All tagged deep listening

I Really Want To Share This - Friendship Bench

I really want to share this article, and wonder what feelings it evokes in you as you read it.

It sum:

It describes how a psychiatrist in Zimbabwe noticed that there were so many people struggling with depression and other emotional pain who had so little access to mental health professionals. There were way too little mental health professionals to support this massive demand. Many of these people struggled to live on and some sadly, succumbed to their emotional pain by taking their own lives.

Shaken and yet under-resourced, he desperately trained a handful of neighborhood grannies on basic counselling processes, and set up Friendship Benches in public places where people in need could come talk to these grannies. These grannies also used their cultural knowledge and wisdom accumulated through a lifetime of their own struggles to Listen, and to help.

It worked.

People started getting better. Anyone in pain could just visit a Bench and talk their hearts out, laying out the agonies they have had to carry privately.

Better still, the mental health of these grannies seem to improve despite the burden of Listening to and sharing so much emotional pain. They felt that what they did was so very meaningful.

About K-Pop, BTS and Listening

I’m probably going to get into some trouble writing about this next topic only because it’s extremely popular and with popularity, it can be so easy to tread on toes. But in light of the recent World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d like to share my thoughts.

So, ahem.

I’m going to be writing about….K-Pop (Korean Pop). To be more specific, K-Pop artistes. For those of you who don’t know, K-Pop is a MASSIVE industry in South Korea that is currently taking the world by storm for its music, flashy choreography and increasingly, the socially-conscious messages in their lyrics. It also generates billions of dollars of income for the country and is a bit of a cultural showcase.

This little background might give you a bit of a sense of what it means to be a K-Pop artist (they call them idols). While it does look glamorous, the journey to becoming an idol is gruesome, and the lifestyle of an idol rising to the top can be brutal. If you think that once they’ve reached the top and became successful that their lives would be better, then you might want to think again.

There are huge expectations and pressures to be role models, to look like you’re doing well, to look good, and to have all your shit together, all without any personal space to speak of. You’re under constant public scrutiny and have to walk within the tight lines of your very restrictive contract with your agency. Once you’re at the top, these kinds of pressures would also reach their peak.

I have often wondered about the mental health of these idols – often very young men and women (or perhaps I should call them boys and girls) – under the weight of their careers. They are only human but required to be super-human, almost like gods.

So I did a search and came across these articles (see link below). It seems that there are quite a few K-Pop idols who ARE struggling with mental health issues, or had done so in the past. I’m not surprised. In fact, a part of me went “ah-HAH!” or “Cha-ching!”

Another part of me deflated a little bit - with guilt and shock. I do enjoy watching and listening to K-Pop (and people's reactions to this genre), but in the process I've overlooked (perhaps willingly) that these idols are human beings who are struggling.

Empathy Starts From Within

I love the analogy by the Reverend Thich Nhat Hanh. Empathy is the basic effort to appreciate the internal world of another person or creature. With a little bit of effort and heart, most of us can muster up the capacity to empathize with some people. We might not get it right but we can roughly feel what they feel.

However, most of us neglect to empathize with one person.


We often end up blaming, shaming, criticizing, hating on and banishing parts or all of ourselves. Is it any wonder that we end up feeling fractured or even empty? If we keep subtracting bits of ourselves, then at the end of the day, there’s not much left, is there?

Now consider this. Whenever you’ve empathized with someone – given the message that “you know (kind of) what it’s like for them” – what happens to that person? Did they soften a little bit more and become more relaxed? Did relief peek through the dark clouds on their faces? Did they feel less alone in their suffering?

Did they feel better, even if it were only for a little bit?