This is the concluding piece of a five part series on the fundamentals of compassionate consciousness. In the first entry, I wrote about how to listen to your own feelings and needs. And in the second entry, I wrote about how after you embrace your own experience it becomes much easier to see and embrace the other person’s feelings and needs. The third entry encouraged you to let your guard down and get vulnerable which will help you get the connection you’re really looking for. This connection you’re really looking for is called intimacy, and it was covered in the fourth entry.
And this leaves us realizing that relationships can truly be both simple and deep.
For me, most of my past relationships have been complicated because of two things: playing guessing games and reactivity. I used to constantly expect my partner to read my mind. I remember in my first romantic relationship, I expected my partner to know exactly how much touch I wanted at all times. I’d think to myself “She doesn’t love me at all! If she did, she’d be holding my hand/kissing me/stroking my arm/massaging my back right now”. And of course, she felt really confused when I would get grumpy. But if I had really listened to my own feelings and needs I could have clearly seen that I was feeling stressed or lonely and needed connection and touch. And with that knowledge I could have simply asked her “hey, could you hold my hand right now?” But instead I would blame my partner for not reading my mind. It isn’t your partner’s fault that they don’t know, it is your responsibility to tell them.
Relationships also get complicated when we’re reacting to a story that is running in our head. Our partner shares something and if we’re present in the moment we probably wouldn’t be so bothered by what they said. But instead it brings up some past wound and we are reacting to that old memory instead. I had a relationship where I was told that I was too “emotionally needy”. Then in later relationships when my partner said they didn’t want to hang out in a particular moment, what I heard was “you’re too needy”. And because I was reacting to that story in my head rather than what my partner actually said interactions would get very complicated. For example:
Me: Wanna hang out this Saturday?
Partner: You know, I’d really like to just hang out with my friends.
Me: Oh! What did I do wrong? Did I say something that upset you?
Partner: What? No…I just want to hang out with my friends.
Me: Oh come on…I know I did something wrong…please tell me…
Understandably my partner would feel quite annoyed at this point. If I had just said “I feel scared you might be thinking that I’ve been too needy lately” then I could have trusted my partner’s response “I’m just missing my friends”. Check in to see if your reacting more to a story in your head, an old wound, than to what your partner is actually saying.
I also notice two reasons why some of my past relationships stayed at the surface. More often than not, I simply didn’t know how to go deeper. I used to say “I’ve already told you that I want to hang out Saturday night…and you don’t want to…so what more is there to say?” A lot. I could have talked about my fear that my partner no longer valued our connection. I could have talked about the joy I got from our connection. I could have talked about my sadness and longing or more intimate relationships. Nonviolent Communication gives you this greater awareness of your feelings and needs, and thus helps you reveal this deeper content.
But something a little more difficult to overcome is a lack of perceived safety which then creates a fear of going deeper. I’m not going to go deep with someone who I think is going to attack and blame me everytime I express my vulnerable core. But by using Nonviolent Communication I realize that any attack, judgment, or blame from the other person is just a tragic expression of their own feelings and needs. And when you can see that an attack is purely the other person’s feelings and needs, which they are ultimately responsible for, then it is easier to create a safe distance between your vulnerable core and the words of your partner. And in this way you create your own safety by not internalizing their judgments.
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.