Hello friends, I’m writing today to share with you that I am feeling called to offer “healing” sessions again. My spirit has been moving me in this direction for a while now, a movement to share what I’ve learned. To offer what support I can.
I’ve learned so much in the past few years of focused, personal growth. I’ve learned actively by exploring NVC both as a trainer and as a personal spiritual and mindfulness practice. I’ve attended workshops, listened to multiple teachers, and I’ve read about trauma and what it means to be human. But mostly, I’ve learned through, well through going through it. You know?
To put it simply, I’ve faced my pain, my deepest, earliest pain, and all its rippling out across my life and daily life.
It’s easy to say in a sentence but not so easy, the going through it.
It’s sobering to look at while, yes, this is an early trauma (and subsequent traumas at later and later ages), I now have the power of choice and yet I wield that choice in fear-based reactions, which, unconsciously, perpetuate the repetition of that original pain. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy. All my attempts in protecting myself from experiencing the pain of loss and separation and something like what my mind calls abandonment, have resulted in me experiencing it. Pain cannot be avoided. Triggers cannot be avoided. Reality cannot be avoided.
Attempting to avoid pain and the reality before us is a trauma response. Dissociation is a trauma response. Frozen, numb, avoidance are trauma responses. It is a coping mechanism for those times when we are powerless to take ourselves out of the traumatic situation. But I am not powerless anymore, so why was I continuing to respond in those ways? What can I do differently, now, to experience some measure of true joy and peace?
I started working with NVC as a communication system because I wanted (needed!) help to communicate in my marriage. I stayed with NVC, dedicated myself to it, because I found it to be the most effective way to interrupt my habituated trauma response. Practicing NVC in my inner world supported me in facing the pain within me and resulted in my experiencing such joy. It’s not that I never experienced joy before I starting practicing NVC, but that I’ve never felt joy so regularly.
I fully believe that this system supports us in facing trauma, in dealing with those big explosive moments when we are triggered. AND this system codifies recovery from trauma. It helps us to form new habits, new neural pathways, new connections to our body, ourselves, and our relationships. In more ways then I could list here in this space. (Just to name a few: how to ask for support, permission to feel, deprograming our minds, understanding structures/systems of power and privilege, how to dream and how to reach for that dream.)
So, I dove deeper and deeper into this system. I took a break (a sabatical?) from energy work. (For those of you who didn’t know me before, I used to do ALOT of energy work). And what do you think I found there? The deeper I dove into the personal practice of NVC the more and more it started to look like energy work. The more and more resonated with the work I used to do with the vibration of Compassion, guided by Quan Yin. At one point, I was in a workshop focused on anger and depression and I had this almost out of body experience, where everything slowed down, and I looked around myself, looked around my body, and I thought… this is exactly what I was doing before. Another time, as we were practicing what my teacher Yoram Mozenson calls “empathy in the body”, I had that same slightly slow motion realization, this is literally, exactly what I was doing when practicing energy work for myself or others.
The primary difference between what I used to do and what I was “learning” to do here is that it was completely devoid of interpretation. The mechanism of healing was exactly the same, but the layers of “spiritual” interpretation were completely absent (and unnecessary!). It felt so clean to me. I used to think that energy work felt clean, devoid of those Puritanical layers of judgemental ick. Now I can see that I still carried so many judgments about right and wrong, what I have to do to be a “good person”. Rather than interpreting or analyzing or evaluating our experience and the images that came to our minds, we simply welcomed them. We allowed them. We experienced them. And the same “healing” happened. It was such a relief for me, to just be with what is without needing to label it, explain it, pick it apart or interpret it.
I believe our bodies are designed to heal themselves. It is our job to support our bodies in doing what they are there to do. I want to learn how to get out of my own way. This is why I say “healing” in “quotation marks”. This word healing is what is commonly used, but in my mind it implies brokenness, something to be fixed. There is nothing wrong with any of us! We are all having natural human reactions to a situation rife with chronically unmet needs. I much prefer to use words like “shift” or “grow” or, my favorite, “nourish”.
This is what I love about working with NVC as a healing practice. It provides a framework for our understanding of what it means to be human. And it supports us in experiencing and enjoying our humanness in the present moment.
Which brings me back to my wish to offer sessions again. At this point in time, we on Earth are faced with an unprecedented, urgent need to come together to change at a broadly sweeping scale. Our ability to communicate our ideas and our needs is critical. Emotional resilience is now a necessity. Functional nonjudgement is a necessity if we are going to work together across differences. Releasing our trauma responses is necessary if we are going to be effective at all.
I am feeling called to offer these sessions as a way to support this great work we are doing. In addition to workshops and practice groups, I’d like to offer these profoundly shifting moments of human presence, so that you can resource yourself to go out and do the work we all need you to do.
I am giving away several free sessions!
I want to share a bit about empathy, because it's been on my mind lately. I've been reflecting alot on various applications of empathy as well as noticing the impact of receiving empathy (or not) and giving empathy (or not). I'm finding it to be a powerful tool for transforming pain, for creating change in unwanted cycles, and for know "what to do" in difficult situations.
What is empathy?
I really enjoy this popular video from Brene Brown, explaining her take on it.
What is empathy?
"Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing." ~ Marshall Rosenberg
Empathy is simply being with someone (or ourselves). It is our willingness to offer our presence, in nonjudgement (wthout evaulating good or bad, right or wrong) to someone in pain (or in celebration). It's when we focus on what is happening inside someone else (or ourselves), with an openness, a curiousity.
Through an NVC lense, empathy is a need. Humans, universally, have a need for empathy (to give it and to receive it, I think). How do I know it's a need (for me)? Simply, I feel better when someone responds to me with empathy and I feel worse (often irritated) when someone doesn't respond to me with empathy (when I want it!)
I like to understand the importance of things by connecting it's function with universal human needs. For me, so many needs are connected to receiving empathy:
the need for human warmth and presence. the need to receive attention. to receive care. to trust that I matter, that my feelings are welcome, that what is important to me is received with openness, that my whole self is accepted (even the uncomfortable parts), to be seen and heard, for my truth to be understood. . .
For me all those needs add up to love.
Empathy is an expression of love.
To give empathy is an act of love.
To receive empathy helps me to feel loved.
Empathy as a Practice
Lately, as I learn and apply NVC in my daily life, "empathy" has been a primary focus of my practice. Responding to others (and myself) with empathy is unfortunately not always my default reaction. As Brene Brown has said, empathy needs to be practiced.
The thing is, although I firmly believe this kind of welcoming, nonjudgemental response is an expression of our innate humanness (that's why it's a "need"), we have been living under a culture of patriachy, which emphasizes moralistic judgement (resulting in structures of domination and power over) for up to 10,000 years (possibly 300+ generations of humans).
So, although empathy is innate to us (as seen in children responding to pain in other children), we as adults, need to "unlearn" our judgemental programing and practice empathy as a skill.
Not only do we need to practice as a skill (like we might practice penmenship or how to sharpen a kitchen knife), we also need to apply it as a daily practice (like yoga or meditation, even if we learn how to sharpen knives, if we don't do it regularly, they will get dull, they wont chop as well as we'd like, and we run the risk of injuring ourselves in the kitchen).
How to Cultivate a Daily Practice of Empathy
The Impact of Empathy
I mentioned at the start of this post that I've been reflecting on the impact of empathy when it's given/received or not.
I've been noticing moments where empathy was not given (or it was given and not recieved) that resulted in pain, emptional distance, conflict, missed opportunities for connection, unresolved requests for support....
And, when I've noticed empathy was successfully employed, I've been consistantly impressed by the ease of connection between human hearts that I've noticed. I've been deeply in awe of the physical shift I see on people's faces and body langauge when they feel heard, welcomed as they are. The best word I have to describe what happens when people are met with sufficient empathy is "healing".
Transforming Pain with Empathy Sessions
As I began to connect with the "healing" impact of receiving deep empathy, I became inspired and excited to offer this as a service.
I have found empathy sessions to be uniquely empowering even as they are healing. As Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of NVC, said, "People heal from their pain when they have an authentic connection with another human being."
I offer sessions both in person in Dublin and online via Zoom. Learn more here.
Some Times I wish Empathy Were USed
Finally, I've listed some possible applications of empathy or moments when empathy could be useful (just SOME). Writing this list was really inspiring for me, I dream a world where empathy was this ubiquitous.
The first book I'm recommending in this series is Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman.
This book did not disappoint! I have such a better grasp on WHY we need connection with other humans and what physical mechanisms are impacted within me. I find now almost ZERO self-judgement when I feel lonely, and instead, an almost fierce self-protection in my "right" to long for social connection, and a greater willingness to try to cultivate a social life.
About the Author
The Table of contents
Readability: How is the EXPERIENCE of reading it?
There were definitely some new words I needed to look up. I would jot the definitions in the margins near the words, but there were not so many that it intruded on the experience of reading. There were a lot of names for the regions of the brains that I didn't know, but he defines these for you and reminds you again and again throughout the book so it didn't feel alienating. It felt like learning not like I needed a certain level of preknowledge to understand what he was saying. (So science-y but accessible!)
The author shares plenty of fun stories from his own life and research to illustrate the points he's making, including embarrassing college stories! His voice is present through out the book, which is really helpful; it feels like chatting with your smart friend over coffee when they are gleefully explaining their passion.
It was so interesting I found it difficult to put down; I burned through it pretty quickly. I haven't been able to stop talking about it!
How is it Relevant to Learning NVC?
First and foremost, "connection" is considered a universal human need. It's my belief/understanding that connection is one of the core human needs; other needs may actually be strategies to meet this need (ie meeting my need for touch or community meets my need for connection). One of my goals is to learn more in-depth about each of our human needs, so reading this book and deepening my understanding of the physiology of connection was really really useful for me.
In addition to that, this book is chock full of NVC consciousness and needs awareness in general! I noticed several other human needs in the subtext so frequently that I started jotting the needs I saw in the margins! I also noticed other components of NVC (like observations, for example) and noted those in the margins as well. There were a few times as I was reading that I wondered if the author had been to some NVC trainings!
He also talks about what is happening in the brain that may be vitally important in our ability to give and receive empathy. I plan to reread that section!
SOme things I learned
Want to read it too?
If you want to read it too, here is a link to where you can order the book from Bookdepository.com, which is where my husband and I tend to get most of our books.
Just a clear heads up: if you use this link, I get a small referral commission, which helps me to cover my own costs. It wont cost you anything more, in fact Book Depository is usually more affordable than Amazon or walk-in bookstores, with free worldwide shipping. You can always go to a library for free! I enjoy the non-commercialism of libraries AND my husband and I want to have our own, home library. Also, I enjoy highlighting and making notes in the book, which I can't do if I have to return it, so. . . ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Leave a comment below
After you've read it, let me know what you think down below! :D
I’m writing this from my room in Bled, Slovenia, sitting at a small table with a red checkered cloth, next to the window (and the radiator!). The view out the window is the reason I’m writing today. Let me see if I can describe it to you, I tried to take a picture but my camera is criminally incapable of capturing this moment.
The sun is shining over a hilly ridge, to my right. To my left, the Alps, with their snowy pointy heads. Between these two is a small valley, where my room is situated. The view is off of my balcony. There are a few houses around, but mostly, I see pasture land, directly in front of me is the tiniest barn you’ve ever seen, I’ve seen spoiled chickens with bigger coops. Who lives in this barn? I imagine it would be the handful of sheep lounging next to it. There is a chicken coop next to the sheep, but I see no chickens out and about. Maybe they, like me, thought it was too cold to go outside.
It was -4C this morning around 9, to drop down to -5C around 10 am, so I did not join my husband on his proposed 2-3 hour walk. He went out on his own, and I stayed in, to take in the view and the incredible feeling of potential and possibilities present here.
A red tractor has rolled by me, pulling a fair bit of what looks to me like soil. Behind the sheep lies a smallish pasture, which you could probably walk the width of in a matter of minutes, marked off by a decrepit fence, partially blown over, several feet of which is laying on the ground. Clearly, there is no real need to keep anyone in or out.
On the other side of the unnecessary fence is a bit of boggish land, with a small pond and a stream running through it, and on I assume, to eventually join up with the Sava. On the other side of the pond is another fence, this one upright, another greener pasture, another fence, and then horsies wearing blankets (obviously). Beyond the horses, another yummy looking green pasture, then, a treeline and we are at the base of the foot hill I initially mentioned.
Just a note that I am using the word pasture loosely here, certainly they are functioning as pasture land, each pasture is probably only half an acre or less, but, the sheep don’t seem to mind. “Content” is the word that comes to mind when I watch them, lazing about their field.
Content is certainly how I feel, deep in my body, somewhere around the area of my heart and yet deeper in. I slept, cocooned in silence, the palpable silence of space that is found in the country, where the number of people as far as the eye can see is less than the number of people I typically serve coffee to in a few hours.
My body feels the contentment of the moment, the quiet and peace of this place, but my mind, bless her, is anything but content, she has already started racing thinking how could I possibly create a view like this for my daily life… this view being a symbol of my goals and dreams.
My mind worries about money, student loans, and global climate change. Beneath this worry is fear… a fear that I will never achieve my goal and instead spend the rest of my life dreaming rather than experiencing the life I want.
And beneath this fear, is a deep yearning to be alive… to live a full life, vibrantly experiencing the joy of existing on Earth.
So my fear is there to communicate to me how very important it is to my inner self, to be so fully alive. Can I feel fully alive while living in an urban setting that frustrates me more than delights me? Probably. But I don't want to placate my innerself, as if she were a toddler drawing on the wall, saying, look here is some paper you can draw on. That toddler is Van Gogh and that wall is the canvas of our lives. I want to run singing through life, I want to paint the walls of my life with the bright and vibrant strokes of fully experiencing the moments of my life.
No, I will not placate my inner longing by saying “oh, but life can be good in the city”. No, I will listen as honestly as I can to this fear and this longing, I will let it motivate me, as hunger motivates us to eat. I will take it seriously, as a life-affirming instruction from my innerself. We yearn for this life of clean air, sparkling moving water, and dirt to get our hands into. And
And, as I take this yearning more and more seriously, even as I write this to you, I notice my worries are lessening, and that feeling of contentment is shifting up into my mind. The truth is we don’t know the “how” but as I connect to my longing, the fear is not fear at all anymore, just pure longing. And this longing is the energy of life itself. I want to open my mind to this energy of life itself and see what happens.
The next time you notice your mind in anxiety, try to connect to the message the fear is communicating to you. What is it that you are longing for? That longing is a signal from the spark of life within you, telling you what kindling is best suited to feed that flame.
Selene Aswell is a coach and facilitator specializing in becoming Vibrantly Alive through radical self love, NVC, and cultivating one's own spirituality.