Three Ways to Lower your Anxiety – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/03/09/three-ways-to-lower-your-anxiety/

Anxiety.

I have a lot of personal experience with this.  Anxiety can come in lots of different forms.  Some can’t fall asleep because their minds won’t quiet down.  Others wake up with their heart pounding and this intense feeling of fear.  Some people go through their whole day with this background noise of fear and being on edge.  And still others are so full of anxiety that they can’t even get out of bed.  I’ve experienced all of these and more.

Of course all of us experience anxiety at one point or another.  But I want to talk about what you can do when you have this unnecessary, irrational anxiety which gets in the way of you enjoying life.  And the good news is there are ways to reduce your anxiety and to live a more peaceful and joyful life.  Let me give you three.

The first is to get into the present moment.  A lot of our anxiety is caused by what I call “future tripping”.  Our minds are feverishly thinking about the future, what might happen (or what will probably happen), instead of just being here in this moment.  For example, earlier this week I had a big meeting for my career.  I was feeling a lot of anxiety about it because I was preoccupied with what might happen.  ”Will it go well?”  ”Will I look like an idiot?”  And then someone reminded me that it wasn’t happening yet, and that right in this moment I was fine and there was nothing I could do about it now.

This is different than “just don’t worry about it”.  ”Just don’t worry about it” doesn’t work because it is a negative statement.  It says stop doing what you’re doing.  But it doesn’t offer you an alternative.  Getting into the present moment is an active process.  You have to actually do something.  Try for a moment to close your eyes and put all your focus on your breath.  Notice how quickly your mind goes to some thought.  And notice what you have to do, what kind of effort it takes, to interrupt that thought and bring your focus back to your breathing.  That’s getting into the present moment.  It’s a skill that we must practice.

The second thing you can do is figure out what you’re really scared of.  Even in generalized, all pervasive anxiety, our mind is telling us a story that is causing us fear.  And that story is often untrue.  This took a long time for me to figure out.  In High School I pretty much had a constant state of anxiety going on.  It wasn’t “about” anything.  I was just anxious and on edge all the time.  It took 11 years before I finally realized that this generalized anxiety was a fear of being unlovable.  I was constantly afraid that I would do something, or not do something, which would “prove” I was not worthy of love.  But I don’t want it to take you 11 years to figure out what you’re scared of.  Just try to name one thing you’re scared of.  It can be something that seems “too small”.  Get a partner to help you with this.  Tell them what you’re scared of.  Their instruction is to do one thing, ask you the same question over and over again “and why is that scary?”  Have them ask you that question after every answer you give for 7 minutes.  At some point in those 7 minutes you’ll probably be surprised by what you say.  That’s the story your mind is telling.

Finally, notice how anxiety involves a high amount of energy in your body.  Remember your physics class “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but can change form”.  Ignoring that energy in your body is like trying to destroy it.  This sounds counterintuitive, but what you need to do is go into the energy.  But how?  Well notice where you feel the energy in your body.  Is it in your chest?  Your arms?  Your legs?  Your shoulders?  Where do you feel it?  Once you identify where it is in your body, allow that part of your body to just express the energy.  If it’s in your legs go for a run.  If it’s in your arms shake them out.  If it’s in your shoulders roll them.  Do something that allows the energy to change form, to be expressed and discharged.

There are lots of other ways I know of to help you reduce your anxiety.  And the problem with anxiety is it often makes it difficult for us to focus on our own.  We often need help to stay focused with any of these interventions.  If you’d like some support, please feel free to contact me. :)

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Steps to Healing Mental Wounds – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/02/23/three-steps-to-healing-mental-wounds/

Unhealed wounds are sensitive to the touch.

And while physical wounds, a cut or a scrap, heal naturally and quite quickly…mental wounds can last and last.

What’s a mental wound?  Well, it’s that moment when someone says something and suddenly you’re full of anger.  ”How dare they say that to me!”  ”What a stupid jerk!”  Or it’s that moment when something goes wrong and your internal world crumbles. “I should have known better.”  ”I’m such a mess.”  It’s the situations or types of interactions that you avoid like the plague.  Or it’s when you shut down; you wall up inside yourself, and stay hidden away until the coast is clear.

All of these reactions are symptoms of mental wounds which are still sensitive to the touch.  That’s because our natural mental healing often is interrupted and not supported.  In fact these “symptoms” are also stopping us from healing it up.  

It’s like if you cut your finger and then keep it covered in mud.  The wound only gets more infected.

It’s the same with these mental wounds.  You get hurt, and you do something you think will help like blame yourself, blame the other person, or withdraw, but it ends up being a bunch of mud on a cut finger.

But it’s okay…because unlike the finger our mental wounds can be healed at any moment.

Just the other night my partner and I got lost in a conflict.  We were reading a book aloud to each other, and had a disagreement about how to interpret a paragraph we’d read.  And what started as a simple disagreement, quickly turned into her and I completely disconnected and shut down from one another.

As I reflect upon this incident, I’m embarrassed to share that I was reacting from this wounded place of “needing” to be seen as smart, “needing” to teach, and “needing” to be right.  It startled me when I finally could see it.  It made sense that the only way I knew how to avoid feeling that pain, was to take on this role of “know it all”, this habit of “teaching to” and “dismissing dissent”.  When my opinions and interpretations were challenged as “wrong” (my perception, not my partner’s intention), I had to either feel the pain of being seen as wrong and “stupid”…or I could assert my “rightness” and my intelligence.  The later feels so much more comfortable.

How do we heal then?  How can we get to a point where these mental wounds aren’t so sensitive?

Recognize that you’re reacting to something in the past.  You’re switching to auto-pilot.  You’re acting off of an old, outdated script.  Whatever helps you see that you’re reacting to something much deeper than what’s happening in the moment.

Allow yourself to get in touch with, and accept, the pain that’s really there.  It’s a wound, it hurts!  This is usually the hardest part for people; this is often where people stop.  The reason you’ve reacted the way you have in the past is to avoid feeling the pain that’s there.  Once you stop doing the behavior, you can begin to heal, but that does mean the pain often comes up.

Gain the skills, resources, or insightful liberation that will help you be here in the moment, and not stuck in the past.  After the pain has faded away…your mind is free to explore what’s possible once the wound is healed.  You build up the once wounded muscle.  You allow new, healthier, beliefs form like fresh skin.

Finally, I share my story with you because my prayer is that you don’t spend one minute judging yourself or putting yourself down for this.  It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.  We all have these mental wounds.  I am in it with you.  Don’t be intimidated or scared to reach out for a supportive hand.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Questions to Distinguish Remorse from Feeling Fundamentally Wrong – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/02/09/three-questions-to-distinguish-remorse-from-feeling-fundamentally-wrong/

We all make mistakes.  Of course.  I have made them, and so have you.  And sometimes I have made my mistakes into bigger problems than they really were.

“Making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

The expression says it all.  I’ve become really convinced that my mistake was a “catastrophe” or at least “really wrong”.  If you ask me about how I’m feeling I say “guilty” or “disappointed” or simply “bad”.  And really I’m saying “I feel shame.  I feel like I’m a failure, and I’m scared that you might look down on me.”

Sound familiar?  Maybe not, and that’s fantastic.  But many of you may know this experience all too well.  What’s tricky about it is that of course you want to “do better next time”.  You “want to learn from my mistakes”.  Or you “want to take responsibility for my actions.”  You “ought to feel guilty, disappointed, or regret when you do something wrong”.

All these beliefs make it hard for you to realize when you’re overblowing the significance of the mistake.  Some of you may have heard of the feeling of “shame” or “the inner critic” or “feeling unworthy”.  There is a significant difference between feeling regret and seeing yourself as fundamentally wrong.

But like I said above, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference so here are three questions to ask yourself to see if you’re feeling genuine remorse or fundamentally wrong:

First, how do I feel?  If I notice that my feelings of disappointment color everything, that nothing seems “right”, that’s feeling fundamentally wrong.  And when I feel remorse, I certainly do feel sad and disappointed.  I’m definitely not happy.  But I am able to take my attention off of the mistake for a while.  I can actually be cheered up.  When I’m so despondent I can’t be reached by anyone’s encouragement or support, I’m definitely feeling worthless and not simple remorse.

Second, I ask myself “am I okay?”  I don’t mean “am I going to be okay?” or a reassuring “you still have your health and life.”  ”Am I okay” right here in the present moment.  The specific question I use may not relate to you, but you have to be honest with yourself about whether in this moment you feel wrong, bad, like a failure, shame, or unworthy.  Some other variations on this question you might find more useful: “am I acceptable?”  or “am I good?”  or “am I loveable?”

Third, can you see the good in what you were trying to do?  Everything we do is in an attempt to fulfill our natural values or needs.  If you can see what the positive values or needs you were trying to meet for yourself, then you’re feeling natural remorse.  But if it seems like you had malicious intentions all along, that’s this feeling of being fundamentally wrong.  Genuine remorse is not just noticing that what you tried to do failed in some way, it is also noticing what you wanted to achieve and why you thought what you did would achieve that.  Genuine remorse gives you room to learn, to grow, to improve.  Feeling fundamentally wrong prevents all that.

It’s important to distinguish genuine remorse from feeling fundamentally wrong.  Recognizing that you’re feeling fundamentally wrong will help you realize that you’re experiencing unnecessary suffering.  That you can become liberated from that suffering while still able to learn from your mistakes.  Honest, compassion self-evaluation is possible.  And the first step is noticing when you’re self-evaluation is skewed.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Three Steps to Embracing Your Whole Self – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/01/26/three-steps-to-embracing-your-whole-self/

The parts of you that you reject the most fiercely.  The parts of you that you feel the most shame about.  The parts of others that you hate most vehemently.  All of these are in truth your deepest friends, they need to be embraced, and they actually will enrich your life.

Some people call these parts our “shadow self”.  Your shadow self is the parts of yourself which you reject, deny, and do not identify with.  We refuse to acknowledge and accept this shadow self as part of who we are.  And when you do that, when you reject a part of yourself, then it is impossible for you to truly embrace your whole self.

Allow me make an example of myself.  When I was living and working in Washington D.C., there was a part of me that really wanted to leave.  It wanted to move to a small, liberal, “hippie” town either on the West Coast or in New England and “disappear”.  It dreamed of working a quite job like at a family owned book store or grocery.  This dream had started before I had graduated college, but I refused to listen to it.  Instead I listened to my friends, culture, and family’s insistence on what I “should” do.  That I should get a good job that’s respected in the eyes of others and “pays well”.  That I should pursue a career that used my talents and abilities, and channeled my passion for social change.  That I should work a job I hated because it was better than being unemployed.

There are two primary ways ignoring your shadow self can manifest.  One is rage.  You judge, evaluate, blame, and criticize anyone who shares in the qualities which you deny you have.  The other is depression.  You judge, evaluate, blame, and criticize yourself such that you feel small and insignificant.

I experienced both.  Whenever I was in the office I would hold my co-workers in contempt.  I would judge them as lost and misguided.  I judged them as being only interested in money and power.  I even judged the whole city as corrupt, poisonous, and oppressive.  By judging them I was able to hold these qualities of being misguided, lost, and driven by social approval and money as things that were “not me”.  It helped me feel self-righteous.  They were the lost ones, not me.  They were the misguided ones, not me.  They were the money and power hungry, not me.

And then when I was at home I sank into a depression.  I drank heavily to drown out my feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection.  I would stare at the ceiling, or at the mindless video game, crying inwardly.  I felt horrible.  I noticed how empty my daily life felt.

But there are three ways to turn this around.  First, you need to start where you’re at.  If you’re judging others start there.  If you’re judging yourself start there.  Notice what you are doing to contribute to your suffering.  Second, see that as your friend.  The judgment of others or yourself has a friendly intention.  But that intention has simply become blurred by the immense frustration brought on by denial and rejection.  Finally, listen to, accept, and learn from the feelings and needs within it.

In the very moment that I got laid off I felt this joy and freedom in my chest that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  I stopped resisting it, I didn’t go home and drink away my feelings, and I didn’t numb my brain with video games.  I saw this feeling within me as my friend, as wanting something more for me.  And so I stopped and listened.  I listened to my racing heart; I could hear its yearning to leave.  I learned that what I really wanted was a quiet, simple, low-key living environment.  That I wanted to do work that was embedded within a context of compassion and understanding.  I learned that it was I who had become lost and misguided.  It was I who had become more concerned with money and social acceptance than listening to my own heart.  And I learnt that I was deeply sad and lonely.  And when I accepted that I had to move.  I visited some towns, pick one, and left.  My depression and rage began to lift, and slowly but surely I came to embrace my whole self.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

VoluntaryVisions.com

Darrell Becker’s http://VoluntaryVisions.com/ is now live! The newest site tied to the Tragedy And Hope community focused on the Trivium method of Critical Thinking, Voluntary Communication, Non-Aggression Principle, and more. Equipped with audio archive to easily access all his interviews. Web site, illustrations, and animations by Wiki World Order If his work resonates with you, please consider donating to help kick-start his upcoming book

VoluntaryVisions.com Screenshot

Your Addiction is Trying to Heal You – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2014/01/12/your-addiction-is-trying-to-heal-you/

“Addictions hook us because they offer us something our souls need in order to be free.”
-Steve Bearman

Interesting quote huh?  It certainly goes against our society’s party line on addictions: “it’s a disease which must be cured”.  Looking at addiction as a disease creates an atmosphere of combat, of resistance, and an agenda of elimination.  But we forget that unlike a virus, addictions are actually trying to serve something within us.

Remember that everything we do, we do to try to meet our core values, needs, concerns, and desires.  And addictions are no different.  Often people refer to “self-medicating” in order to “not feel”.  This numbing out could give you peace, harmony, tranquility, or balance when your emotional world is in turmoil.  Or maybe what you get out of the addictive behavior is social approval, connection, friendship, fulfillment, play, or even spiritual meaning.  As you can see all of these core needs are very important, and it is vital that we try to get them met.  And the addiction is trying to do just that.  Your addiction is trying to heal you, its trying to make you more whole by taking care of some unfulfilled, potentially neglected, need within you.  This is why you can’t simply stop doing an activity; you really have to find a new activity, something that fulfills your core needs in a more sustainable, holistic way.

So if addictions are trying to help us, then why are they so destructive?  Well simply put, we do the addictive behavior because it is the best strategy we’ve found so far.  There was a period of my life, when I was working and living in Washington D.C., where I found my work to be very stressful and meaningless.  I also didn’t have a strong community of friends to blow off steam with and just play.  So I ended up drinking too much while playing video games, nearly every night.  The alcohol and video games were giving me play, and relief from the pain and stress I felt daily at my job.  I had tried meeting friends at my local church, at work, with some people I was living with, and even going to local events.  But to no avail, I experience rejection again and again.  So the drinking and the games gave me the play and emotional peace without all the pain of rejection.  Best strategy I could come up with at the time.

But the drinking and video games weren’t taking care of my needs for community and connection.  And so I became more and more isolated.  And that’s when the addiction could have taken a very ugly turn.  Fortunately though it didn’t.  I eventually left Washington D.C. and found a rich community of friends and support in Davis, CA.  And anyone whose struggled with addiction knows that it isn’t enough to identify the core need your addiction is trying to serve and find a more sustainable and holistic strategy.  You also often need support and encouragement from a community of people.  Habitual behavior patterns can be hard to break; sometimes even our sense of identity has become wrapped up in the addiction.  And old reminders of the “glory days” or “triggers” can send us back to square one.  A community of people who unconditionally love you, support you, and encourage you to find more sustainable, holistic activities that serve your needs is necessary to come out of the other side of addiction, to become liberated.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

The New Year – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/29/the-new-year/

This is the final piece in a three part series on “The Holidays”.  We’ve looked at how to make the tradition of giving and receiving gifts much more joyful.  I then answered the three most frequent questions I hear about how to bring Nonviolent Communication to your family.  And now I’m going to turn to the New Year.

If you read self-growth blogs and articles often then you’ve probably been bombarded with all sorts of suggestions about New Year resolutions and how to make the most out of the New Year.  And even if you haven’t, your mind is probably starting to wander into future tripping…thinking about what is to come.

I invite you to take a moment and ground yourself here in now.  Right now, you are in the transition from one year to the next.  You are in the in between time.  And I don’t have any suggestions for you on what to do differently in the New Year, but I do have a fun exercise if you’d like to try it.  This exercise will help you discover what you truly want in the New Year.

First, get in a quiet place, with paper and pen, and allow your mind to settle down.  Become still.  Many people find following their breath, or becoming aware of their expanding and contracting chest, to be helpful in quieting the mind.

Now, write down your top 3 – 5 moments from the year 2013.  In what moments did you feel utterly alive?  What were the moments that you wished could have been frozen in time?  What moments do you almost wish you could go back to right now?

Then, write down the 3 – 5 lowest moments in the year 2013.  What moments are etched in your memory from this year because of the pain and sadness?  What moments do you reflect on and cringe?  What is that moment which you don’t want to write down?

Now, write about what feelings and needs were met or not met in each of these moments.  Take your time with this step.  Allow yourself to connect with each feeling and each met or unmet need.  This is giving you a greater connection with your essential self, with the deepest values, core concerns, and core desires you have.

Finally, reflect upon everything you’ve written down.  Is there anything you want to make sure to do in the upcoming year to meet your needs?  Is there anything in the upcoming year you want to make sure you don’t do to avoid unmet needs?  Do you notice any recurring unmet needs?  If so, what specific things could you do to make sure those needs get me this year?  Do you notice any recurring needs that got fulfilled?  What specific things can you do to make sure they keep getting met?  With this final step the more specific you can get, the better.

I hope you have a great New Year.  I hope you find a more enriched life in 2014.  I hope you find new and innovative strategies to meet more of your needs.  And I hope that you give and receive more compassion than you did the year before.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

The Family – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/16/the-family/

This is the second part in my three part series on “The Holidays”.  Last time we looked at giving and getting more than presents this year.  And now I’m going to look at the tradition of seeing the family.

At the beginning, I’d like to recognize that some people won’t be seeing their families this holiday season and that may be very, very painful for them.  I just want to empathize with how hard, painful, isolating, lonely, and sad this holiday season can be for you.

But for those who are going to see their family, I want to go over three major issues that come up for people seeing their families.  One I hear all the time is that they wish there was more openness and vulnerability in their family, less small talk and niceties.  The second thing I hear is how people feel like they revert to a younger version of themselves when they’re around their families, and can’t remember their NVC skills at all.  And third, I hear people wanting to forgive family members and move on, but don’t know how.

“How do I have more openness, vulnerability, and authenticity in my family?”

You would really like to feel closer to and more connected to our families.  Closeness and connection really comes from being seen, understood, and accepted.  And the only way to even have a chance of being seen, understood, and accepted is by showing up as yourself.  You need to be willing to make the first move.  Be open about your life, share your vulnerabilities with your family, and be your authentic self.   Of course, there is nothing we can do to ensure that our family members give us acceptance or understanding.  They may not be willing or able to, and coming to terms with that can be quite painful and hard.

“How come when I see my family I fall back into old patterns, and can’t remember any skills I’ve learned?”

A natural question after that first one.  I’ve told you that if you want more authenticity, openness, and vulnerability in your family that you have to make the first move.  But in the moment when you’re sitting at dinner and someone speaks that dreaded word or phrase you’ve heard since childhood….all of a sudden you find yourself acting the same way you’ve acted for decades.  First, just give yourself some empathy here.  It’s very hard to overcome old behavior patterns, especially when you don’t feel supported by the people around you in making those changes.  And when you get triggered to a young childhood memory, of course your mind goes right back to the pain and suffering you felt then, leaving the present entirely.

And so I encourage you to in those moments self-empathize with yourself.  Pause, take a breath, and empathize with the pain you’re feeling.  Befriend that negative emotion.  And even if you’ve already acted the way you always have, and the moment seems to have passed, you can always go back and do a redo.  Simply say the person “You know, when I did x, y, and z a moment ago…it really wasn’t in integrity with my deeper values.  I’d like to try to express myself a little differently.  If I could do it again, I would have said…”  Don’t think of “mistakes” as failures, but as opportunities to practice your skills.

“I want to forgive my family and move on…but how?”

This is challenging indeed, but if you can do it, you will find it is very rewarding.  Begin by recognizing and befriending your own feelings and needs.  What exactly did your family member do that hurt you?  Can you describe it in photographic, observational language stripped away of all evaluation and interpretation?  If not, then you need to empathize with your own feelings and needs more.  Once you can see what the other person did as an objective third party might, then try to empathize, try to understand, what the other person was feeling and needing in that moment.  What was their action intended to accomplish for themselves?  How were they feeling in the moments leading up to that action?

And once you can befriend and empathize with how they were feeling and what they needed.  Then you can say “I forgive you.”

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

AltBib.Com Hits 5 Million Database Loads (Queries)

My earliest sister project of Wiki World Order (it’s predecessor in fact), has just passed a silly, self-created benchmark after four and a half years. AltBib.Com currently has 6,679 Reference Links, with 14,738 Tags/Keywords, 81,862 Taggings (connections between links and tags), and 5,007,713 Database Loads or Queries (like page loads)…including many robot visits it seems. Over 2.3 million of these database loads took place just during 2013.

To Google Analytics, since July 2010 this translates to 10,572 Visits, 7,694 Unique Visitors, 28,571 Pageviews, 2.70 Pages/Visit, 00:05:05 Avg. Visit Duration, 72.38% Bounce Rate, 72.78% % New Visits. And as InfoWarDocs.org from May 2009 to July 2010: 16,681 Visits, 10,379 Unique Visitors, 43,482 Pageviews, 2.61 Pages/Visit, 00:03:59 Avg. Visit Duration, 78.37% Bounce Rate, 62.15% % New Visits. Lots of robots I’m sure, but I am pleased to see the average visit duration over five minutes.

AltBib.Com 5 Million

AltBib.Com 5 Million

AltBib.Com is a bibliography for the alternative media. This site is a completely free research tool used to collect and organize as much important documentation as possible, largely mainstream sources referenced by alternative media and interesting films. Please collaborate by suggesting related document links.

For better and worse, it is primarily my perspective via the various outlets i follow and the sources they use. The bulk is comprised of sources cited from the Tragedy & Hope community of media creators (http://TragedyAndHope.com), the featured stories from PrisonPlanet.com, various drug policy reform activist newsletters, and periodically the Facebook shares from the brilliant friends. I bet that roughly one out of every articles/documents/videos i consume gets documented, systematically tagged, and archived there on AltBib.Com.

Here is my original video introducing AltBib.Com…

Giving and Getting more than Presents this Year – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/12/01/giving-and-getting-more-than-presents-this-year/

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are just behind us, while Christmas is just a mere three weeks away.  We’ve entered that time of year again…the holidays.  Three big traditions come up in my life around this time: getting and giving presents, seeing family, and preparing for the new year.  I’m going to spend the next three blog posts reflecting on each of these traditions and how we can deepen them.

So this week I’m looking at getting and giving presents.  When I romanticize it, it’s a wonderful tradition of giving and getting appreciation, support, love, and celebration.  But when I’m in the thick of it, I often feel obligated, burdened, and judged.

Do I give a gift to my cousin, or my uncle, who I haven’t spoken to since the last Christmas truly as an expression of my gratitude that they’re (vaguely) in my life?  Or do I give the gift because I feel obligated since if I don’t I might be judged or look down on?  Do I give the gift because I have to?

I certainly do give gifts to people out of a sense of obligation.  And I notice that what comes along with that is this resentment about the holidays.  ”Oh geeze, better tighten my belt and stick close to my budget” I groan.

And I spend a good deal of my time picking presents while worrying about “will this person like it?”, “will they be disappointed/hurt/upset if they don’t like it?”, “what would that person think of me if I don’t get them a gift?”

I remember this worry about being judged going back as far as when I was little.  My parents and other kids at school would tell me “Santa only brings presents to good children.  Bad kids get coal.”  What a message that is for kids, “if you’re good then you get presents, and if you’re bad you get a lump of coal while watching everyone else opening up their presents.”  A reward and punishment system at its best.

But all of this resentment, obligation, and judgment seem so at odds with the general message of joy, celebration, and good cheer.  And so I want to find a new way to relate to this tradition of giving and receiving.

We just left Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to expressing gratitude and appreciations.  What a wonderful idea for a holiday!  In fact, I find Thanksgiving to be one of the most fun holidays because it is completely centered around sharing a meal with loved ones and expressing your appreciation for each of them.  Who doesn’t want to get invited to that meal?

And so what if for this holiday season I, and you, practiced giving to others in the form of giving appreciations.  If we practiced giving one another peace and harmony by acting calm and civil while shopping or traveling.  If we practiced giving comfort and hope to people as we treat them with extra patience and compassion these next few weeks.  What if you and I found novel and interesting ways to give to all sorts of people in our lives, certainly family and friends, but also co-workers and strangers.  We might notice that in giving some small acts of kindness each day we will receive so much more.

And what if you and I practiced receiving little joys from one another.  Really receive the next time someone says an earnest “thank you”.  Really take it in the next time someone goes out of their way to help you out.  Really feel the joy that comes from knowing you contributed in some way to another person’s life.

Instead of focusing on some sort of material giving and getting, let’s focus on receiving and giving more joy, honesty, compassion, respect, and love to one another this holiday season.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

My Opinion of Authority (1999)

Recently found college essay, revealing my early resistance to appeals to authority…

When I was younger, I was under the impression that figures of authority were different from ordinary people. People in high positions ranging from the Vice President of the United States, to teachers, meant they must be special. It was not until my mid-teens when I came to a realization that all people, no matter their rank in society, are just people like me.

My younger brother and I started buying cigarettes from vending machines when I was in 2nd grade to prove that kids only three feet tall could do it. We testified and helped get an ordinance passed that banned cigarette vending machines in Montgomery County. The law was later overturned in court, so we began to testify yearly at the Maryland State Assembly on tobacco-related legislation. Over the past 10 years, my brother and I have created many opportunities to see what politicians are like and how they are normal people. When I was 12 years old, my brother and I met with Maryland State Delegate Hixson and she told us that our vending machine stings were illegal and that we could be arrested. Two weeks after this little chat, we testified before her committee in support of a state ban on cigarette vending machines. We told the Committee what she told us and then explained that we looked at the law and what she told us was far from the truth. Publicly embarrassing the Chair of the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee felt quite empowering. This experience confirmed my suspicions that politicians, aside from their views differing from mine, could be sneaky and manipulative, even to a couple of kids. She was just a person who disagreed with us. In the end, we set her role of power aside and were able to correct her error without feeling any risk despite the great difference in power between us.

Students Oppose Smoking (S.O.S.), which I am currently the chair of, was invited to participate in a “Roundtable Discussion” with Vice President Al Gore. Our countywide student-led organization has accomplished a great heal during the last few years, including a tobacco survey reaching over 10,000 high school students and 5,000 middle school students. Unlike us, most of the other youth invited to this White House event had not done much at all on the issue. When we were told to put on matching T-shirts and sit cross-legged on the floor, it became clear this was essentially a photo-op so Gore would be seen talking about smoking with kids. We resisted blending in during this televised event. Instead we raised powerful data from our extensive survey to support solid ideas that had never really been discussed at a national level. After multiple members of our group had presented almost the only substantive arguments, a person on Gore’s staff told us to stop bringing up our data when we spoke. We disregarded this request, and continued to make excellent points using our statistics.

This encounter made me realize that at the Vice President’s so called “Roundtable Discussion,” he did not really want to listen to what we had to say, but merely wanted to look good for the cameras. If he had actually wanted to discuss this important problem with us he would have shown more real interest in our proposals. To the public, it was important to show he cares, but in reality he was placed in this position as a normal busy person who can pretend to be concerned about anything. If I had watched the White House event on television, I would have thought he really wanted to get more opinions. But because I was there as a participant, it became clear that even one of the highest politicians in the country, whom I otherwise like, was for the most part just another person smiling and nodding, and not much different from another charismatic individual.

One last example of how the pedestal of authority figures was significantly lowered dates back to 10th grade when I attempted to represent Richard Montgomery High School for a project in the Final Frontiers competition held annually at the National Institute for Standards in Technology (NIST). It was required that all 11th grade physics students build a contraption for one event of the competition. At the in-school competition to determine who would represent the school, I was the only sophomore competing against a large group of juniors. The project I had chosen voluntarily to construct was a catapult made out of straws and tape designed to throw a ping pong ball the furthest. I ended up being the runner up for our school and the alternate at NIST. The 11th grade group who beat me performed terribly at NIST. At the competition, I had known I would not be able to actually participate, so I had asked an official judge to measure how far my catapult would throw. My design would have been good enough to win second place at the countywide competition.

This experience was awful for me. Although I was happy with the caliber of my design, I was disgruntled not to receive credit for it. I wrote a letter to another physics teacher explaining how I felt the teacher in charge of the in-school competition had made a bad judgement call and how she probably should have had a run off between the catapults. The results between my catapult and that of the juniors were so close, measurements had been so inaccurate, and she seemed to favor the other team of three girls. I hoped this expression of my opinion might help to prevent this possible unfairness from happening again. I still respect the teacher but I definitely see that she is just like other people and perhaps made a mistake.

Although I never had a defining epiphany, it is because of a serious of experiences like these that have made me less intimidated by adults no matter their position. I maintain great respect for those deserving, but I feel more confident to discuss or debate with adults (especially powerful adults) because I know they are just people like me and they have their imperfections.

This attitude of questioning authority also occurred recently in my college application process. Although several adults, including my parents, urged me to apply to several schools, I took their arguments into consideration and prescribed my own point of view that the University of Maryland was ideal for me and this should be the only place I should apply. I listened and considered the opinions from many elders (figures of authority) and felt secure in making an independent decision. I have been stuck on your institution since I first toured the Engineering School in 9th grade. Even after seeing colleges like MIT and Georgia Tech more recently, these visits only confirmed that I wanted to enroll at UMD. I look forward to taking classes on all the specific topics I am interested in learning about and plan on staying in college for a long time to continue this learning process.

Safety – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/11/17/safety/

Feeling safe is essential to resolving conflicts.  But what do I mean by feeling safe?  Certainly it means freedom from physical danger like violence or abuse.  But it also means freedom from emotional danger like judgments, put downs, manipulation, and insults.  All of these emotional dangers create fear in us, and this feeling of fear is the exact opposite of feeling safe.

Feeling unsafe can create a negative cycle.  Once one person feels unsafe, they are likely going to act out some sort of fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  They might raise their voice and make a judgment.  Or they might shut down.  Whatever it is, this reaction will probably result in the other person feeling unsafe too.  And once your both are feeling unsafe, you both are acting out fight, flight, freeze responses, which just continue to trigger one another.  Ultimately fear breeds more fear.

So for you to navigate difficult conflicts well, you must learn how to identify the negative cycle of feeling unsafe, and interrupt it.

Here’s a moment when I did this.  I was leading a workshop, and a participant and I started getting into a conflict.  He really wanted to get heard, and I really wanted to move the group forward.  I started feeling really unsafe.  And I could tell that each time I tried to “move things along” this made the participant more vocal.  Suddenly it dawned on me “oh, he’s not feeling really heard right now.  He probably feels really unsafe that I keep trying to move things along.”  This was followed by another sudden realization “oh, I want to move things alone because as the leader I’m feeling unsafe because I’m scared that other participants are going to get bored and disinterested”.

I decided to just voice this out loud.  I said to the participant I was struggling with “I can tell how important it is for you to get heard.  It’s really painful and hard that you’re not getting the recognition and understanding you want.  I’m also feeling really scared that other people aren’t getting the growth and engagement that they were hoping for.  I’m wondering if you could share just one more time on this, I could show you some empathy, and then we could move on?”

It worked!  He sighed with relief.  He shared a brief anecdote.  I reflected what he had said.  And then the group took a collective sigh of relief as we were able to move forward.

This story highlights three main tools we can use to create safety,

First, make a request.  If you notice that you’re not feeling safe, just share that!  Name it.  And then make a request to your partner for what would help you feel safer.

Second, show compassion and empathize with your partner.  When you notice that your partner is acting out of a place of fear, and feeling unsafe, try to have compassion for that.  Empathize with them, use reflective listening.  Help them realize that you actually are present with them, and that you care about their experience.

Third, be vulnerable.  This last one is a bit counter intuitive.  But we can actually create safety sometimes by being more vulnerable and honest about our own experience.  This is because it invites the other person to do the same thing.  And when two people are openly sharing from the heart, safety naturally arises.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

Radical Honesty – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/11/03/radical-honesty/

Most people think “radical honesty” must involve telling your friends, loved ones, and co-workers all the worst judgments, criticisms, and blame that you’re mind can produce.  ”You want me to be radically honest??” a client of mine protests. “You want me to tell her how she’s constantly nagging and never gives me space to even breathe??”

Well…not quite.

I’d say the above is still just another type of lying.  It assumes that the other person is at fault, and that if they would only change then things would improve.  It essentially denies the speaker’s responsibility for their own experience.  And that’s not honest.

There are three things that radical honesty requires: 1) telling the factual truth about what happened, 2) owning your feelings and core desires, and 3) revealing your deeper values.

So as you can see, radical honesty is really all about the speaker, not about the listner.  Let me demonstrate what I’m talking about when I say “radical honesty”:

“I’m really sad that you don’t want to see this movie with me, to be honest I really admire you and find you quite attractive.”

“When you didn’t call home last night, I was scared…really scared…that maybe you weren’t okay…but also that maybe you don’t really respect or love me.”

“You know, I’d really like to connect with you right now, but I’m frustrated that I’m not connecting well to this topic.”

And why would you ever want to do this?  Anytime you want to have more intimacy.  When you want the other person to really see and “get” you.  When an argument or fight has just been going on and on with no end in sight.  When you want more connection.

Essentially when you want to have a deep, rich, and powerful relationship with another person.

This certainly isn’t easy to do.  We often hide behind such rationalizations as “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” or “its actually not that important.”

But if you’re avoiding being this honest with people ask yourself “who really ever gets to see me?”  or “am I ‘protecting’ this person or the relationship at the cost of myself?”  It is vital to a healthy relationship that you get to be seen and understood for who you really are.  And no one can do that for you if you aren’t radically honest with them.

A quick story from my life:

I was on a date with a girl, and it actually was pretty boring.  There just wasn’t much of a spark, we kept just bantering and making small talk.  Finally I peeped up “hey, you know…I was excited about going on this date, but now I’m actually feeling a little bored.  I’d like us to have a fun date…so could you tell me what you really think of me so far, and how you think this date is going?”

My date at first gave me this look of just utter confusion.  But then slowly smiled and said “well…I guess I also wasn’t having that much fun…you’re not really my type and I thought we would have had more in common…but I really admire you for asking.”

I laughed.  ”Yeah…it was scary.  And I am kinda sad that you’re not really that into me, I find you very attractive.”

We talked for a little while longer, paid our bill, and left.  We didn’t have a second date.  But that moment was so exciting and fun, even in remembering and typing it here I felt some of the thrill of that moment.  And we didn’t have to continue pretending that something was going to come of us dating which just wansn’t true.  We both got to really see each other in that moment.

Sometimes you won’t like what you see, but at least you’ll know where you stand.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.

The One Thing to Become More Compassionate – by Kind Communication

Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/10/20/the-one-thing-to-become-more-compassionate/

Do you ever wish you could be more compassionate?  Wish you weren’t as critical of others, or of yourself?  Luckily there’s really only one thing you need to do to become more compassionate.  Have empathy.  Empathy is the experience of putting yourself in somone’s shoes.  Its about really feeling what another person feels.  Its about identifying and connecting with the core desires and concerns in others and oneself.

Sympathy is when we notice another’s suffering, and feel pity but we keep ourselves at a safe distance.  Empathy is stronger, it is actually entering that other person’s world.  Feeling their pain as if it were your own.

But there are three things that stop most of us from empathizing with ourselves or others.

First, we’re often feel scared.  We’re scared of lots of things.  You might be scared that if you embrace this person’s world you will lose your own perspective.  You’ll become just as sad as they are, or you’ll start agreeing with them and lose your perspective.  You might be scared that if I empathize with someone then you wont be able to take care of yourself as effectively.  You might be scared that if you let yourself feel that much, you’ll get hurt.  Fear is a big obstacle that stops people from reaching out and connecting with others.  But this fear of connecting with others stops us from being the fully compassionate beings we can be.  This fear may never go away, and so we need the courage to empathize with people even when we are scared.

Second, we might think that they’re just wrong.  When someone’s doing something I disagree with, I often have the thought “you’re wrong”.  One time a participant in a workshop said “this exercise was boring”.  My immediate reaction in my head was “well then you didn’t do it right”.  And as I was having that belief I felt all this resentment and resistence to this person.  Luckily, I checked myself before speaking….I noticed this thought and identified the underlying feelings and needs.  I was scared that I wasn’t being appreciated & supported.  I then was able to voice my anxiety in the moment, as well as my desire for the participant to get the growth they were looking for.  But as long as I viewed that participant as wrong there was no way I could extend empathy and thus compassion to them.

Third, we don’t know how.  Or put more accurately we’ve forgotten how.  It seems to me that my most natural state is to be compassionate.  When I’m compassionate I’m struggling less, I’m more present in the moment, I feel more relaxed.  What could be more natural than those things?  Our culture though doesn’t teach compassion.  Certainly little pockets of our culture do.  And certainly large pockets of our culture gives compassion and empathy lip service.  But the large message I hear when I see the news, most movies, and most television is to get what your’s.  That the world is dog eat dog, and you’ve got to get what’s yours first.  That you need to win.  And so after decades of that kind of training must of us forget how to empathize and connect with another person.  We’ve learnt to just view the world through our own ego.  And so if you find yourself here the lucky thing is that there are lots of great teachers, books, and exercises to relearn how to empathize with others.  For starters just try this: the next time a friend is venting to you, stay quite.  Nod your head, try to mirror the other person’s facial expressions.  And when they pause ask them how they felt when that happened.  You might be surprised by the results.

KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.