How Going With Your Gut is Right – October 2013
I was teaching Nonviolent Communication on Friday, something that I feel anxious about doing these days, despite my current “almost-certified-the-announcement-will-be-made-any-moment-now” status. My anxiety arises from my love of integrity, and my doubts about my own ability to live NVC the way I would like to, in order to feel good about teaching it.
So I was using an example from my own life, the how-not-to-live NVC example, where I dropped my son off at high school and issued a flurry of instructions as he was getting out of the car: “Don’t use your phone in class. Pay attention to the teacher. Ask about the make-up assignment.” (You may be noticing that there is not a single feeling or need included in this communication, not to mention a request or an observation.) (And for those of you who are also interested in Interpersonal Neurobiology, you may have noticed that my right hemisphere didn’t make an appearance) In response, predictably, my teenager grabbed his backpack, said something rude and appropriate for his age, and slammed the car door as he got out. And I had that sinking feeling in my gut…
We can study NVC and IPNB, read about it, even teach it and write about it, and still find ourselves falling short of living it. It can exist within us as an intellectual exercise, and never quite make an appearance when the rubber meets the road. The living of it requires a radical re-alignment toward our internal world, a slower world, a world that combines the slow truth of our self-connection with a commitment to speech that opens us up to being affected by the people we live with, because it lets them know that they matter to us.
This radical re-alignment is essentially an alignment with our deepest self, and the clearest path to this self-connection is to have and speak about our relationship with our gut instincts and our gut feelings. When we hear this voice that speaks for integrity, wholeness and mattering, we are able to move much more deeply into self-empathy, and into expression that comes from the very roots of our self. When we are able to tell the truth about whether we believe that we matter, and whether we believe we are safe in this world, we can start to do the healing that needs to be done to give us a solid foundation for loving – as partners, as friends, as parents, and as children.
When we sidestep this truth-telling, we start slipping away from the body and from vulnerable relationships with others. As I shared my regret with my students at speaking to my son without any reference to my own vulnerability, a new approach became possible, and this morning at the traffic light I said to him, “I’m worried about your school experience – and that’s just a strategy for your well-being. Would you be willing to follow up with your teacher about the late work?” As I drove away, I thought about the space that felt open within me, a space where my son was not wrong, and I wasn’t the one holding the hammer of force, and about the feeling of righteousness that I give up when I move into my vulnerability and my caring, into my gut instincts and my gut feelings.