“Your mind has a tendency to present its content as absolutely “true”.
In normal circumstances this is good because if you don’t believe what the mind is telling you, you might not react when faced with a dangerous situation.
But if you say to yourself: I am depressed and feel lousy. Then if you take that as true you will create anxiety and possibly DPD!”
“So, what can be done about my inflexibility?”
“Well Jim, my suggestions are: Do what works as opposed to doing what feels right.
Accept you DPD and stay engaged with life.
Be willing to endure and accept DPD emotional pain and continue living your life.”
“To fight DPD you need to Let Go and live alongside it.
You will recover from feelings of detachment by surrendering to your strange feelings. Stop focusing on how weird you feel and “Live Your Life.”
“So, you’re telling me to pay NO attention to my strange feelings and just get on with my life no matter how I feel.”
“That’s right. Trust in you body’s natural healing system.
Stop caring, stop watching, stop analyzing and ACCEPT how you feel without question. Then the DPD will fade away.”
“Thank you for being my Listener Helper.”
“You’re welcome, Jim. I will leave you with this:
You have been hitting your broken arm each day with a hammer and it is STILL BROKEN! It will mend itself when you STOP hitting it!”
Also published on Medium.