Who do I "tune out" when I listen to others?

Postby 90jk » Thu May 14, 2020 8:40 am

Hello, just joined this forum. To get straight to the point, I have a behaviour that makes me tune out a lot when I listen to others that makes me misunderstand them or miss their point completely.

The most common type of feedback I get is from with my spouse, (even though I do it a lot of time with people I know well) is that she's pointed out in our conversations that a lot of the time I've formed my own stories in my head whilst she's still speaking and hence gone off tangent with what she's saying. I also tend to "jump" quickly to a response without taking a pause to really understand and grasp the situation.

For the sake of understanding I'll give you a very clear simple example. My spouse (or somebody else) would talk about a dream where she is on a canoe in the middle of a lake, crossing the river to get to a shoreline. Halfway across the journey across the lake before reaching the shore she comes across some ducks swimming the opposite direction along the water. At this point in the story, I would begin to think about the ducks and finish the rest of the story in my head. I might think about the ducks a bit longer, or start painting other parts of the picture, all while my spouse is still explaining the rest of the story (e.e. reaching the shoreline, or seeing something else along the way). By this point I've lost her and she frustratingly (understandably) has to repeat the details of the story I've missed because I've "tuned out" to the rest of it.

Another example is that I might look at a simple set of data on the computer and form a quick conclusion about it based on what I think is right rather than take the extra bit of time to understand it and form a quick & easy analysis to understand the data and be correct. I just "jump" to whatever immediately makes sense.

I've been perfectly capable of listening to strangers talk and share and be very sharp at responding to them (say for example in a group meetup where you haven't met most of the people). I could be wrong. My (now recently divorced) parents also had a dysfunctional relationship whilst I was growing up. They both didn't really face their childhood demons, had poor communication, and couldn't agree much on parenting styles. My mum is a chatty people person and my dad, an engineer type, is mostly interested in "things". From most of what I can remember, he would pretty much stonewall her/tune out when she came back home from work and tried talking to him. They both suffered from Anxiety/depression probably due to ongoing marriage conflict/not facing their childhood demons.

For extra infos sake, I moved around 3 different countries, attended 7 different schools + university from preschool to graduation for the sake of the family moving to different countries for work/closer to family purposes. I'm an athlete with a healthy/active lifestyle, a decent diet, self-employed with productive hobbies. I'm almost 30 years old.

This might be the type of thing that warrants more questions, for example "Do I care much about my spouse/friends?" - Yes I care about her more than anything in the world, and care about my friends. My brain also runs pretty quickly i.e. I have "fast thoughts". If there's something missing from the puzzle that needs to be solved please feel free to probe.
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#1

Postby Candid » Thu May 14, 2020 10:41 am

Hello, 90jk, and welcome to our forum.

a very clear simple example. My spouse (or somebody else) would talk about a dream where she is on a canoe in the middle of a lake...


There's nothing more boring than listening to someone else's dreams. I believe it's normal to 'go away' in your own head during a prolonged recital. You're guaranteed to 'come to' when a question is asked at the end. In my experience (also with spouse) it's usually: "What do you think that means?"

You surely don't need to have heard every detail. Good answers include:
What do YOU think it means?
How did you FEEL about that?
Could it be something you ATE last night?
What did the RIVER remind you of?
or even
Wow! That was some dream!

I might look at a simple set of data on the computer and form a quick conclusion...


This sounds like an evolutionary adaptation to the need for rapid deductions when required to absorb a lot of information. It's only a problem if you leap into action without first testing the hypothesis.

I've been perfectly capable of listening to strangers talk and share and be very sharp at responding to them (say for example in a group meetup where you haven't met most of the people). I could be wrong.


To me it seems as though you're under a lot of stress, possibly related to your parents' divorce. That kind of thing shifts the ground under your feet and is almost always ANXIETY-provoking.

he would pretty much stonewall her/tune out when she came back home from work and tried talking to him.


Are you concerned about history repeating itself in your own marriage? If my previous paragraph feels right, maybe you need to talk about it with your spouse.

I moved around 3 different countries, attended 7 different schools + university from preschool to graduation...


I have a similar background, more than 50 addresses by the time I turned 60. In my case it relates to my dad being very unsettled and, I think, passing that on to me, plus some dysfunctional labelling of my parents' four children. I'm perpetually on the run!

My brain also runs pretty quickly i.e. I have "fast thoughts".


I wonder whether you drink a lot of coffee? See if this http://www.doctoryourself.com/caffeine_allergy.html fits.
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#2

Postby mute » Sat May 23, 2020 7:17 am

how are you with remembering names and phone numbers when people tell you a short message do you also tune out and have to ask again?

that's a very common thing when you are under stress
think of it this way
when you have 50 internet explorer windows open all playing a video on youtube
does every operation lag when you try to say type in a search term in google
same thing happens in your brain

your brain always processing information in background. monitoring stuff etc. planning reorganizing defragmenting etc.
when you have UNRESOLVED and long term or even chronic stress
it literally puts a heavy load on your "ram" which is also your short term memory.
you are technically listening, you just not writing down the info.
as they say in one ear out the other...

or another cause would be some recent or childhood trauma where you would intentionally block or "filter out" external inputs.such as people talking to you or even something that is there but you don't see it.
think of when bad smells, after few minutes your brain simply filters them out.

I had both of those cases throughout the years.
tuning out is from stress, so learn to clear your "ram"-short term memory
blocking is from traumatic experience, I had to purposely focus and literally flip an imaginary switch in my head to STOP ALL OTHER ACTIVITY so I would have no choice but to hear the incoming message.
it took about a year to actually rewire my brain.
haven't had that issue for about 6 years now
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#3

Postby 90jk » Sat May 23, 2020 2:50 pm

Thanks for the responses. What tends to align in both responses is the "stress component" which is definitely true. I grew up in a stressed out environment a lot of the time. Have been doing trying meditation on and off and recently have been doing it for the past 50 straight days and am noticing massively improved results. It's amazing when you're able to come into contact with your emotions and label them as you become detached from them and they dissolve.

Mute - your response in particular discusses the "intentionally blocking out" part, I grew up with a pretty verbally abusive father and would choose to mostly tune out when he was around. At 5:30pm everyday upon him returning home my behaviour would become like an avoidant. As we all know, our childhood patterns continue into adulthood and we need to deal with and process them to move on.

Mute, why did you feel you had to rewire your brain? What made it work for you after doing the year of hard work which has given you liberty over the past 6 years?
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#4

Postby mute » Sun May 24, 2020 3:26 am

a learned response to verbal abuse, tuning it out after years of being exposed to that your brain applies it to other situations
I don't remember the details its been a while since I read about it.
it wasn't really hard work for a year.
it was hard work tracing the actual problem as it happens in real time

where I knew I wouldn't hear the message first time anyway so instead of listening I started to look inside and mapping the entire process that was going on in my mind
the computer analogy really helps to do that.
I was listening to what feelings come up during that
listening to my brain's response and where does the information go after I hear it and why its not being processed

consider this also
according to the research from few years ago. we actually have a ridiculously fast processor that processes all the sensory inputs at once.so it seems like you can actually multitask and process multiple inputs seamlessly at once.. which is an illusion.
but its a single threaded processor. meaning it can only process one stream at a time
which is also the reason why we can get hypnotized by overloading multiple sensory inputs at once and backing up that single thread processor..
anyway
that was the hard part.coming to that realization
focusing my attention on a single input was not that hard actually
after about 3 months it got much more consistent where I was able to recall it most of the time without focusing specifically
I mean it was embarrassing when I had to ask a girl at a nightclub what her name was like 5 times...
but essentially what I was doing is rewiring old patterns in my brain.
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