Re-posted From: http://KindCommunication.org/2013/05/02/peace/
Who wants more peace in their life? Who dreams of a day when there is no more struggle and strife? Both of my hands are raised, that’s for sure.
If we think of peace as being the lack of all conflict, then we’ll never gain it. Conflict is inevitable, in a given time and a given situation I have certain pressing needs and another person may have different pressing needs. For example; when I immediately come home from work my most pressing need is for relaxation, but sometimes my housemate has a pressing need for connection. Its a conflict, that’s okay, and it is inevitable.
So if peace isn’t a lack of conflict, then what do I mean by that word? When I think of peace, I think of the lack of stress and the lack of suffering. I can have peace in the conflict described above if I do two things: accept what is and not sacrifice my own needs.
To achieve peace in this very moment I must become accepting of what is. And the best way to do this is by letting go of our “should” thoughts. If I think to myself, “My housemate really should leave me around right now”, I’m going to end up feeling stress and anger at his requests to spend time together. Anytime I believe the external world ought to be different in some way than it already is, I’m setting myself up for stress. Most of us fear letting go of these should judgments because if we do, then how will we be motivated to change our situation? If I don’t think that my roommate should leave me alone, how then will I be motivated to assert my needs? But in truth, when we let go of our should thoughts our values and needs don’t change. What changes is the lack of stress. Now instead of getting angry and stressed out over my housemate’s request, I feel sadness since I know I can’t meet that need for him right now.
Likewise I must let go of inward should judgments, “I know I’m tired, but I really should hang out with him right now.” This will also lead to resentment and stress. But this is because to think that would mean to sacrifice my own needs for the sake of the other person. I’m likely to do that if I think that my self-worth is dependent upon this other person liking me. So something I remember often that helps me is a practice of “me-not me”. When I notice that I am a distinct and separate human being from my housemate, then I can notice that his feelings and needs are not my own. And most importantly, I recognize that I am responsible for my feelings and needs, and he is responsible for his own. And so in this way I can maintain my needs in this conflict.
And so by letting go of my judgments, and thereby accepting the world as it is; while also recognizing and maintaining my own needs I can have peace. But here’s the paradox of peace: gaining peace is a constant struggle. There are so many forces around us, so many ways that we’ve been raised and socialized that make this process very difficult to maintain. We’ve been raised hearing so many should judgments that their now almost invisible to us. Some of those should judgments that are now invisible to us includes the judgment “I should always come first.” Some of us were raised with the belief that in order to “keep the peace” we had to sacrifice our needs to make the more powerful person happy. What is sad is that there are ways in which these forces are self-perpetuating, and so we continue to experience (and perpetuate them) throughout our lives. And some of these forces support the interests of very powerful institutions and so they are enforced in our culture.
Hearing those last two sentences one may think the situation should be different somehow. Or you might become resigned to losing out.
But to do either is to lose peace.
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.