Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What's Your Evidence?

Are you telling people what you think using language that masquerades your story as truth?

I believe the quality of your life depends on a few things, one being the language you use and the words you say.  For that reason I offered you this question.  I think with a few tweaks here and there in what you say, you will feel more free, more open, more empowered in your life.  And, I think it starts right here with how to share what you think.  And why you might not share it all.

When intending to connect with another person, offering them a peak into your inner world is  an invitation to know you.  Sharing what is important to you and what meaning things have for you is connecting.  So is the inverse.  Listening for what is important to someone else.  And this can be quite alluring and connecting even if what is important to you is different.  Unless, of course you are talking about your interpretations as truth.

Most often you are so quick to do this, you don’t notice.  You may have difficulty pulling apart the ‘what is’ from the meaning you make about the ‘what is’.  When was the last time you said, “It is a beautiful day!”  or “That is such a great restaurant!”?  Interpretation.  What is the evidence you use to make the determination of a ‘beautiful’ day?  Perhaps, the temperature, how many clouds you see?  In language it seems like nitpicking, in the experience of the person listening to you, it is a challenge and a suggestion. 

What if you love sunny, brisk days, and your friend loves the gentle rainy ones.  In the sentence “It is a beautiful day!” there is no invitation for your friend to have a different experience of the weather.  And, really, there is little sharing about what is important to you.  Very little revealing of your inner world.  Try this on:  “When I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and the breeze in the air, I feel so happy and alive.  I am so grateful for this sun-shiny day!”  Now your friend knows exactly what is important to you in the moment and how you feel about it.  S/he can share in your joy, even if s/he prefers rainy days.  Connection is made.

If you say, “it is such a great day!”, your friend actually has very little information as to why.  No understanding, no connection and there is no invitation for your friend to have another experience of the weather than the one you declared as the truth.

Let’s break it down a bit.  Static language – it is, you are, s/he is.  Nothing exists as static.  If you use these words, you will be mixing your interpretation of the facts as a declaration of the truth.  In a situation more important than a discussion of the weather, you will most likely receive a response that you do not want ~ if the person doesn’t agree with your interpretation.  Instead, offer them the evidence, what you notice, how you feel, and what is important to you about it.
What can you notice?  Three things ONLY!
1.  Things outside of you
2.  Your bodily sensations and emotions
3.  Your thoughts

That’s it!  Nothing more.  

You can notice what someone says or does, how you feel about what they say or do and what you think about it. 

Here are two possibilities...
Your boyfriend comes in a closes the door more loudly than you are used to.  It has happened in the past, when he was angry.   You greet him by saying, “What are you so pissed at?”  He replies, “F*ck you, I can’t believe you just said that.  I am so sick of your self-obsession.  I wish, just once you could be caring about me.  I just saw two guys fighting outside, and its pretty bad.  I’m going to call 911.  Just leave me alone.”  So now what?  This conversation needs an intervention.

Your boyfriend comes in a closes the door more loudly than you are used to.  It has happened in the past, when he was angry.   You greet him by saying,  “Oh my!  I am thinking something is up for you given how you shut the door.  Will you talk about it with me?”  He replies, “I am so glad to be inside.  There are a couple of guys outside fighting pretty seriously, I want to call 911.  Will you make me a drink and wait for the cops with me?”

In the first situation, you confused your interpretation of the sound of the door shutting (noticing) with your boyfriend being mad (interpretation).  You shared it as the ‘truth’.  Basically demanding that he buy your assessment of the facts.  While there was a question, there was no invitation to share what was happening for him.

In the second situation, you offered what you noticed, your guess as to what was happening and an invitation for sharing.  What you got back was connection.

Take a minute before you speak ~ especially in difficult conversations, to separate out what you notice, and the meaning you are making.  Share them as two separate things.  I believe the quality of your relationships and your overall experience of the world will be richer, more connected and you may have more freedom in all of your relationships.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pain Wheel

If you didn’t have pain, what would you be doing differently?

I have a client who has been in physical pain for many months, off and on approaching years, in fact.  She has attributed it to a car accident.  Science tells me in her case, 2 things.  One is that the ‘damage’ to her spine is not likely the cause of her pain, and the other is that it is unlikely that the accident she had could actually cause the ‘damage’ she does show up on x-ray and MRI.

Week in and week out, when she comes in, she tells me in exquisite detail, over and over, the woes of her physical life and her social life.  Every week, I ask her to focus her attention on the progress she is making, the decreased amount of pain, the increased distance she can walk without pain, etc., which she also reports.  It seems that celebrating and savoring these changes is quite difficult for her.  Her focus is her pain, no matter what else she is experiencing.  She just keeps asking when she would be out of pain.

Recently, I asked her what would she be doing differently if she was out of pain.  What is missing now, what can’t she do now because of the pain she is in.  My intention was to bring to the foreground of her attention her intention.  What did she want from life?

Her answer surprised me.  She said that if she felt better she was afraid that people would want her to do more.  That she wouldn’t get the help she needed.   As much as I prompted, She did not actually say what she did want.   In the end, the needs ~ what is important to her ~ seem relatively clear.  Support, dependability, nurturing and ease come to my mind. 

Her strategy to get these needs met seems so tragic to me.  She is in pain, and unhappy.  And, she doesn’t ‘have to’ do the thing she imagines people would ask her to do if she were well. 

Is this familiar to you?   How aware are you of what you are wanting in your life?  How stuck are you in the one or two strategies that you have discovered over time get those needs met (no matter how tragically)?  Are you on the PAIN WHEEL?

In the case of this client, I would love her to free herself from her belief that if people expect and even ask her to do things, that she has no choice but to say yes.  It isn’t true and the prison of pain she is living into is devastating to her happiness and joy of life.  For my client, learning the skill of being able to say yes and no to requests gracefully and compassionately would be quite empowering and dare I say, make her life more wonderful.

If you are in chronic pain ~ emotional or physical ~ sure, being out of pain would be quite delightful.  Just make sure you ask yourself why?  Ask the deeper questions.   Questions you want the answers to.  Questions that can actually be answered and will make a difference in your life. 

Here are some examples:
What experience do I want to have in my life? 
How can I have more of this regardless of my pain? 
What is my pain keeping me from experiencing? 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Truth or Consequences

When I hear the word vulnerable, certain images come to my mind:  A dog or cat, or any animal laying down on its back during a fight.  Someone with his or her back to a wall with nowhere to go.  Or someone walking down a cobblestone street, in the dark, slightly damp with scary music in the background.

All these scenarios indicated danger or losing to me.  And I shied away from using the word.  Yet it is the current buzzword in communication/new age health circles.  So I decided to look it up.

vulnerable |ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl|
susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm: we were in a vulnerable position | small fish are vulnerable to predators.
Bridge (of a partnership) liable to higher penalties, either by convention or through having won one game toward a rubber.
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from late Latin vulnerabilis, from Latin vulnerare ‘to wound,’ from vulnus ‘wound.’

What!?  Susceptible to attack!  Harm?!  Of course it is hard to be vulnerable. Of course I hear people say I don’t want to be vulnerable.

But what does that have to do with saying the truth?  Why do we think that telling others what is really going on for us will make us susceptible to attack?  I’m sure it is an old story.  Parents and society in general not being able to communicate their needs without squashing the needs of the children?  Possibly going to school for 12+/- years sitting in straight rows, competing with the kids next to us for the approval of the authority?  Thus making ‘all others’ our enemies?  Yes, we do have a lot to get over.

And is there a difference between being susceptible to attack and being harmed?  I think yes.  And it is a big difference.  If someone doesn’t like what you say or do and they tell you (yes, even in ways you do not like, for example yelling or poking fun) which may seem like an attack, still really what is the harm?

So I looked up harm.

harm |härm|
physical injury, esp. that which is deliberately inflicted: it's fine as long as no one is inflicting harm on anyone else.
• material damage: it's unlikely to do much harm to the engine.
• actual or potential ill effect or danger: I can't see any harm in it.
verb [ with obj. ]
physically injure: the villains didn't harm him.
• damage the health of: smoking when pregnant can harm your baby.
• have an adverse effect on: this could harm his Olympic prospects.

Talks about physical injury only.  Most often when the discussion of vulnerability comes up, it is emotional harm that we are talking about.  “I don’t feel emotionally safe.“   And that, my friends, is an inside job.  What I hear when you say ‘emotional safety’ is that you are not willing to bear the feelings you have because of the meaning you make about what someone says to you.  You are mistakenly giving your power away.  Maybe that’s why you might say you are vulnerable.  But, as it turns out, it isn’t true.  

The consequence is to continue to outsource your emotional safety, and wait til you think you can control what everyone says to you and wait and wait, and hope to get your needs met, so you feel comfortable.   Although I am not so sure you are really comfortable, you just prolong the experience of feeling scared.  Which is the very experience of not having emotional safety.  augh.  What a horrifying loop!

What if you took yourself on and remained curious about how and why you feel a particular way?  What if when someone said something you didn’t like, you used your uncomfortable feelings to guide you to the very things that are important to you in that moment?  It is quite the powerful, resourceful place to be.  It is freedom.

You can walk down the dark alleys of relationships fraught with dangerous conversations with confidence, knowing that your emotions (yes, even the ones you have been trained not to like) are your gateways to identifying what’s important to you.  And when you know what’s important to you, you can make conscious choices to have more of it – in every moment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Do I Trust You? (part 2 of a series)

Trust.  Commitment.  These are important elements in a relationship.  I’m sure you will agree.  But how does it look in a healthy relationship?  That we may not agree on.  Please read on.

If you watch as much television and see the same movies as I do, possibly you yearn to hear someone say, “I am committed to you”.  Or long to be in a relationship so you can say, “We are committed to each other”.   It sounds so romantic.  And as soon as that happens you will live happily ever after.  Quite alluring.  And I think, UNdoable.

But the pull is real.  So use it for your advantage.  Ask yourself why would you commit to someone?  What NEEDS will be met?  What kind of experiences are you hoping to have more of?  (possibly safety, security, partnership, love, inspiration?)  These questions will enable you to determine if being in a relationship with the person you are committed to is, indeed, an effective strategy for the experiences you say you want.   I suggest you (both you and your partner), commit to those needs and values rather than to each other.  

Compare these two scenarios:
Scenario One:
You have found the love of your life.  You are committed to each other.  It is yummy.  As humans, you begin the relationship by projecting your hopes and dreams onto the other person.  (And, after a while you will begin to project your fears onto this person...but I’ll save that for another article).  You like the same movies, you are both interested in art, and reading the Sunday times in bed.  You both want a house and two kids. Everything is going to be great.   Fast forward two years.  Your partner lost his job 10 months ago.  You discovered recently that it wasn’t due to a cut-back in his office, rather he got into a fight with a co-worker, and then published some private information about that person on facebook.  Your partner was not the person who gave you this news.  He is now interested in accepting a job halfway across the country.  It would require you leaving your job of 7 years, where you will be vested in an 401k in just 2 more years (I made that up, please forgive that I know nothing of 401k plans).  For the past 6 months you have been happily providing the finances that support you and your partner.  You ask your partner for a conversation about your concerns about his leaving out some details about how he was fired from his job, and your dwindling bank account and moving.  His response is, “I didn’t think I could tell you what happened, and this is why.  You don’t have my back.  I can’t believe you even talked to so-and-so.  I thought you were committed to me.  If you love me, you wouldn’t be making it so hard for me to take this new job.  Its perfect for me.”

If you are committed to him, what are your choices?  It seems that he is no longer committed to you, although if you ask him, he will say of course he is, that is why he wants to take the job.  To support you.  Even though that isn’t what you want in order to feel supported.  He is committed to you, you are committed to him and now it doesn’t seem much like how you imagined it in the beginning.  I see years of arguments increasing in volume and distress, until one of you blames the other one enough to finally feel justified in breaking your original commitment.  Painful.

Scenario Two:
You have found the love of your life.  You are so happy when you are with each other.  It is yummy.  As humans, you begin the relationship by projecting your hopes and dreams onto the other person.  You like the same movies, you are both interested in art, and reading the Sunday times in bed.  You both want a house and two kids. Everything is going to be great. 

As you deepen your relationship you take the time to discuss what is important to you individually and as a couple.  For example, you might say to you partner, “I am hoping to have an experience of collaboration, fun, trust and honesty inside this relationship”. To support that outcome, you each agree to have weekly check-ins, you decide that you want to dedicate time to hear the important things that are happening in each other careers, etc.  In addition, you decide to have monthly check-ins about how you feel about the relationship.  Maybe this is where you get to say, “Last Tuesday, when you decided to go out with friends, and didn’t invite me, or let me know, I felt disappointed.  I made a roast for dinner, and I would have loved to have had more of an opportunity to make plans with my mom, had I known in advance.  When we talked about collaboration, this is what I had in mind.  I’d love to know how it worked out the way it did, why you didn’t let me know ahead of time.”  This gives him an opportunity to express himself about what happened – from the agreement to collaboration and trust.  Fast forward two years.  Your partner lost his job 6 months prior – in the same way as the previous scenario.  He told you about it, how it happened, and how he felt about it.  Now he wants to take a job halfway across the country and has asked you to move with him.

The conversation might look more like, “Honey, I understand you want to support me, and I am having trouble trusting that this move will provide the support I am looking for, given the circumstances of the past year.  I am not prepared to give up the security I have in my career, for the possibility that your job may work out.  How about you go out for 3 months, and I stay here.  I will continue to contribute ½ of the financial support during those three months.  I am hoping that we can feel supported by each other again in this arrangement, as we work our way toward finding more trust, collaboration and comfort in our relationship.  In 3 months, let’s talk about how it is and isn’t working, and what kind of changes we’d like to make then.  How do you feel about this arrangement?”

If you are committed to the experience of trust, honesty, collaboration, your actions are in response to that.  Meaning, that even if your partner ‘lies’ to you, your response to that would be one of collaboration and trust and honesty.  Rather than blame.  Remember that what you say and do will be to increase the experience you are looking to have. If it turns out that this person has changed their commitment, and is longer interested in the same values you agreed to, then your choices become more clear. 
There may be many reasons to stay in the relationship – other needs that are getting met.  You may choose to get your collaboration needs met in other ways, and modify your expectations about that inside this relationship so that you feel more contentment.   Not giving up...but choosing new strategies to get more needs met.   There is no arguing in this case.  It still may be difficult and sad to change the relationship, mourning the loss of a certain quality of connection, yet there is actually trust, collaboration and honesty inside the re-working of what NEEDS you are both committed to inside the relationship now.

In the second scenario, where you are committed to NEEDS being met, there is so much more freedom to choose the perfect relationship in every moment.  NEEDS and values change, people change, dreams change.  Are you able and willing to notice what’s alive in you now, know what is important to you for your life and commit to that inside any relationship you have moment by moment?