Saturday, August 19, 2017

What is a Domination System?

One of the most powerful things I have read recently.

A short read offering clarity about how we are where we are culturally.   I also have some hope that we can indeed be on the long road back to our former coherence (as Thomas Berry wrote).

This comes from the book Humanizing Health Care, by Melanie Sears, RN, MBA.  (page 23).  Brilliant.

What is a Domination System?

Domination structures were developed thousands of years ago when our ancestors moved from small-scale gardening to larger-scale farming.  Because physical strength was needed to handle plows and other implements of mass food production, physically strong men found themselves increasingly in positions of power, and systems of domination began to evolve.  A cultural spiritual shift occurred at this time away from reverence fro live and pleasure and toward domination and pain.  In order to maintain rigid rankings of domination, violence and abuse became institutionalized and (as with unprosecuted mail violence of both warfare and the war of the sexes) bound up with gender-specific socialization processes.

In domination systems, there are two roles:  Those who dominate and those who are dominated.  Those on top control those below and benefit from their position at the expense of others.  Those who are dominated often come to believe that they, too, benefit from the perpetuation of the domination system--after all, "Father Knows Best."  The system is held in place through fear and force and through patters of thinking that polarize complex feelings and experiences into strict categories:  right or wrong, good or bad, us or them, punishment or reward.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Can you ever WIN an argument?

I did a bit of research on this.  I wanted to see if there are actual guidelines about this.  Whether I looked up how to win a debate, or win an argument, what is being offered is about keeping calm, use logic, ask questions.  I found an article that says, “Gather your thoughts before you deliver the zinger”.  Zinger? 

What I haven’t found in my research is the criteria that defines WIN.  Often subjective ~ as in our political debates, the press (and each candidate) announces the winner (based on some undisclosed, not so obvious and very biased criteria.)  Obviously in this case, each candidate declares themselves the winner.  Then we (the witnesses) either agree or disagree.  This might work in politics when the goal of the debate is to get votes.

In tennis as an example, there is a clear structure, an agreed to point system, an agreed to court size, apparel and racket constraints, etc.  In other sports there are always well-defined rules whether it is time, a court or field, a point system, conduct constraints.

Following this thought through, if you are going to have an argument with someone and you want to win it, it would be wise then to set up the structure that you both agree on about who wins.  Otherwise the argument continues until either one or the other or both declare themselves the winner. This can look like ending the relationship, allowing us to continue to believe we are right about what we think, and most often continue to be in some level of upset with the other person ongoing.  Possibly it dissipates in intensity over time, and more likely not.  Just notice how you feel the instant you spot this person a year later!

Make some rules.

So if you really want to win, rather than just declaring yourself the winner, get
with your conflict rival and set up some rules for winning.

Taking this step actually requires listening, connection, mutual understanding and agreement.  Part of what will need to become clear to you both is what is the purpose of winning?  What will be better in your life if you win?  Understanding?  More connection and shared reality?  

I am guessing you can see where this is leading?!

In the context of Nonviolent Communication and creating a quality of connection where everyone’s needs matter and get met, the very act of taking this step [reminder:  step = talking and making agreements] is how you win an argument!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Do You Know What You Mean?

I have been to workshops where they teach that everything is meaningless.  There is no actual specific meaning inside what happens, or what people say and do.  Is this true?  Well, yes. 

And…I might suggest this thought for people to consider.   Hearing that nothing has meaning often leads to all kinds of emotional distress.  Why?  Because the things people do and say have meaning to us.  Often super life changing, really deeply held meaning. And this is also true.

How is this possible?

Our filters make things mean things.  So when a thing happens (or someone says something) it means one thing to me, another thing to you, and yet another thing to our friend.  All the meaning is happening inside each individual. 

That is why when you believe what you think is true you are more likely to argue with someone.  Because they have the same belief, that what they are thinking is true.  If what you each think is not the same, and you both believe your thoughts as truth, there isn’t much room for understanding.  So we spend lots of time arguing about our beliefs as if the meaning we each make is the actual meaning.  And, as we know, there is no actual meaning.


So much distress and hours of unproductive conversations would be alleviated if we each understood that the meaning I make is important to me, and the meaning you make is important to you.  Acknowledge the difference and that we care, rather than try to convince the how wrong they are.

For example…

I like vanilla ice cream and you like chocolate.  If I insisted that you like vanilla and you insisted that I like chocolate we will be talking for a long time ~ with likely not much resolve.  I will still like vanilla, you will still like chocolate.

Instead if we chose to celebrate each other’s choices, discussed the pleasure you experience eating chocolate and my joy in eating vanilla, and make arrangements for us each to have those experiences we would decrease our stress and increase joy!!


Next time someone tells you their opinion and shares it as the truth, repeat it back to them with the words, “I understand from what you are saying that you experience what happened as this….is that right?”  Once they have responded, you offer, “I have made a different conclusion from what has happened, are you interested in hearing my thoughts?”

They may or may not want to hear your thoughts.  Whether they invite a conversation or they do not, you have saved many hours of arguing whose interpretations of the facts are the ‘correct’ ones!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Relationship Agreements ~ Who Needs Them?

Are you in a relationship?  With anyone?  In reality we are in relationship with everyone we meet or even walk by.  It is with some unspoken agreement that if you walk by someone that you do or don’t say hello (or make eye contact).

Let’s at this point just consider the important ones.  Significant other, workmates, friends, business partners, family.  Are you crystal clear about the roles you are each agreeing to?  How do you know?

How much time have you spent making explicit agreements as your relationship(s) evolved?  In my business I find that it is only when you disagree that you realize the answer to that question.  And usually it is ‘not enough’.

When we get together with people it is usually because we have some affinity.  We like what they say, what they are doing, how they look, etc.  We talk and we are mostly relating to our imagination of who that person is because we can’t possibly know.  And because we are limited to using words (mostly) to communicate, we don’t know until we do that when you said a particular word, they imagined something completely different than you did.  And most often, there is no way to know it.  We thought we were in complete agreement!


Take a minute to get comfortable.  Now I am going to give you a word and I want you to fully imagine it in your head.  Get a clear picture. 


Okay…what (who) did you imagine?  Maybe your own mom, maybe mother earth, maybe your children?  Possibly there are more than one image, activities that you did with your mom, the special time you baked a birthday cake together, and/or particular feelings.  Maybe your image conjured up feelings of nurturing, or possibly the opposite, maybe disappointment.

Can you now imagine anyone else having the exact same image(s) in their minds as you?

Probably not.

Let’s use the example of TREE…imagine a tree. 

Likely no one else has the exact same image as you.  Yet, when you talk you agree that you love trees, maybe you move in together and completely agree that you are going to plant trees.  It may not be until you get to the nursery that you realize you had been imagining completely different things all along.  You wanted a huge maple tree and your partner imagined a row of fruit trees.

This is when communication, self-awareness, care, compassion, curiosity (all the skills that Nonviolent Communication teaches) are critical.

Even when you do ‘have an agreement’, you may realize you can’t really count on an agreement with someone else.  It may be simply because language and filters get in the way of actual understanding as in the examples above, simply different images/experiences are imagined when we speak.  And, as often happens, it may be that the other person simply does something other than what they agreed to do.  Possibly even just minutes or days after they made the agreement.

It really doesn’t matter what the agreements are or why the outside agreement is no longer in effect.  What matters ultimately are your agreements with yourself.  What needs/values you are committed to.  Knowing this leads to confidence and trust.  Confidence that you will trust yourself no matter what.  Trust yourself to get your own needs met.  Confidence that what ever the circumstance, you have other resources and/or strategies to get your needs met.

I am not suggesting that we don’t make agreements with others.  I am full on in support of making agreements and often.  However, I am encouraging you to stay out of the trap of depending on someone else to do what they agree to in order to be happy.  The more you can keep your own agreements to your values, the more resourceful and creative you will be in connecting to life, meaning what is actually happening, and ask for what you want.  Which may or may not include the person who just broke the agreement.

Monday, June 26, 2017

When Enlightenment Hurts

Have you ever wanted to do something or thought things yet weren’t really able to take the action required?  Until something happened and made it so you kind of ‘had to’?

I have a friend/colleague ~ Raven Dana ~ who introduced me to the phrase “brick to the head enlightenment”.  I love this! 

As I reflect on my own life, I can think of an example or two. 

The first time was my unhappy marriage.  I had some clear ideas that this was not the man for me.  If am totally honest, I knew before the wedding, I just didn’t know how to not marry him.   We were not a match in any kind of satisfying way, and long story short two years in I got sick.  I was in the hospital for 10 days, and when I came out, within a few months, we separated.  I wish I had the communication/self-awareness skills I have now back then, because I feel sad when I think about how we broke up.  I did the very best I could, wanting to be fair, and friendly, and yet it was one of the three most challenging experiences of my life.  But, I digress.  The point of the story is that I was unhappy and stuck and I got sick!
I had cholecystitis.  Gallbladder disease.  So painful.  I suffered for years, and finally had it surgically removed.  People talked about the idea of holding feelings in as being part of what might create such a condition, which is what I did for most of my relationship with my husband. 

The enlightenment came because my first thought was after being diagnosed, “This is something that happened because of my choices.  I did this.”  Almost instantly I changed my diet, stopped smoking (yes, I smoked) and left my marriage.  The 10 days of my hospital stay was my ‘brick to the head’.  I will spare you the emotional trauma of my hospital stay.  It was enough to realize, I will die if I don’t speak up, if I don’t take care of myself.  It was what I needed before I could take action, even though I knew what action needed to be taken years prior.

Recently, I had another experience of “forced mindfulness”.  One thing that was/is distinctly different is how much gratitude I have for the ‘help’.  So much gratitude.

I took a train to visit my boyfriend Steve.  13 hours.  When I got to his place, I noticed some pain in my low back.  By the end of the day, I was barely able to move.  Without pain that is.  And it got worse from there.  I don’t remember having back pain like this ever before, and we were busy that weekend, so I was feeling all kinds of scared.  Long story short…I got to take a sleeper car home (very cool ~ ask me about it!) and upon my arrival home, taking care of myself was my number one priority. 

Here’s the thing…I had been saying that I wanted to prioritize my well-being for 1.5 years, knowing I wasn’t well, and didn’t seem to be able to actually do it.

With the amount of pain I was in, I literally (not literally, really ~ but close) had no choice.  Every move was deliberate.  My body (the universe?) had created a condition that I was able to actualize what I had been hoping for.  Pain was not pleasant, yet kept me honest with my choices.

After one month the pain mostly dissipated.  In a weird way, I felt afraid.  I wanted the pain to keep me focused.  And, I didn’t want to hope for pain, so I chose to remember the pain.  Act as if.   So that is what I have been doing.  I am remembering the choices I made when I was in pain and continue to do those things.  In my case, take walks, stand and lie down ~ reduce sitting to almost never. 

It is now two months.  I am still able to remember.  I can move much more now, yet I am listening much more closely to my body signals.  Certainly there are whispers of ‘you are sitting too long’, or don’t bend down quite like that. 

Say This Not That (to yourself):

Next time you find yourself in pain ~ physical or emotional… 
  • You might consider what is your circumstance?  What is your body asking you for more (or less) of?
  • Check out the stories you immediately are telling (asking) yourself.  Is this going to last forever?  Why am I being plagued with this?  What the hell is wrong with me?  Why did this have to happen now?  
    • Now, take some time to actually answer the questions.  I’m guessing there is some valuable information if you take the time to listen.       
  • Consider the ways you can incorporate some new/old/different habits into your life? 
    • Have you been thinking that life is hard and people don’t support you in a way that you would like?  Now might be a good time to ask for the support you need.
    • Have you been longing for rest and didn’t know how to get it into your schedule?  Is this the ‘excuse’ you have been looking for?  Start saying more effective no’s and yeses.

Don’t let the bricks keep hitting you and piling up!  Take the brick ~ and the message it is delivering ~ and put it in a safe place.