Keeping it Real: Know Your Ego’s Defenses!

hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Are there things in your life you are not allowing yourself to fully see?  Are you keeping them tucked away on the edge of your awareness where you can’t feel them?  What would happen if you let those things come fully into your awareness?

To live in a manner fully consistent with our truth, we must confront reality as it IS.  Not as we would like it to be.  Not as we imagine it might be some day.  What. are. you. feeling. and. experiencing. in. your. life. right. now.  There is pain there, and vulnerability, yes.  But guess what else is there?  YOUR LIFE.   True reality is that shaky, vulnerable place where you actually FEEL alive.  It is that open, spacious freedom where you realize you can actually ask for what you want, that it is okay to desire, that you are allowed to be human, and true love and connection are possible.  There is an incredible amount of vibrant energy there.

How do we live from this shaky open, true place?  If you are like most people, you have become so skilled at escaping reality that you do not even realize that you are doing it.  Our wonderful egos have protected our spirits in various ingenious ways.  When we were young and our egos were developing, these defenses helped us survive.  Now that we are grown, these same defenses constrict our awareness and distort our perception.

To be able to unravel our egos’ work and meet reality head-on, it helps to become familiar with the ego’s tricks.  With assistance from a book I am reading now, The Inward Arc: Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality by Frances Vaughan, here is a wonderful list of ego defenses.  Read them, know them, and learn to recognize when you are doing them.  As you become familiar with the ways you struggle to gain control OVER life, you will naturally relax these defenses and gain more clarity.  (I find that it is possible to sense the ego kicking in at an energetic level, a slight escaping or lessening of intensity.  This is part (all?) of what we are beginning to notice when we sit in meditation.)

Woo!  What a rush.  When you can SEE the truth, you can LIVE from the truth.  Like plunging into a cold pool, and laughing because the water is shocking but oh so refreshing . . .

EGO DEFENSES: COMMON WAYS TO ESCAPE REALITY

Denial (“Everything is fine.”)
Simply, the blank refusal to acknowledge what you do not want to see or feel.  When unconscious, you will not be aware that you are in denial.  All you will be aware of is that you think things are “fine” or “manageable” or you “can handle it” (often, denial can manifest as a weird insistence on your own strength to handle things).  You numb yourself out to your own pain or destructive patterns.  (Positive affirmations can work to increase denial.)

Projection/Blame (“It is THEIR Fault…”)
The inability to accept a part of your own consciousness, so you project it out onto other people.  Because you deny your own anger for example, others appear overly angry to you, and their anger might feel overwhelming or intense.  You then assume that the “cause” of your discomfort is the other person, rather than owning and accepting that the original discomfort comes from within.

Shame/Repression (“It is MY fault. . . “)
You are aware that you are feeling a certain way (angry, sad, vulnerable), but you do not think that it is safe or okay for you to actually be feeling that way, so you bury it.  Instead of just feeling that feeling, you feel shame and low self-worth.  I think of shame/repression as the flip side of blame.  Instead of pushing the energy OUT towards to the other, you pull it INTO yourself.  Either way, you are escaping the full brunt of reality.

Reaction Formation (“I’ll do it first.”)
To avoid being hurt, you become what you fear.  If what you are actually experiencing is a deep fear of abandonment, you might avoid this feeling by becoming really good at leaving people quickly.  If you are afraid of aggression and violence, you might become a bully to avoid feeling your fear and pain around this issue.  I am rubber and you are glue . . .

Rationalization (“Well maybe I didn’t actually feel that way . . .”)
You explain and justify whatever thoughts/feelings/action you judge to be unacceptable.  You feel something in the moment, but later on, you talk yourself out of it.  If you felt hurt or angry, you convince yourself that you did not have a “reason” to feel that way.  You move an intense feeling from your HEART to your HEAD, where you can dissect it.  In the process, you avoid processing your feelings and actions as they actually manifested.  (If we consistently cling to spiritual “knowledge” that does not yet exist at a heart level, we can rationalize away reality and actually increase our separation from life.  “We are all one . . .” “I forgive you, because we are all love . . . ”  There is a reason why this often comes off as inauthentic!)

Regression (“I am so hurt!  Rescue me!”)
You feel pain/anger, but instead of taking ownership of it, you make the other person responsible for fixing it.  You don’t recognize the ways that you are creating the conditions that allow this pain to arise.  In a sense, you project your own power onto the other person because it is too scary to recognize it in your self.  (As Marianne Williamson says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”)

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Finding Energy to Move Through Daily Life

Tonight I had dinner with two close women friends.  We are all in different stages of our lives.  One is not currently working, but managing property.  One is running her own spirituality-based business.  And I am currently working for a company.

Despite the different stages in our lives, we all connected deeply when the entrepreneur among us spoke of the feeling of having to drag herself to accomplish things.  “It seems like there are always things to do, and it gets overwhelming, and I just don’t want to do them anymore.”

Our conversation made me realize two things that I wanted to share with you.

First, if you also feel secretly overwhelmed and exhausted by the seemingly endless demands of life, you are not alone.  You are not doing anything wrong.  There is nothing wrong with you.  This is life.  It is demanding and requires us to meet its challenges again and again.  I know that I have a hidden belief that other people–especially those who are doing fulfilling things like running their own spirituality-based businesses-don’t have to deal with everyday crap.  It is a relief to know that I am not in the remedial class of life.  No matter how much you love what you are doing, it can be a drag to get things done.

The second thing I realized is based off of what Thomas Huebl shared this weekend.  (See here for my other post on his speech.)  He said that when we end the day depleted, the issue is not what we did.  The issue is how we approached our day, how deeply we connected with what was going on.  When we learn to be fully present, then we emerge energized and vibrant.

What these two insights open up for me is this.  The idea that there is some “end” out there . . .  just around the corner . . . maybe if we fixed a few things. . . took care of a a few more . . . is an illusion. Something else will always arise.  We can, however, find freedom and peace and ease by completely surrendering to what is on our plate.  If we give ourselves 100% to the task in front of us, there is no friction and no drain.

Rather than pretending I have the answer to how this is actually accomplished, I will honor these insights by shifting the question I am asking.  Instead of daydreaming about some alternative life where there are no more demands (“When does this end?”), I will ask myself: “How can I dive more deeply into the life I already have?  How can I open more fully to the demands of daily life?  Does the rhythm of my daily life require a break right now?”  Oftentimes by shifting our perspective, we find the answer we are looking for.

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Standing Up for Yourself

I used to think of standing up for yourself as something you did when someone was being obviously rude and mean.  “Hey, you can’t do that to me!” you might shout.  But I have learned that standing up for yourself can come in many different forms, some much less obvious.

For example, you may have to protect yourself against someone you love: a friend, a lover, a family member.   That can make it that much more difficult because we are conditioned to believe that being close to someone means tolerating their hurtful or painful behavior.  We feel guilty cutting off someone we love (or we don’t want to admit that someone we love can treat us this way).  These self-limiting beliefs often prevent us from realizing that even in these intimate relationships, we are still in charge of taking care of ourselves.

To claim our full power, we must redefine what it means to stand up for ourselves.  It is not just a situation where we give a piece of our mind to a bully.  It is the hundreds of small ways that we say YES to ourselves, even if it means saying NO to someone else.   It can be done quietly, with love and grace.  It is often doorway to greater intimacy, not less.  For how can you truly love someone else if you are feeling vulnerable and unsafe?

Let’s examine how this works in practice.

How do you learn to identify situations where you need to stand up for yourself?  Every situation is different, but often you may not recognize it until it happens a few times.  So look for situations that keep on re-occuring with a friend that feels uncomfortable to you.  Each time, you might react in a slightly different way.  Maybe you dismiss it because you think you are strong enough to handle the pain, and the other person’s action are unconscious.  It’s not that “big of a deal.”  Maybe you “have a talk” with the other person, during which they recognize the issue and vow to change.  Maybe you question whether you have a right to feel uncomfortable.  Maybe you hide your uncomfortableness because you don’t want to scare the other person away.

All of these reactions have one thing in common:  you set yourself up to allow the situation to occur again.

At first it may be wise to take that risk, to see if the other person can change.  But when it happens again and again, that is a signal that it is YOU who must make a change in the situation.  The other person is not going to make that change for you.  You are sticking your foot out so that they can step on it.  Because they don’t realize that they are doing so (or they do realize, but can’t stop), it is you who must move your foot.

So the next question:  how do you make this change?  Often, we recognize that we need to act with more self-respect, but we feel totally stuck in this negative patterns.  Here are some insights from my own experience:

  • Allow life to change.  It can be brutally hard to realize that an era is over, a certain innocence and dreams are gone.  Grieve if you must, but adjust.  Make your life fit YOU, don’t cut yourself down to fit life.  If you can let go of the past, you will naturally find the courage to face the future.  (A helpful exercise is when you catch yourself wishing things were different, don’t push that thought away.  Instead, examine it closely.  Recognize what you are trying to hold on to.  Then, with a deep breath, let it go.  Feel the freedom of not fighting to hold on.  Notice the lightness in your body.  You are still here.  Life will go on.)
  • Act out of love for yourself, not anger or resentment towards the other person.  When you act of anger towards the other person, your resolve is muddy and weak.  When you act of love for yourself, your choices are firmly grounded and clear.  This does not mean that you may not experience anger–that is perfectly normal.  Greet it with compassion and recognize that you are larger than it.  Then out of that larger awareness, decide what is best for you.  Remember that you are not here to teach anyone else a lesson, you are just here to grow yourself.  Wish the other person well on their own path.
  • What feels right to you does not have to make sense.  Don’t try and analyze what your heart is telling you.  You don’t have to justify it to anyone, even yourself.  Accept who you are fully and wholly, along with your unique preferences and boundaries.

I hope these insights are helpful to you on your journey.  If you have any stories about your own journey on the path to self-respect and standing up for yourself, please share.  Much love and light!

 

 

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Transparent Communication– teachings from Thomas Huebl

This morning, I participated in a free 75 minute talk by Thomas Huebl, sponsored through the SHIFT network.   For those who are not familiar with the SHIFT network, check-it-check-it out.  It is a hub of conscious teachers who are offering courses and lectures online.

I had not heard of Thomas Huebl before, but the SHIFT network sent me an email about the talk.  My attention was caught by the fact that part of his teachings focused on Transparent Communication.  More and more I am realizing that my spiritual path lies in embodied spirituality–not how to transcend, but how to bring more presence and clarity to my every day existence, with an emphasis on conscious communication and interpersonal relations.  So I was very intrigued.  Although somewhat put off by his Jesus-like flowing locks.

Despite his obvious need for a makeover, Thomas ended up being an intense and obviously highly evolved teacher.  His wisdom and clarity were magnetic, and kept me engrossed for the full 75 minutes.  He talks about working at an energetic level as well as an intellectual one, and I could definitely feel that.  I felt incredibly charged.   To share a bit of what he discussed, here are the two main questions driving Transparent Communication:

1) How can I live my life so that my heart and presence stay available for the next moment instead of getting “stuck” or “caught” in past?  For example, if we have an interaction and something about it throws me off, I will still be processing it even when the conversation is over.  That makes me less available for whatever comes next.  To be 100% available for whatever is arising in any given moment, we need to learn to allow experiences to flow through us cleanly, rather than contracting around them.
Why do we contract, and how can we stay present?  When we leave a conversation feeling unsettled it is not because the other person made us feel this way.  It is because we did not want to feel what we were feeling.  If we can stay present to ourselves and not abandon ourselves when we experience difficult things, we can stay present to the other and not abandon them when those difficult feelings arise.  The other person no longer poses a threat to us because we are willing to experience discomfort.   We must allow ourselves to get comfortable with feeling discomfort so that we can find freedom.  (love this)
2)  How can I not only express myself, but feel into your reality so I can understand how my communication is being received?  This requires enlarging your awareness so you can not just empathize with another, but actually feel into their experience.  As you become more sensitive to the reality of the other person, you can communicate more effectively because you understand not just what you want to say, but how to say it so that it can actually be heard (or realize that it cannot be heard).  This ability to feel in to a reality different than ours is also the basis for true connection and exchange.
After the call, I took some of what he said and applied it to a conversation I was having with a friend.  Before, I had been dancing around my own discomfort with what she had been saying about her interactions with another friend.  I was worried that she was being judgmental.  After the talk, I faced and accepted my own discomfort.  I found a new found freedom to express myself to her in a direct manner (before I had been trying to avoid my discomfort by working on getting her to change her views).  I told my friend I could listen to her if she was willing to take responsibility for her own role in the situation.   But I was not willing to listen to her if the goal of the conversation was to blame the other friend, because I did not believe that was productive.  To my surprise, she readily shifted into discussing the conflict as a reflection of her own limitations, rather than what this other friend was “doing” to her.  Once she made that shift, I not only understood what she was trying to say, I truly respected what she was saying.  We ended up having an amazing discussion that helped both of us gain clarity and insight.  I physically felt nourished.
I felt so fired up about the teachings of Thomas Huebl that I signed up for a nine-month course of his advanced teachings through the SHIFT network!!  I am excited to go deeper into his work, and will definitely share them on this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Diamond Approach Weekend: Open Heart

What does it mean to have an open heart?

This weekend I am in a Diamond Approach retreat.  Diamond Approach combines insight meditation with western-style psychological reflection.  Each retreat centers around a theme. This weekend’s theme is the heart.  If you have been following my blog or know me, you know that the heart is central to my spiritual path.  So this theme taps right into central questions for me: how to be true to my higher self in a difficult world.

I believe in love.  I believe in openness.  I believe in vulnerability.  I believe in authenticity.  I have found joy in staying open and affirming everything I hold true.

How do I hold true to these beliefs when I am met with closed hearts?  What do I do when I give love and it is not reciprocated?

What this weekend is teaching me is that sometimes that my commitment to staying open results in me skipping over situations where I feel hurt, and not acknowledging that my heart wants to close.  Sometimes I shave off parts of myself in order to allow the other person to feel comfortable.  Sometimes I keep things happy and safe to encourage the other person to meet me, instead of being honest about my own feelings of disillusionment.

I don’t know where this insight takes me.  I know it doesn’t take me into the polar opposite of where I am coming from.  The answer is not to swing into recriminations and harshness.  The answer is not to hide my love.  The answer is not to go unconscious and “act out” my hurt and anger in thoughtless ways.

There is a middle ground that I still need to find.  I know that it involves being able to feel free to express anger and hurt in healthy and spontaneous ways.  I know it involves being okay with alienating people if need be.  I know it involves saying NO to others if that is what it takes to say YES to me.

I don’t think I am all of the way there yet.  The line between openness and accommodation is difficult to trace. But I am grateful for the space to explore these questions in a supportive community.  I welcome any insights from people who are working through similar issues in their own lives. What situation is causing you to confront this issue most clearly?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s OK to Be Sad: How and Why to Experience Difficult Emotions

eggshells

I wrote this last Sunday, but didn’t post it until now…enjoy. xoxo Nicole

Today I feel sad.  Normally, I might be moving too fast to notice it.  I might miss it because I am busy skipping from one event to the next.  But today is a slow, grey, Easter Sunday afternoon, and I don’t have any plans for the rest of the day.  I am purposefully not turning on my TV or calling friends.  Instead, I am meditating and writing and allowing myself to feel what is coming up in my heart.

We don’t usually just allow ourselves to just feel sad.  We tend to feel like we have to do something to lift ourselves out of this state:  we go for a walk, talk a bath, drink a glass of wine, re-read a positive book.  Maybe we call a friend and discuss the situation until we have figured out a “solution.”  When we feel better, we might even congratulate ourselves on our great self-care skills.   We assume that we are doing well when we have stopped feeling these negative emotions–the faster we can get out of them, the better we are doing.   This belief in the power of positive thought has been further exacerbated by the misunderstood teachings of the Law of Attraction (i.e., the belief that to manifest what you want you must be constantly joyful).

Some of you might immediately be thinking:  ugh–I don’t want to turn into a mess or wallow in the things that get me down.  But this sense of “wallowing” is not due to the emotion itself, but the unskilful way it is processed.  There is another, more skillful way to experience difficult emotions.

The skillful way is to be able to experience pain without fully identifying with it.  Thus, your awareness is large enough to allow room for the difficult emotion AND maintain contact with your fundamental power, peace, and confidence.   You can stay in touch with joy even as you allow yourself to feel sad.  You can feel strong and secure even as you experience vulnerability.  You can feel connected and lonely at the same time.

The best way to develop this enlarged awareness is meditation.  When you meditate, you develop your ability to stay grounded no matter what your mind or heart tosses up at you.  As you practice, you expand your capacity for presence.  Over time, you can handle more rocky stuff without needing to check-out, go unconscious, or otherwise distract yourself from the intensity of experience.  You can use this capacity to experience difficult emotions during your daily life without becoming overwhelmed or confused.

So, okay, we can experience difficult emotions more skillfully.  Why would we want to stay present for difficult emotions?  Why shouldn’t we be practicing getting rid of them, or transforming them into positive ones?

Because something important and valuable happens when we fully experience difficult emotions.  A lot of difficult emotions are tied up around our desire for life to be different than it actually is.  We want to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else.  When we avoid those emotions, we avoid directly experiencing life on its own terms. We live partly in our dreams and hopes.  This dream-world might be more comfortable, but its protection becomes our jail.  We lock ourselves up inside the belief that things needs to be a certain way for us to be happy.

When we experience difficult emotions, we come face to face with the way things are.  Even  though facing reality may hurt, the world does not end.  Instead, all of the energy we were using to avoid pain is loosed.   Instead of struggling and fighting the emotion and the circumstances that gave it birth, we relax.  We can LET things be the way they are, AND be happy.  Yes, we may have to wade through some pain and sadness on the way, but we are no longer afraid to experience them.  We acknowledge our pain and vulnerability with a soft, gentle compassion, not with fear or rejection.

With this softening, a new space opens up inside of us.  It is a new place for life to flow, to move, to breath.  Nothing has been solved or changed, and yet all is well.  This well-being is not a mere “belief” in the abundance and goodness of life–it is an energetic death of a closed/constricted consciousness (things must be so!) and the birth of a spacious awareness (surrendering to what is).  How appropriate for Easter Sunday that I find myself writing about allowing ourselves to die, so that we can be reborn.

 

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Enough of Words

I’ve had enough of talking.

Maybe I’ve said too many words.

This evening it just seems so precious,

To have a drink of tap water,

Or watch the pigeons in the air.

Based on words of man awaiting critical surgery for cancer, from Jack Kornfield’s book “A Path With Heart”

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Breaking a Spell

the empty room yawns,
and sucks this moment in
to its belly, an oceanic pulse
that booms below
that gives nothing to hold

i am washed

up and returned
to the immovable space between
these watchtower walls
followed by the echoes of
yesterday’s clattering sounds

the silence chases me and i
am chasing something i
already have, impossible like
explaining the color blue
painted on these walls
impossible like forgetting
i am here when
i don’t even know
where i am

the quiet muffles everything

and yet these words
form themselves
out of nothing
and they stretch
the silence taut
like a bubble blown
as big as the world
as the moon
as my heart
until it all explodes
and the cool night air
rushes in, sharp and clear

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How do I Stop Thinking and Feeling? Answer, You Don’t!

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from a higher perspective, there is beauty and peace in a hurricane

 

“We have to make a relationship with our emotional energy. Usually, when we speak of expressing our energies, we are more concerned with the expression than with the energy itself, which seems to be rushing too fast. We are afraid the energy will overwhelm us, so we try to get rid of it through action. However, once you develop a harmonious relationship with your energy, then you can actually express it, and the style of expression becomes very sane, right to the point.” — Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 

One of the biggest misconceptions about Buddhism is that it is about getting rid of things: thoughts, feelings, the ego.  It is not.  If you focus your efforts on getting rid of things, all you do is spend even more energy caught up in the very thing you are trying to throw out.    At first you might start out angry about something.  If you try and resist that anger, all you end up with is anger AND guilt about being angry.  If you try and make a thought go away, all you end up with is a new thought: I should not be thinking about that thing (which you then immediately think about again).

It’s like those Chinese finger toys–the harder you pull, the tighter it holds you.

What you can do is develop a higher level of awareness so you can watch these thoughts and emotions arise, rather than identify with them.  I think about the process of disidentification very simply.  The thoughts/emotions are visitors. I stay present and watch/hear them do their thing.  I keep an open heart and a grounded presence, even as I feel/experience anger, sadness, mental jumpiness, ect.  I give them my full attention, but I do NOT let them live inside me and start pulling my strings.  And after a while, they run out of energy.  Then, I let them go.

So the idea is not to get rid of stuff.  The idea is to practice operating from another level that doesn’t get caught in the drama.   Actually, our thoughts and feelings can be important and valued guides.  If anything, I am working towards becoming even more open to my feelings and thoughts.   This helps me develop kindness towards myself and others, and grow more spacious and grounded internally.

It also helps relationships.  The more deeply I allow myself to feel sadness and pain around something, the less I need to create a story about why I feel this way (he is to blame, I am to blame, she is to blame).  Sadness is just sadness.  Anger is just anger.  Both of them are just strong energy moving through me.  Just feel them without pushing them away.

If , after feeling my emotions, it seems appropriate to express them, I can do so with a clear mind, taking full ownership of what I am feeling (see my last post on non-violent communication for more about owning your emotions).  People are much more receptive to you when you come from this place.  As Chogyam says, you can be sane, right to the point.  If you hurl your emotions at someone and say: “This is your fault!” you can’t be too surprised when they throw that ball of sh*t right back at you.  If you can approach someone and say: “I felt really hurt when you did this.” then you have created a safe space for them to empathize.

So, bottom line:  don’t try and get rid of your feelings and thoughts.  Just work on developing a better, saner relationship with them.

What is your relationship with your emotions?  Do you believe them?  Do you act on them?  Do you try and ignore them becuase they scare you?  Or are you strong enough to let feelings move through you without getting confused?

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Learning About Non-Violent Communication (NVC)

NVC images

Have you heard of Non-Violent Communication before? If you have, you probably think about it as a way to communicate effectively with other people. That is true.  And to my mind, much more importantly, it is also a very practical teaching about the nature of violence itself.

When most of us think of violence, we think of fighting, wars, yelling.  The key book on NVC, by Marshall Rosenberg, starts out by asking us to expand our idea of what it is to be violent.  In fact, the foreword was written by Ghandi’s grandson.  Ghandi asked his grandson to keep track of all of the “violent” things that happened over the course of a week or so.  He asked him to track not just physical violence, but what he called “passive violence” as well.  Passive violence were those mundane acts that generated anger in the other person, which of course is the root of physical acts of aggression.  Before long, the grandson began to see how violence was everywhere around him, all the time.

What is passive violence?  This is where the book takes another eye-opening turn.  Passive violence is basically our subtle desire to control other people.  The desire to control may come from care (I want my dad to stop smoking), insecurity (I just want him to appreciate me), or any one of the other hundreds of reasons.  The basic formula is always the same:  I need you to do X so I can stop suffering.   When we think people hold the key to our happiness, then we don’t fully grant them the freedom to act.  That is violence–not yelling, or threats.  Violence is the subtle and pervasive desire to manipulate others so that we can be happy.

So how do we move away from this violent approach to life?  By understanding one single truth: no one else is responsible for how you feel.  You are 100% responsible for your own feelings and needs. 

Some of you might think that this sounds like some hippy shit.  You might think: wait a second, others do cause me to feel things.  When my boss yells at me, I feel bad.  When my friend calls me, I feel good.  When someone steals my parking spot, they are a dick and caused me to be angry.  Are you telling me to be a doormat so that the world can be a more peaceful place?  No way!  Other people need to be accountable for their actions!

NVC is not a bunch of hippy shit.  It is simply (and radically) asking you to understand your feelings in a totally different way.

Usually, we think EXTERNAL ACT — REACTION/FEELING.  NVC teaches us that things actually work like this: EXTERNAL ACT— TRIGGER BASED ON INTERNAL NEED— REACTION/FEELING.    What does this mean?  It means that external acts are neutral.  They do not “cause” your feelings–they trigger your feelings based on your internal needs.  Your boss yelling at you makes you feel bad because you have a need for approval and love in the workplace.  Another person who didn’t have those same needs might not be bothered at all by their boss’ aggressive behavior.  Someone stealing your parking spot pissed you off because you have a need to feel like you live in a world of nice people, or because you need to feel like you are “winning” at the game of life.   The external act has no inherent impact without your own triggers (although, because many of us have similar triggers, it will produce similar reactions in many people).  It is like how people and dogs are with chocolate.  What is delicious for people is poison to dogs.  The chocolate itself is neutral.

Once you truly accept that NO ONE else causes your feelings (for most of us, a life-long task), you naturally begin to approach interactions with others from a non-aggressive place.  The rest is just technique and practice. 

But there is an even better way to say this, which leads me into the second awesome part about NVC.  Because no one else is responsible for how you feel…

You can choose how you react to situations, rather than be at the mercy of others.   You don’t have to fight anyone to be happy (other than yourself, of course).  You discover true power.

 

Not only does your emotional center of balance change, but you can take care of yourself much more effectively.  Actually, I think this is the true definition of growing up–you learn to provide for yourself, instead of asking (demanding) that others take care of our needs.  If we have a need for peace and cooperation, it is your job to connect with that need and meet it.  And of course, the best way to take care of a need is to GIVE (to yourself, to others) what you were initially seeking to get from outside.  Now you can start living from a place of thinking about what you DO want (connection, love, respect), rather than what you don’t (e.g., I want this person to stop hurting me).  The thing you were so desperately fighting the other person to give you is always available to you . . . if you are willing to let it in.

So what about the practical situation at hand with the other person?   Do we just walk away?  Not necessarily.   Once you understand your feelings and needs, you may choose to communicate them to the other person (using a whole system of communication that is taught in the book).  And they may choose to modify their behavior, or not.  And if they don’t, you have the choice to continue the relationship, or not.  But you respect and honor their decision no matter what.  NVC does not promise solutions, but it does promise that you will stop exhausting yourself mistakenly trying to get someone else to change so that you can be happy.

NVC EXERCISE 
(this is not all talk…put this into action and see how it feels!)

First, think of a difficult situation with another person (or practice this while in the midst of a difficult situation!).  Choose a judgment sentence about the other person.  For example, “This person is selfish and only thinks about his or herself.”)

Next, run this sentence over and over in your mind for about 20 seconds.  Notice what happens in your body.  Do you feel tired?  Does your breath go shallow?  Do you feel tight?

Now, re-frame this feeling in terms of what you DO want rather than what you DON’T.  Ask yourself, what is it that I really want right now?  What would I like to receive that would make me feel better (keep it general)?  In the example above, you might recognize that you really want to feel special and loved.
Now, express that need in the following positive way: “Wow, I really love it when ____(I feel special and loved)_____.”  Run it over and over for about 20 seconds.  How does your body feel now?  It might feel bright, energized, refreshed, or open.
Now say to yourself “I AM special and loved.”  Take 20 seconds to run this affirmation over and over, and connect with the energy of feeling special and loved.  You are essentially feeding yourself.   The feeling of being special and loved is ALWAYS there and ALWAYS accessible to you . . . even if it is difficult to find sometimes.
Now that you have fed yourself, turn your attention back to the other person.  Has your perception of them changed?  Has the things you want to say to them changed?  Do you feel softer?  Imagine how different it would be to have a conversation from this positive place, rather than from the typical tense, blaming place you started from?
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