Feeling Numb?

an orange

Sometimes it’s hard to know what we are feeling. Have you noticed feeling numb? Even when emotions may be high or others talk about their feelings? I’ve talked many times about how I started exploring the inner world of my own feelings with “I feel numb”. A kind of emotional numbness? I had sense something was going on… but what…? When I checked I had no clue, like a connection wasn’t there.

I actually believe it’s impossible to feel nothing and we can all start somewhere. For me “I feel numb” was the start.

When I connected to the numb- which the simple act of turning my attention to the numbness was all it took. Something shifted. (Sidenote: In my years of working with others I find that most people tend to try to make this inner connection work overcomplicated. If this seems simple, that’s because it is, I’m wary of anything in psychology that is overly complex).

As I got curious my numbness had an edge, a colour even. It was grey and square and it sat in my body like a square.

With this came something more to engage with – in fact something more to form a relationship with. I chose to have this relationship be a compassionate one. Welcoming, warm and accepting. I was feeling something- even though my rational brain was sceptical and trying to tell me this was weird. Ah- these thoughts prompted some feelings…. wariness, disbelief… my attention enjoyed exploring these feelings. Again with compassion.

Rumi quote about The Dark Thought

I stuck with it, checking in and asking myself how do I feel? A new awareness arose over time. The consequence… the depression I had lived with for months started to lift… turns out numbness was what I needed to tune into into to offer compassion to myself. to really listen to myself.

A turning point – no longer feeling ONLY numb!

One day I found myself peeling an orange and I tuned into my feelings. The day had so far been dampened down by grey fog and yet there were moments of sunshine, sensations in my body I would call gratitude and delight as I peeled the orange at my kitchen counter. It was enough for me to notice I was no longer living as a depressed person in those moments, I was living moment to moment with my feelings as they moved.

Let’s end with a poem- a gem!

Wendy Cope poem 'The Orange'

If you are feeling numb…I suggest starting with “I feel numb”, feel it, get curious and see where that takes you. It;s so easy to dismiss it and look for ‘real feelings!

Reading

I really enjoy Daniel Siegel’s work and in particular his very readable book Mindsight, each chapter explores cases he has worked with and how people have worked with their inner world.

Adventures in Spirituality

tea lights

Similarly to many others bought up in England, I had an upbringing on the edges of The Church of England. As a family, we didn’t attend church and I wasn’t christened. However, schools in England and Wales are asked to hold a daily assembly with a Christian basis and this together with the Brownies was a grounding in the Anglican tradition. My grandfather was a Methodist and his funeral was a moment for me when I understood his deep faith in nature and human beings.

During my twenties and thirties, I joined a Buddhist lay community and enjoyed mediation and rituals. This attendance and daily practice fell away and I stopped enjoying the communication of the Buddhists around me. I found myself deep in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a moment to moment spiritual practise. Returning to meditation now as I walk in nature or as I pause and check in with my feelings and needs. I have attended Quaker meetings and really enjoyed the regularity the pause, once a week. I could really sense why and how a weekly check in with oneself was beneficial psychologically and spiritual.  Poetry and some music can transport me to touch something larger than myself.

In addition, and incredibly nourishing for me, are the moments of heart connection in an empathic dialogue. Usually in a 1 to 1 session and  also in groups that I facilitate. People become to me ‘as one’ there is no giver or receiver no fixer or healer and no wounded person. Time stands still and I touch something beyond myself.

I’m enjoying reading this blog by Jules Evans, I sense some overlap in our journeys and in fact he is inspiring me to step up and name my spiritual yearnings, leanings and adventures. I agree with him it’s not so easy to do in our culture without being accused of being ‘deep’. Also I want my spiritual life remain mine and I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others. Especially as an NVC trainer.

So I’m dipping my toe into Christianity again. With some nudging from an NVC trainer colleague and a talk she directed me to on reform in the Church of England and  I found Jules’  blog a reference to Rupert Sheldrake’s initiative about where to find Choral Evensong.

This is a totally new idea for me … but I’ve put my postcode into the search and found out where I can go and when. Here is Rupert Sheldrake talking about Choral Evensong, its history and why this website might be useful.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pXt5Bm7LP8[/embedyt]

I’ve got no idea if it will ‘work’ for me, I’m not even sure what that means. But I do have a thought that re-occurs that something is not in balance within me and I’m wondering if I am neglecting my spiritual life? What are the ways you explore your spiritual needs?

The pressure to do BIG social change that’s paralysing action

graffiti of word revolution with love in red

I came to Nonviolent Communication and social change via my work in schools. I knew they could be places that people wanted to go to every day- but it would take a shift at every level to do this.

Change seems so necessary because so much of our lives seem cut off from our natural ways of being and so much of what I have is dependent on others not having it including food, clothes and fuel. That change will need to be at a systemic level and I believe, BIG social change- a change in the way we behave and think and see each other.

Over many years of involvement in groups of people practising NVC I worry there are subtle messages that social change has to have a large audience to be social change- somehow I hear the words social change has got wrapped up in a definition that this has to be enormous- be making a difference on a global scale. I’m sure many people tell themselves- I’m not doing social change… because they don’t have a huge project they are involved in. one that the U.N. might have heard of!

Maybe we are stifling all our attempts to be of service to contribute to change because we immediately judge what we as doing as small and ‘not worth it’?

I would like us to see it differently. For example…If you are raising a child and have worked on yourself to undo your conditioning and are choosing not to use reward and punishment – you are involved in social change. If you greet the person who gets annoyed with you with kindness and care- you are involved in social change. We can all chose where we shop – this too is social change.

A social change project is a social change project regardless of its size and I can make my life a social change project if I want to.  How I speak to myself my be my first act of social change- especially if this is reversing trauma and abuse patterns in a family. How about acts of social change rather than acts of random kindness? And let’s start with ourselves.

What small social change acts will you make today? how can you apply Nonviolent Communication and social change?

Choosing Partnership over Domination

sunset over water

A blog I wrote, first published on Dian Killian’s website in April. We are co trainers on the Ireland IIT in October 2020. (Which finally happened in February 2022)

I have recently revisited the work of Riane Esler and her view of humanity as being divided into two lenses through which we can view the world:

  1. Partnership: Life is interconnected and is a web of relatedness.
  2. Domination: Life is a pile with some people the top and the aim in life is to overpower them and reach the top.

Riane Esler

If you believe that the world is there to be conquered and that your job is to be the best — to come out on top — this will permeate how you think about yourself, how you work and live with others.

I suggest that a misreading of Darwin has amplified this world view; his survival of the fittest theory being interpreted as a call for us humans to see the world as a battle and the earth as our battlefield.

It is no surprise that at this moment in time, I find myself reflecting on this again… it seems that we are caught right in the middle of a battle between these different world views at present or that something is amplifying in this long tussle.

I see Domination Systems and Partnership Systems at every level of being. I have grown up in Domination Systems and even the way I am with myself can be a Domination. For example, I favour my thinking and brain over the rest of my body at times and don’t listen to my body’s signs that I need rest, water or not to have that bar of chocolate — I can override or dominate the natural signs of my body and push on.

It will come as no surprise that as an NVC trainer, I have made it my life’s work to explore and live in the Partnership System. Ever since I met Marshall Rosenberg in 2004, I have taken the work of Nonviolent Communication and applied it as best I can in my daily life — personally and professionally as a psychologist and now I see NVC as the most valuable tool I have to disrupt the Domination System.

If I truly want to disrupt, then my work is to strengthen the Partnership System and weaken Domination Systems at every opportunity. That includes my inner work and reclaiming a natural way of being which is in tune with the flow of life.

If I am not careful, I very quickly and subtly fall into default patterns of Domination… because by definition they dominate! If I am stressed, tired, or in need of an empathic ear myself — maybe my little brain is full of my own stuff — I will slip into Domination.

When the world appears harsh and I have a story that it is crazy out there…. This is when I may need to slow down and check inside. Like the mediation teachers say: When I have time, I meditate for 20 minutes a day and when I don’t have time, I meditate for 40 minutes. It’s time to double our efforts to practice.

One subtlety I want to pay even closer attention to and crucially: If I have enemy images of the entire idea of the Domination System, as in:

  • “It’s wrong.”
  • “We should live differently.”
  • “Everyone should see that it’s better to be in the Partnership System…”

…then I am myself in the Domination patterns.

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher, so I’ll say it again in a different way: I must do the inner work to ensure I am not ‘pushing’ the Partnership System and suggesting in any way it is better than the Domination System. “MY WAY IS BEST!” can and will creep in.

For example, I see plenty of criticism of right-wing politicians at the moment and a maelstrom of back-and-forth. My heart sinks at any progressive thinker who claims to want to build a world based on partnership, equality and care for all, who then diagnoses a right-wing politician as a narcissist… seemingly blind to the contradiction and the slip into a language which disconnects. Those whose politics sit on the right are then justified to come back and say “Hold on… you claim to be kind and caring, yet you are calling me names…!!??“

It’s important then to keep practicing; to continue to choose Partnership: how I bank, where I shop, and the food I chose to buy, for example. It is crucial for me to remember — and I urge us all to remember — that we are not the judge of how large or small an action is. I am just beginning to explore fractals and am fascinated by how each of us, with our own view, our own actions can be part of a whole.

All I can do is get up each morning and hold an intention, letting go of any destination; this is warrior work. It requires discipline and training. No matter how many times the Domination Patterns in me think “I’ve got it! Now – I’ve understood how to do this thing called Nonviolent Communication (NVC)”… here comes another opportunity to show me how much I have to learn. For example, someone else will come into my life who I am challenged to dig even deeper within myself in order to build a connection.

If you practice NVC, one thing you can choose is to offer one more empathic response in your family, in a board meeting, on the bus… whenever you have the chance. I see empathy as a disruptor of the Domination System… we can all find someplace to find the power to act. I believe if we can do one thing differently something different will happen.

Some things to do

Here are some things that I do to support myself in living partnership in my own life:

  1. Journal
  2. Do a role play
  3. Attend a retreat
  4. Listen to my Domination Patterns inside.
  5. Take great care of myself
  6. Call on community: spend time with others who are also digging deep and want to do things differently.
  7. Spend time with others who have an opposing world view from you (although I advise you to start small here and build up)

And remember, if we don’t choose the Partnership Pattern, the Dominant Pattern will choose us. It’s embedded in our institutions, justice system, school system, and political system to name just a few, and it takes a force of nature to not fall back into these patterns.

The decision to be a disruptor of the Domination Pattern and a commitment to build partnership within ourselves and between each other and our planet needs to be a wholehearted warrior-like stance.

These are not the times for half-heartedly going to the gym; this is the time for full immersion in a training program!

There is a waiting list – while we all wait to see if it is possible to safely hold the International Intensive Training (IIT)- due to be held in Ireland in October this year. I look forward to talking some more about this there with you – or please comment below.

Fear of Others’ Reactions

stairway into mist

In a group I facilitate, we explored an insight I  didn’t fully ‘get’ when I heard it from Marshall Rosenberg. One I’ve been struggling to integrate for many years,  It’s a piece about how we are not afraid of the other person’s reaction but our response to their reaction. We think we hold fear of other’s reactions-  but no!

All those years ago in Switzerland, it landed in me like a truth that I couldn’t quite hear yet…and somehow I don’t find the words to talk about it even now with others.

I asked my colleagues- other NVC trainers around the world – what words they use to explore this, as I’m was not happy with how I explored it. These are the responses I got.

Gabrielle Grunt from Austria said: “I wrote it down word by word exactly how (Marshall) said it, because this was a most life-changing insight for me at that time and I wanted to remember it exactly in Marshall’s original words”

“You don’t have to worry about the other person’s response. You just have to worry about how you react to it, whether you have your giraffe ears on.” MBR

“Here’s another version I found in my notes (not 100% sure if it is exactly the wording Marshall used, in case someone wants to quote it… on this IIT Marshall mentioned this point so often, that I just wrote it down once as an exact quote – see above)”

“Our fear is never about how the other person responds. Then you give the power to the other person. It’s about what ears we put on to receive it. That puts the security into our own hands.”

Alan Seid from the US said he heard Marshall say:

“We are not afraid of the other person freaking out; what we’re afraid of is that we won’t know how to handle it.”

Allan Rolfs recounted this

“Years ago, and it reoccurs every once in awhile on the network, I posed the question, “What do you (trainers) do when you are triggered, what are your personal strategies?”.  I collected all the responses at that time (maybe 20 years ago).  I remember poignantly Marshall’s response, “I say to myself, ‘choose'”.  I’m still working on that.”

Me too Allan.

I still hold fear of the other’s reaction. I still worry about the other person’s reaction – and when I pause… is it me? Can I imagine it’s not about the other? is it about me? As Marshall points to something just out of my grasp at times. More to explore…I’m worried about the shame I feel as I tell myself I’ve hurt someone, I worry about anger coming my way and paralysing me – leaving me frozen and unable to speak to get my needs heard. I can breathe and choose…. My life as an experimenter in living NVC continues.

And you? Does it help? Are there some stuck place in you too around this?

_______
Photo by Joe Beck on Unsplash

Rest as Resistance

woman on a swing

Sad to say our trip to Spain was cancelled earlier this week.

We had been looking forward to meeting all the staff at Cortijo Romero, meeting you all and to working and resting together. We now have even more time opened up in front of us. I was struck with ideas of what to do… and how to use it… then I listened to this podcast- Rest as Resistance. Here was the shift in perspective I’ve been looking for.

Tricia Hersey weaves together so many powerful insights from her work- I urge you all to listen- then take a nap…. no seriously… even during this pandemic we are not resting enough- because of this pandemic we are not rested enough.

‘Using time’ is a capitalist idea and I want to step out of this brainwashing.

As I walked and listened I realised even my walking wasn’t full of rest… I was trying to ‘do’ my steps, I was trying to get somewhere- how about I danced while I walked? how about I let my arms swing? How about I rest my spine and let nature take over? We are born to walk and dance.

via GIPHY

Lately I’ve been inviting my 1:1 clients to slow down and be with their experiences. It seems to me that is where the magic is.
Our invitation next week is to rest in your feelings and needs, our course is entitled Find your Inner Compass. We still have spaces available for our mini- online course and for sure we will be encouraging you to rest.

Maybe with a bit more stillness than Beyonce here, but who knows?

Who are we to second guess what rest will look like?

Freedom from Core Beliefs

padlock

Mini Online Course: Starts 3rd July

Friday 10 am UK time.

I will be sharing one of THE most powerful ways I have found to build my capacity in the world… bringing presence to and releasing Core Beliefs. We start this Friday, with a mini online course you can design yourself.

All are welcome if you have some experience of NVC.
You’ve heard me say that learning Nonviolent Communication requires healing AND learning skills.

This Friday we will support someone with some healing AND we will learn how to release some stuck parts of ourselves.

What are Core beliefs? a well known term in therapy- a place where we are stuck….even if we get empathy for an issue if you find it coming up again you probably have a rooted core belief or schema. A schema through which you view the world. Usually short I statements for eg. ‘I am unlovable’, ‘I am defective/ there is something wrong with me’ or ‘The world is unsafe’. However, here is the rub, you don’t just view the world through this lens, you also take action from this belief AND collect evidence that your belief is true ignoring evidence to the contrary. Here’s an example from my own life:

A core belief I uncovered was “I am unattractive’, this meant I did not even try and flirt with anyone! Thankfully, I became aware of this, I found a way to release it and found love!

via GIPHY

Note: I will run this course again if asked!

Photo by Basil James on Unsplash

Reluctant Leadership

women holding banner saying We are the ones we have been waiting for

“We are the ones we have been waiting for” the sign says- but what if you don’t want to be? What if we are practising reluctant leadership?

Because we know being a leader these days is raw, gritty work standing up and suggesting a different way forward based on our deepest values- those that connect us. As a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Trainer, I find myself being asked to speak- people even give me a microphone and write down what I say. I know I am sharing what I have learned so far and I’m glad it supports people. I didn’t set out to be a leader, and now I see that it is essential work for us all as we head for climate breakdown. Leading the way towards a world that works for all finding along the way that we all need healing from the trauma of our past and the generations who have lived through war, famine and separation.

There is steady flow of huge numbers of powerful people who do not want to change how it is now- or who want even more separation and they pull in the other direction,

Standing up to this and being in our pain and inviting others into theirs is exposing. Being vulnerable and naked emotionally and leads to cold sweats, binge eating and no place to hide from what’s going on for you… I don’t think it’s just me.

I know now why women don’t do it so often- because we cannot rely on our structural and physical power- we have to dig deep and go against ideas of how women should behave.

I often read that women are not in positions of leadership because they lack confidence…. for sure and let’s dig further into the idea that it is all about confidence as if we could flick a switch and just be confident like men.

BEFORE we even try and find the confidence we need to find the spaces to practise, to try and to mess up and to become…. we don’t often have these spaces…. In nursery’s/ kindergartens I went into I watched children painting. Usually the board was in the corner of the room next to the taps, there was often a long process of putting aprons on and and negotiating space, water, paints, brushes- which the adults if they were wise, left the children to sort out. Then there was freedom to create with no judgement. Creations were labelled- by the children and left to dry and take home. Somewhere along the lines this stops happening and art becomes about comparison and a ‘lesson’. I wonder if we do the same for other things? For sure leadership in girls is called bossy and research suggests that the labelling has a negative impact on women in the workplace even though men also show behaviours that are labelled bossy.

How to be a leader? how to do something we’ve only ever experienced in a patriarchy….. this is unknown territory- we all lack confidence to do this- if someone says they know how to be the kind of leader we need this century I do not believe them. We are all trying to find new ways and one thing I’ve learnt is that there is no ‘way’ just trying, messing up and learning at this moment in time.

That is not to say I don’t see leadership I admire- I do and I watch and learn.

This kind of leadership is also about teams, support, and what to do afterwards, where to go with all that comes up after stepping into leadership … because we want to do it our way and not with armour plating, but stepping up and being seen is dam HARD on our systems and we haven’t yet created the space to grieve, celebrate and be proud….

Our confidence will grow when we do it- mine has…. But I am the reluctant leader and still hide….at the same time I started delving into leadership I started exploring my addictions and the numbing I do….. still diving deep and being my own leader just now.

Reading

Some reading on Leadership I am enjoying or are in my pile to read this summer:

Brené Brown Dare to Lead, The Tao of Leadership John Heider- I had to get it on Kindle as out of print, Margaret Wheatley’s work, Frederic LaLoux and Reinventing Organisations and Otto Scharmer and Theory U .

What are you reading or exploring on this topic?

 

The Disappearing Trainer

figure with top half fading into mist

With a sigh of relief and recognition, I enjoyed reading Robert Kržišnik’s blog post exploring our needs as trainers and facilitators. I aspire to be the kind of trainer who is a bridge for a short while in people’s lives. A bridge that supports them to find NVC and arrive in a new place. I’d like to be myself as a trainer and someone who recognises when my tanks are low and when I need a top-up of empathy, care flowing my way, rest and a reality check. (Note to the reader- sometimes I fail). Rest contributes so much to my being able to show up I see rest as resistance – as building my ability to change the way we are with ourselves and each other.

Over the years I have explored what supports me to avoid being a leader who is needing recognition, empathy or love from their participants and I suspect it takes constant awareness and feedback from a caring community as Robert suggests. Also a degree of self care and awareness, space to breathe and check in at the very minimum. The cost of not paying attention to this area is to steer far away from the vision of a world that works for all- ie we will repeat the same errors of the past- our blind spots and trauma being passed on.

I want to make a distinction offer clarity – I do of course have these needs for empathy and recognition – what Robert is alerting us to is not needing it from participants during a training. That is – not being in deficit and seeing it in subtle or not so subtle ways. I cannot nor do I wish to, turn off my need for empathy, for example, it still lives in me and I want to be alive to it. want to live with this need sufficiently cared for or nourished as much as possible and to walk into the room as a trainer having done my work. The same for my need fo recognition or love.

To offer more in this area of being a trainer it has also been in my awareness recently about making sure I do not disappear. I carry many roles as a Trainer in Nonviolent Communication, obviously often the trainer- the leader, the expert in Nonviolent Communication- eek!, for the past two years the assessor …for years I also walked into rooms with the label of Psychologist.  I say carry for it is and can be a burden – and can get ‘sticky’ and people generally see me through one of these labels like a lens. I end up with a longing to be seen for me- just me, not the roles I have, the skills I have developed, the mistakes I make as I step into leadership, the areas of my life not healed or hidden from me. All of which seem to be amplified as others see me step up- then I start to lose myself
If I do not spend time with people who just see me- then I start to disappear somewhat. The antidote is to hang out with my mum, with my partner, with friends who know me in different roles- who see me and accept me just as I am.

Photo by meriç tuna on Unsplash

NVC Dance Floors and Me

I use the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Dance Floors as one of the main tools I use to support learning and integration of NVC for myself, with others in teachings and also in my partnership when we get stuck. This post is written in gratitude for the work that Gina Lawrie and Bridget Belgrave did to develop these jewels! Thank you both.

I often the story of how I stood in a wet rainy car park outside my office in Manchester many years ago and engaged in a conversation with a colleague. It wasn’t a heated conversation but I was practising staying with her…offering my presence. I noticed that my feet were moving ‘as if’ I was on the dance floor… tracking myself and her…. ‘wow’ I remember thinking, ‘this NVC stuff has gone in deep!’

I really enjoy one of the Dance Floors that doesn’t get used much, the ‘Yes / No Dance. Many people new to NVC don’t even consider that they can use the power of being connected to their needs to make a decision.

Other ways they can support are with Anger, Guilt, Shame or Depression, with Regret and with transforming the Pain of Unmet Needs to the Beauty of Needs
Many trainers around the world use the Dance Floors and if you come to one of my workshops I will dig one out that I think fits the issue you are wanting to explore. An inner process – ie self empathy- exploring your inner world or  an outer process, a conversation you’d like to practise.

Find out more

You can find out more about the NVC Dance Floors by going to www.nvcdancefloors.com. You can also buy an NVC Dance Floor App here.

Read an Introduction to NVC Dancefloors (PDF)