I don’t do this often, but this post is dedicated to a book I just finished reading entitled Loving What Is by Byron Katie. This book offers a very simple process to achieve what in NVC we call “letting go of ‘Should’ thinking”. And then it goes a step further by investigating how our judgments of others and the world can lead us to deeper insights into ourselves.
Often our suffering is caused by our mental world. Our thoughts. Sure, if I don’t have any food I will suffer hunger, or if I am cut with a knife I will suffer pain. But when I’m thinking “Bill should respect me”, from what am I suffering from? My suffering comes from my own belief that things out to be some other way. Let’s say this thought, “Bill should respect me”, comes up in an instance where I’ve asked Bill to do me the favor of watering my plants while I’m away, and he doesn’t do it. When I see that my plants are dead, and I ask Bill if he watered them, and he admits that he forgot…then yes I am sad that my needs for support and help weren’t met. Now if in my sadness I also believe “Bill should respect me”; now I am suffering as a victim. Now I’m angry at Bill, and maybe even angry at life, that I was so “unfairly” treated. Now, imagine what happens when I encounter the same situation (I come home, plants are dead, Bill admits he forgot) but I do not hold onto the belief “Bill should respect me”. If you put yourself in this situation, how do you feel when you believe “Bill should respect me” is true, and how do you feel if you don’t believe that judgment?
And so you can hopefully now see how our attachment to a judgment as “true” creates added layers of stress and suffering to our lives. But here’s the beauty: we don’t have to become attached to a judgment as true. Continuing with the example above; is it really true that Bill doesn’t respect me? If you’re saying yes, can you absolutely know that to be true? If Bill respects me does that mean he inherently/definitely would have watered my plants while I was away? If you’re now saying “maybe” or “not really” these are just softer ways of saying “no”. And then now you can see that the belief is not true. And in seeing that it is not true, you are no longer attached to it being true.
Finally, this judgment we’re making of Bill can give us insight into ourselves. Let’s say I reformulate my statement, I turn it around, so it now says “I should respect me”. Is that as true or truer than my original judgment? Yes! Indeed, it is my job to respect my needs. It is no one else’s responsibility. And so if it is my job to respect my needs, then I am responsible for asking someone I trust to water my plants. Or try on this turnaround, “Bill should respect Bill” or “I should respect Bill”. Both of them are as true or truer than the original statement. It is true that Bill is responsible for taking care of his needs, and sometimes that means he won’t be able to take care of my needs. And I need to respect Bill enough to come to him with compassion, not attacking.
If you’re still scratching your head over this, don’t worry. We’ve lived for a long time believing that the world ought to be some other way than it is. And the struggle to make the world different in some way is painful. If this work seems to resonate with you, then I highly encourage you to read the full book on Loving What Is.
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.