Have you ever heard someone use the term “selective hearing”? Selective hearing occurs when a person’s auditory signals are directed towards the things that they wish to hear while unpleasant noise is essentially blocked from their brain’s processing system. This is not a physical disability as all noises are received by the individual’s auditory system, but only the sounds that encourage a pleasing or positive response tend to make it to the listener’s mind for further processing. These types of habits can be very evident in young children who respond very favorably to gifts and rewards but seem to be able to tune out responsibility and punishment altogether. That’s to be anticipated right? I mean they’re just kids. It’s when we see these traits present themselves in adults that we aren’t nearly as forgiving.
I think that we all expect age and maturity to rid those around us of the childlike attributes that make relationships and communication difficult. So often we respond quickly with negativity to the selective hearers in our lives who distort our words and gather alternative meanings from the things that we say. It can be challenging not to…we all want to be acknowledged for the truth and sincerity behind the statements that we make. But we need to be careful not to let the pot call the kettle black. The reality is that we all employ selective hearing from time to time. In a world where technology and rapid processing is being pushed on us day after day, it has become a means of survival. The world can be overwhelming. And society’s pace of living will not slow down anytime soon. So you need to expect people to fast forward to the good parts, it’s their way of finding comfort in the midst of madness.
That’s a challenging one. Too much comfort will kill you. But we all desire a little of that home cooking, hug from mama-type of feeling every once in awhile. The unfortunate thing about comfort is that it’s far too often a blatant liar. Comfort is many times the byproduct of living a fear driven life. And fear is a monster. It will seek to control every aspect of your being by encouraging you to run back to safety every single time that adversity comes knocking. Fear uses comfort to manipulate the mind into retreating at the first perceived threat. When you cater to comfort, your appetite for risk is starved. And your life becomes a representation not of who you are meant to be but rather who you feel safe in being among those around you.
Individuals ridden with fear and anxiety are notorious for being selective listeners. I know this to be true because I’ve been one of those people at varying points of my life. As a person with anxiety, I had a place that I considered my comfort zone. It was a lot like home base in a game of tag with children. As a kid, it takes a bit of courage to step out of security and run with the other children at the threat of being caught. That first step out into the danger zone sends most kids’ adrenaline through the roof. And like children, many people love that rush. Some spend their lives seeking it. But individuals with anxiety and panic disorders are wired a bit differently. We will spend every waking moment trying to avoid that feeling because to us, the adrenaline spike can be absolutely intolerable. When we are threatened with fear, our minds instruct us to remain as close to our comfort zones (home bases) as possible. And unfortunately to our detriment, many times we listen.
While it may frustrate you to find yourself in a conversation with someone who employs selective hearing, please do keep in mind that they are suffering too in ways that they cannot necessarily understand in that moment. A person who is risk or responsibility averse or who is overwhelmed with fear and anxiety will often selectively hear the words that give them comfort. Because that is a person’s number one goal when threatened by fear, to restore peace and quiet. Already in a position to feel overcome by panic and anxiety, a person will often make every effort to tune out all of the words that could possibly pose a threat to their calm. And they will latch on to the words that bring them peace. It’s a means of survival in their battle with fear.
That’s why in my recovery from a severe anxiety disorder I’ve tried to make a focused effort to become uncomfortable with comfort. I take risks and make efforts to push myself beyond my preconceived limits every single day. Because I know that I am going to be put in positions in life, in situations and in conversations with others that are going to cause me to hear things a certain way. And I want my mind to be trained to respond to adversity effectively when I receive an auditory signal of distress. I was not put on this earth to ignore or flee the battles that lie before me…I was put here to fight them. If I make it a habit of attaching my peace and happiness to comfort, I will sleep through the siren beckoning me to war.
And this is a battle that I must fight, not simply for myself but for others too who are now resting quietly in their comfort zones unaware of the blood being shed just outside their windows. Perhaps someday they will hear my victory cry and start envisioning for themselves the glory to found in adversity. Then when the enemy returns they will be prepared to listen to their calling and slay the comfort driven soul within.
Selective hearing doesn’t need to be your downfall. You just need to be careful to tune in to the right programming.
May God Bless!