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Duncan, E. (1991). Listening: A Communication. Psychoanal. Rev., 78(1):127-133.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Review, 78(1):127-133

Listening: A Communication

Erika Duncan

The other day a friend engaged in studying homeopathy asked me why she should feel so utterly exhausted merely from listening. “I kept wanting to say, would you like to stop for a cup of tea, but I was afraid to interrupt her,” she confessed to me. She hadn't been seeing patients very long, and was very aware that while she knew her book of remedies backward and forward, and while she was extremely good at “hearing” the articulation of particular problems, she hadn't yet learned how to put the two together. “Do you think I'll get better at this as I go along?” she asked.

At first I suggested that perhaps she wasn't interrupting enough, perhaps she wasn't taking an active enough role in directing the session and thus was becoming exhausted by her own lack of control. But she quickly reassured me that homeopaths are trained not to interrupt. (By way of experiment, at this point I would like to ask my readers to try to monitor their reading of this story and the various tales to follow. How many times do you imagine that you interrupt, to ask why I've inserted this or that, or to try to figure out where I want you to take your thought? Perhaps you find yourself becoming distracted by the extraneous content, thinking more about homeopathy than listening; perhaps you find yourself becoming annoyed by the seeming digressions. In my own teaching, I find that I often tell stories just slightly aslant of the point I am trying to make to provide my students a kind of cooling off zone in which they will echo my process, free-associating out of my story to one of their own that will serve a similar purpose and allow them to retain with relevance what I am trying to teach.)


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