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Thread: what is the desire to be understood?

  1. #1

    what is the desire to be understood?

    imagine there's a spectrum (or something) of 'being understood'.

    from a practical necessity of communicating for survival "i have food" (my personal favorite) or "go this way, it's safe"; to connecting socially or becoming closer "i can identify" "i care" or "i love you"; to asserting or defending a position or self-concept with crazed intensity "i'm not this, i'm THAT" "you just don't get it!" "i'm going to keep explaining it till you see it how i do" or whatever.

    and then there are the responses, or non-responses. people don't see/do what you want, you don't see/do what they want.... which can, in turn, have this effect or that effect....

    and attitudes: from "is that so?" to "i must make my self (?) understood".

    i personally grew up terrified of being misunderstood, like i would be left to die or be subjugated if i don't 'speak up' and 'make sense'. but i'm going to start sitting with that.

    anyway, all this fear/social requirement keeps me defending/asserting a self. often, real things are at stake-- work, food, shelter, survival. where's the balance?

    teachings? experiences?



  2. #2
    Drop all that in a moment of "Just Sitting"... each and every one of the ideas and doubts you named ... and truly the universe will understand "you".

    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: what is the desire to be understood?


    I can't add anything to Jundo's point, but what you said about the desire to have a self *understood* really resonates with me. Just as much as the desire to be understood, I sometimes have an aversion to being misunderstood - categorized, etc. Hmm. Now I'll be sitting with it too.


  4. #4

    Re: what is the desire to be understood?


    I know what you mean about the desire to be understood. I've always felt I was an alien to my family, friends and associates. A lot of this comes down to having a lot of fear in my life (for no particular reason, mind you.) Through zazen, I've come far enough to recognize when I'm feeling fear (and not calling it other things--like why doesn't anybody like me.... etc.) I'm beginning to understand that it is OK to open myself up and feel OK with other people's reactions, no matter what they are. Chogyam Trungpa, from the Tibetan tradition, calls it the mind of fearlessness--that it is OK to open up that raw, vulnerable part of yourself to the world. I suppose in Zen, they would say that everything is just as it is. Nothing more is needed from the inside or the outside.

    I don't know if this resonates with you at all.

    In gassho,


  5. #5

    Re: what is the desire to be understood?

    A great question, Nicole!
    Hello to you and all others here.
    For me, a twin to this question--so close yet not identical--is the Not Wanting to be Misunderstood.
    What was that song from the 60's? I'm just a man whose intentions are good O, Lord, Please don't let me be misunderstood!
    (I think it was the Animals, but don't know for sure).

    I remember painful PAINFUL endings of relationships when younger (my 20s-30's)--If only I could get HIM (whomever it was at that particular time) to understand me, then all would work out.
    Painful in my 40's too--but I didn't need anyone to understand me, I already understood: what doesn't work, doesn't work, it's perfectly ok--and it's actually a kindness to find out sooner rather than later, and that doesn't matter either--when things work OK and when they don't, OK.

    I remember this long long long and protracted conversation with one person who didn't 'understand' and wanted to understand an exchange I had had with him. We processed this for several hours. I stayed with it, I didn't know this person particularly well, it was a way to get to know him, going over and over nuance and suggestion. I got to see how I DIDN'T have to understand.
    I don't understand the how of most everything and it works out just fine. I don't understand how I walk, how I breathe.
    I don't understand how various things work (phones, radios, CD players--you name it--)but it all is just fine, most of the time functioning A-Ok.

    I think your question is a great one to consider. I'm delighted to linger over it. It's like a jaw breaker--I can't just chomp down on it, this question, I find I really have to just let it linger and dissolve.


  6. #6

    Re: what is the desire to be understood?

    Aloha, Nicole!

    Well, this is a fabulous question. And, like the others who have responded, it was a facet of my own personality for a very, very long time. I think it is one of the reasons I so excelled in English classes...language became so so so important to me because, if I could find the very best way to say a thing, then everyone would know what I meant and I wouldn't get myself into some kind of trouble or be thought of wrongly.

    I think that the answer to this question is going to be differnt for everyone of us. For me, I think it's root stemmed from being raised in a family that was so volitile that the wrong interpretation of anything you did or said was grounds for abusive behaviours. So, early on, I perceived that, if I said the very right thing, if they could just understand what I meant, my parents would love me instead of blow up and beat me. That is the thinking of a child but I believe it is the one that formed this trait and, because of the depth of that formation in my psyche, it continued because, of course, I needed that to happen in my life and I just kept trying and trying to validate it.

    This, for me, then leads to trying to get the boyfriend to not leave me, the husband to not beat me. That if I could find the turn of phrase that meant everything I had inside of me, then all would be well. I would be loved.

    I began meditating and studying Buddhism in my mid-thirties and this particular trait began to be revealed for what it was. By the time I turned 40, it had pretty well dropped away. No one will ever understand me completely, perfectly, because I am a work in progress and some of that work is behind the scenes and not available even to me on a conscious level.

    I seek, now, more to understand the other. To try to be more patient in my communications. There is a movement called Nonviolent Communication and one of the things they teach you is a skill called Deep Listening. When I am truly listening to someone else I will respond in a way that is less likely to be misunderstood or misinterpreted because I am in the present moment and my brain is receptive first, rather than always trying to be responsive. It seems to have worked very well and I have far less unpleasant interactions and, if I'm misunderstood, then that is the way it is.

    Hope this makes a bit of sense...I'm a bit short on sleep and caffeine at the moment...

    In Gassho~

    PS...hope all is going well for you in Hawai'i. Tis my hometown (well, Big Island, but I went to school on O'ahu.)

  7. #7

    Re: what is the desire to be understood?

    This is a big one...

    This desire to be understood seems innate in us. I think it is part of what makes us human.

    Often religion is its ultimate expression. Especially theistic religion. We want this universe to recognize and understand us, just as we want the same from other people.

    Not being understood is being alienated. Our primal brains recognize that as a survival threat. But I think there's more to it than that. We can make ourselves sick looking for this 'understanding.' We are willing to risk, and to die, for it. To share space with others who understand us to some extent lightens the burden of existence.

    This longing, and the love that answers it, comprise one of the biggest mysteries of existence, I think. What is that love?

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