“My neighbour never stops crying. What can I do?”

What do you do when you hear your neighbour constantly crying and sense that she is in distress?  This is exactly Pieter’s predicament.  He lives in a small studio in town and is often at home due to illness.  A young student recently moved in next door, but Pieter isn’t enjoying the experience. 

“The wall is so thin and she is so loud” he tells VRT.  I believe she has serious emotional problems.  Sometimes she throws things at the wall.  Her crying sounds like the crying of a young child.  She cries during the daytime and at night.  When her boyfriend visits, they often row.  In the evenings friends turn up.  In the morning I’m woken by the sound of vomiting”.

To avoid hearing the noise Pieter often uses his headphones, but this can’t sort the unease that he is experiencing as a result of the situation.  “I grew up in a family that rowed a lot.  It serves as a trigger for me.  I suspect my neighbour is a very dependant person and I don’t dare to raise the issue or offer help”.

“At home I am no longer at peace” says Pieter.  “How do I broach the subject with my neighbour?”

VRT Radio 1’s “Nieuwe Feiten” (New Facts) programme has enlisted the help of Rika Ponnet, a relational therapist to provide an answer to questions like these!

Rika suggests that Pieter certainly raises the matter:“You can do this in a connecting way.  Tell her the wall is very thin and that you don’t want to infringe on her privacy. Tell her you can hear things, you shouldn’t be hearing and that you are trying to be quiet.  Tell her you are trying to take account of the situation and hope that she is too.  In this way you are not attacking her.  Don’t broach the subject when you are angry.”

Rika says that Pieter is above all noticing subjective noise disturbance and that’s linked to his past: “Objective noise disturbance is all about decibels, but it’s not about that now”.

Growing up in a family with a lot of conflicts and tension, can cause a lot of stress. “As a child this is something you are subjected to while you are powerless, because you are reliant on your parents. It affects your development and health enormously: it’s a trauma that will never disappear.  This is an injury that is now being reopened by your neighbour, because the noise from the neighbour returns Pieter to the feeling of helplessness at home.  In a situation like that he can’t be at ease”.

“When Pieter raises the issue, he will be forming a connection.  When do you take account of one another?  When you feel the other is sufficiently important.  You offer a hand, but that doesn’t mean you will be there every evening for her”.

For Pieter the situation can help to ease and repair his trauma.  “Today, as an adult, he has the power to say to somebody that he is offering help within his means.  He’s killing two birds with one stone and I’m sure it will make Pieter feel better” says Rika.

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