Quite recently there was television footage of a politician surrounded by his advisers, listening to a voter telling him what she thought about a particular subject.

The commentary was about how this politician had been listening to this woman, and was designed to show him in a more human light in paying attention to and listening to what people were telling him.

A closer examination of the footage showed quite simply that while she was talking, he was holding back from speaking, just waiting to come back and talk at her. Being silent, or holding back, or holding your tongue while someone else is talking is not listening.

Listening skills are something that are supposedly taught in many of the caring professions such as nursing and medicine. Whilst it is questionable whether listening can be taught to people, it is a good thing that it is recognised that many people in the caring professions do not listen either literally or emotionally to the people they are caring for, and that it needs to be addressed as an issue.

The value and importance of listening goes way beyond simply being silent when someone else is talking. The importance of listening is about being emotionally present with the other person, and giving them a space where they are able to share with you what is going on with them in their lives, without the expectation of being told what is wrong with them, or what they can do to fix the situation.

The real importance of listening to someone is that it validates who they are and where they are as being okay simply because that is where they are or who they are. It implies no judgement about them as a person, and gives them a sense of stability that they are validated because of their uniqueness as a person not because of what they are doing or who they are.

In a therapeutic sense the importance of listening is a key element in the recovery process affecting many alcoholics and drug addicts and their families. Listening in a practical sense is a huge part of sharing in AA/NA meetings as well as more structured group therapeutic work in a rehab.

In other fellowships such as Al-Anon, the very structure of the meeting is designed to give people a space to be able to share what they need to share, whilst other people listen without interrupting or judging them. This is more than simply some type of social etiquette or structural rule of a group.

It is an acknowledgement that people who have grown up with or have been affected by someone else's alcoholism are very rarely listened to in their own right as people.

The recovery process for people who are alcoholics and who are members of a family affected by alcoholism, has many varied aspects, but one of the most important is a validation of the person as being a unique individual. It is also a validation that what that person is experiencing is legitimate and true purely because they are experiencing it.

This freedom to experience feelings about oneself and other people without judgement is key. The recovery process for alcoholics and their families, whatever direction it takes is in large part an emotional and spiritual one, although the distinction between emotions and spirituality is pretty false.

A person's emotions will give that person information about what is happening to them and how they experience it and how they make sense of it.

They need a space to be able to accept that experience as being valid without judgement. In order to do this effectively they need other people to listen to them and given that sense of security.

This can also happen in a one-to-one situation, most likely in some type of personal or individual therapy, either in a rehab or in some type of counselling support, pre or post sobriety.

In many ways it is the safety of a therapeutic relationship on a one-to-one basis that allows a person to feel secure enough to own their own feelings and begin the process of healing any hurts that may have fuelled their alcoholism or been a major emotional drive within the family.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Main is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes extensively about all areas of self growth and self development. He has a particular focus on self help issues for people who are in recovery from or who have been affected by alcoholism and other addictions.Some people begin their journey of recovery and healing in a rehab, others in a twelve step fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous, others in a religious or spiritual setting. He has worked in this field for just under thirty years and has extensive experience in many areas of different therapeutic approaches, including counselling, inner child work,meditation, spirituality, adult children work etc