Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Need for Self-Connection


This blog post contains adult material and thus is not suitable for children.

What happens when you feel tense, anxious or under stress? For example, when you have a conflict with a colleague at work?  

Our bodies are programmed to go into fight-or-flight mode – our pulse quickens, our mouths go dry, and various other physiological changes occur to help us cope with what we perceive to be a threat. As I have said in my blogs about Relaxation and Stress Release, this is very useful if you are confronted by a sabre-toothed tiger. But when dealing with everyday stress, this reaction is not helpful and can cause long-term damage to the body.

When we are in fight-or-flight mode, we are not connected with our own feelings and needs. And we must connect with our own before we can connect with those of others.

When we are in conflict with another person, such as a family member, partner or work colleague, or when we are in conflict with ourselves, we have tendencies to either fight or flee. Sometimes we may also go into “freeze” mode.  

It doesn't have to be a major conflict, it can just be a difference of opinion or a desire to change things, to do things differently.  One person wants to bring about some sort of change, the other doesn't.  Or one part of us desires a change and another part is resisting.  Jill wants to try a different kind of breakfast cereal, and Jackson doesn't.  Or one part of you wants to get up earlier and meditate, but another part just wants to roll over and go back to sleep.

When we experience conflict, we often start judging and blaming the other person – or ourselves.  In NVC (Nonviolent Communication), this is known as “jackal speech”.  Jackal speech is speech that disconnects us from others and ourselves.  Jackal speech is really just an expression of an unmet need.

As you may know, empathy in NVC is defined as connecting with feelings and needs.  Ike Lasater, author of From Conflict to Connection, stresses the importance of practicing self-connection on a daily basis.  Once we have established the habit of self-connection in non-conflict situations, then, when we are in conflict, either inner or outer, it becomes natural to connect with self, rather than going into fight-or-flight mode.  When we start judging and blaming, we are not connected with our own feelings and needs.

I recall Marshall Rosenberg talking about work he did with men who had sexually assaulted and abused their own daughters.  At one session at which the daughters were present, one of the men made a comment, and Marshall saw the look on the daughter's face and was upset by it. He immediately called “Time out!” and left the room.

Once he had given himself some empathy, Marshall was able to return to the session and express his concerns to the man in question.

NVC offers lots of opportunities and methods of experiencing self-empathy.   If you would like to explore more and you are in London, go here for our London NVC practice group.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Please share this with your networks, and please lleave your comments below.