“… As a counselor herself, she knew that talking about her depression would help her feel better…”
Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of mental illness. There is an increased awareness of depression as a medically treatable condition. Most people experience occasional depression as the random feeling of being lonely or sad. With major depression, however, a person feels like they’re stuck in a cave with no hope of escape. By choosing to discuss her situation with me, my friend had thrown out a lifeline. As a counselor herself, she knew that talking about her depression would help her feel better. I felt honored to be on the receiving end of the conversation. She’d been there for me in the past when I had been caught in psychosis. This time, I got to be the listener.
There’s hearing and then there’s listening. Hearing is the passive activity of taking in audible sounds. Listening is a skill that facilitates effective communication. Active listening is a communications technique which acknowledges the other person’s feelings while deciphering the message they’re conveying, creating a sense of empathy and nonjudgemental reflection. The party speaking feels validated rather than merely heard. Paying attention to the other person’s words, and repeating ideas and phrases to confirm that you understand what they’ve said, demonstrates respect for their feelings, creating a sense of closeness. This is the result we all strive for when we’re sharing—to be listened to and understood.