We've written before on this site about the wonderful adage from Christian existentialist Paul Tillich that "the first duty of love is to listen." With the month of November being Military Family Month (per presidential proclamation last year at this time), maybe we need a little more encouragement to really listen to the military families around us.
Of particular concern is the fact that approximately 85% of caregivers are women -- and in the case of military families where one member has combat-based PTSD, it's also possible that his or her caregiver has also served, and has struggles of his or her own. The plight of the two-servicemember couple, where one or both have PTSD, and one or both are also caregiving: Imagine the difficulties.
Are we as a community really listening -- or asking first appropriately and then listening caringly -- to how difficult that can be, or how few resources there are at their disposal? More on that later, but in the meantime, a further definition of what real listening is, so we can set our hearts and minds to it better, for the benefit of others:
Psychologist Abraham Maslow defined "real" listening as: to listen "without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling (about) what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all."
Editor's note: When informal listening isn't enough, professional listening services are available from Give an Hour and The Soldiers Project. Those programs are staffed by trained counselors who offer their services to military members and their families, without charge and in some cases for as long as it takes. (Contact those programs for specifics.) The nation's network of Vet Centers also offers counseling services to family members, once their veteran has registered (even if he or she doesn't partake of services there). There's also the suggestion, in this well-written opinion piece, that we turn Veteran's Day, November 11, into a national "Day of Listening" to our veterans -- and their families.