To me, killing people is too superficial.
To me, any kind of killing, blaming of other people, punishing, or hurting other people is a very superficial expression of our anger.
We want something much more powerful than killing or hurting people physically or mentally. That’s too weak. We want something much more powerful than that to fully express ourselves…
‘I’ll bet you I could show you something that would be sweeter than vengeance…I’ll bet you I can show you something more delicious than that.’”Marshall Rosenberg, The Surprising Purpose of Anger
Ah, an obsession. There IS one that has been growing for quite some time now, and has REALLY started to blossem this year.
I’m obsessed with communication. Through my own experiences, through discussions with friends, through many nights of questions and introspection, and through reading up on Non-Violent Communication, I’ve been becoming aware of some of the catastrophic modes of communication we use every day, the kind of communication and associated thinking we’ve been conditioned to accept as normal.
Seriously, it’s like the Matrix: it’s all around us, it imprisons us, and we live enslaved to the system, not even realizing how it degrades us, and turns us against ourselves and each other. And after having your eyes opened, so many things make sense. You begin to see the causes and effects underlying harmful communication, and the harmful perspectives and ways of thinking that grow from them. And this is ESPECIALLY visible on Tumblr, but that’s just a small slice of all the damage out in the world.
And that’s not to say I understand everything. In some cases I don’t understand at all. But I DO understand our intrinsic need for empathy, and to be understood, and just to be listened to and accepted. I DO understand how as we grow up and pass from childhood how our empathy and needs are dismissed and replaced with expectation and obligation and control. I DO understand the cyclic nature of this system, and how we learn to impose it on ourselves and others. I understand how this diminishes the connection we have to each other, the ability to empathize and sympathize, and instead leads us criticize and dismiss. I recognize the needs underlying the brokenness, the needs underlying the false smiles and the lies we tell ourselves and others. I recognize the guilt and shame that chain us down, and only feed cycles of misery.
I can see how we walk through the world with our hands around our own throats, because another’s hands were once around our own, and maybe still are. I can see that as long as we keep that grip on our neck tight, how EASY it is to wrap our hands around someone else’s.
I can see division. I can see the harmful mindsets poisoning religion, transforming that which should be loving and patient and understanding and healing into a machine that judges and deceives people into believing they possess righteous sanction to work evil upon their brothers and sisters and call it good and holy.
And perhaps it all sounds like I’m babbling nonsense, or tripping out, but it ALL connects: matters of the heart, communication, empathy, needs, the connections between us…
And it absolutely FASCINATES me. It feels like I’m looking at reality clearly…and it’s not some kind of esoteric psychology, but rather it feels like something very very basic, very SIMPLE, when we actually begin to look at it.
It all STARTS with simply ACCEPTING the reality of a situation, or of ourselves, and understanding the limits within that reality, that we are the way we are, that we feel the way we feel, and it’s all OK for it to be that way, and there is no shame in just BEING as we are, no matter how strong or how broken, or what we have done, or what anyone else says. Because to deny that is to deny the very reality of the situation, to deny reality itself.
And maybe I’m talking too much in the abstract, so I’ll get back down to earth with a small example:
There is a boy who just got beat up at school. He comes home to his father, in tears, hurt physically and emotionally. He has need for many things: empathy, compassion, care, healing, nurturing, acceptance, love…
And his father instead gets upset. He starts yelling at his son, telling him to man up, that real men don’t cry, they suck it up. Or he tells him to just ignore what those kids say, since it doesn’t really matter, sticks and stones and all that, and just walk away. Or he tells him to toughen up and fight back.
And some responses seem better than others, but the point is that ALL of these ignore, disregard, or condemn the needs of the boy. No empathy is offered. The boy does not feel understood or accepted, because the father is either judging and condemning him, or telling him to change, to be other than what he is now, at this moment. The message is the same: it is NOT okay to be as you are. It is NOT okay to be weak, or to cry. It is NOT okay to feel the way you feel. It is NOT okay to be vulnerable. You need to change, you need to be FIXED.
And so the boy grows as he is nourished, now knowing that certain ways of being or feeling are shameful and bad, that showing weakness or being vulnerable is shameful and bad, that he has to amputate his feelings and mutilate his own self-empathy to pretend to the world and himself that he is something he is not, and hold that guilt and shame close, like secret chains.
Worse, if the boy internalizes this, he now believes this is the way the world works, this is reality, and so he interacts with others the same way. And whether or not he becomes a bully, sneering contemptibly at weakness, he has learned that certain states of being, or holding certain thoughts or feelings, is BAD, that it makes those people BAD, that they should not be the way they are, that it is not OK for them to be as they are. The system propagates itself, a counterfit reality that mutilates us and we don’t even know it.
And from that little example, though I’m NOT showing the entire picture, take a moment now to look at the state of things.
Look at disorders of eating or image. Look at the stigmatism, contempt, guilt, and harm over issues of sexuality and gender identity. Look at the countless people drowning in the fear that they aren’t good enough. So much more. All of it stemming from the very same seed, that belief, passed on, that it is not OK to be as we are, that denial of reality, that disconnection from ourselves and others.
And as I said, there is more to it than this, but this is where it starts, and you can follow it, that harm and broken thinking, like cracks in glass.
And now that I’ve seen it, I can’t look away.
rainy-ghada said: If i could like this a hundred times i would <3
:] Aw, thanks so much! <3
I’m exceedingly grateful you asked! It’s been on my mind for some time, and I’m just beginning to find how it can be used for healing.
If you have interest, take a look at the recent conversation between Allie and myself (it’s in order, so you can just start reading from the top).
And while I’m gelling quite a bit of stuff to get at my own personal viewpoint, a strong component has been Non-Violent Communication, or NVC. If you should have an interest, check out the book “Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life”. You should be able to find it easily on Amazon. The language can be stilted, but as far as bringing awareness and opening channels for empathy, it’s a fantastic approach.
Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.Martin Luther King, Jr. (via rainbowsandwitheringwinters)
This world understands violence. It’s almost as if it is in their second nature to be violent and to be violent against people who are aggressive towards us. Yes, it seems like that’s the only option out but then again, what’s the point, really? Does it make us feel better? Does it make us feel powerful? Yes, but only for a moment. The real question is, if we protect ourselves from violence with violence, does it make us any better than the person who attacked us in the first place? Are we to gain anything out of it? No, it doesn’t make us any better and that’s a fact many will deny even if it was the last thing they did. What happened to behaving with love and care? We were born with love in our hearts. No one said that this is how one should love, we just knew. But hate is taught. Anger is taught. Violence is taught and it has been taught very well. It just goes to show how much we humans are so easily influenced into indulging in things that are exactly worse for us.
People as of today feed off of the negativity, to make themselves better and ironically, to make themselves feel worse too. We’d be lying to ourselves if we thought we were better because we know that we would do exactly the same thing if we were in a situation that threatened us. We would indulge in it and then we’d start to punish ourselves for the fact that we would do something terrible in the first place. It’s a paradoxically vicious cycle. It will continue to haunt us forever but if we actually stopped our never ending train of thoughts, we already know what the right thing to do is. The answers may differ from person to person but the results will be the same and they will be good.
Violence does not drive out hate or aggressiveness. Love brings back love in tenfold. And this ideology applies not only to a person to another person, but in how we treat ourselves as well. We are just as important as the next person. If you don’t realize that, no one else will.
As I’ve said earlier, punishment is a losing game. We want people to change behavior, not because they’re going to be punished if they continue, but because they see other options that better meet their needs at less cost.
I tried to make this point clear to a mother in Switzerland. She said, “Marshall, how do I get my son to stop smoking?”
I said, “Is that your objective, to get him to stop smoking?”
She said, “Yes.”
I said, “Then he’ll continue.”
She said, “Huh? What do you mean?”
I said, “Whenever our objective is to get somebody to stop doing something, we lose power. If we really want to have power in creating change—whether it’s personal change, changing another individual, or changing society—we need to come from a consciousness of how the world can be better. We want people to see how their needs can better be met at less cost.”Marshall Rosenberg, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict
For example, I was working recently with a woman who was concerned about something her teenage daughter didn’t do. So I said, “What was it that your teenage daughter didn’t do?” And she said, “She’s lazy.” Can you hear a difference between the question I asked and the answer she gave? I asked what the daughter does and she told me what she thought the daughter was. I pointed out to this person that labeling people—diagnosing them as lazy—leads to self-fulfilling prophecies.
Any words we use that imply wrongness of others are tragic, suicidal expressions of what’s alive in us. They’re tragic and suicidal because they don’t lead to people enjoying contributing to our well-being. They provoke defensiveness and counter-aggression.
When I first learned this lesson, it was very frightening to me because I saw how much my head was filled with moralistic judgements. I’d been taught throughout my education to think in terms of moralistic judgments. As I mentioned, the reason is this theory of human beings we have been inflicted with—that human beings are basically selfish and evil. Therefore, the prevailing educational process is one of making people hate themselves for what they’ve done. The idea is, you have to get them to see how terrible they are, and then they will be penitent and change the error or their ways!
The language I was educated to speak growing up in Detroit was like that. When I was driving, if somebody was driving in a way I didn’t like and I wanted to educate them, I would open up the window and yell something like, “Idiot.” The theory is they’re supposed to feel guilty and repent, and they’re supposed to say, “I’m sorry. I see that I was wrong. I’ve seen the error of my ways.”
That’s quite a theory, but it never worked.Marshall Rosenberg, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict
When we are aware of the power we have to enrich life, how we can serve life, it feels good. I often follow up with the question, “Can anybody think of anything that’s more fulfilling in life than to use our efforts this way?” I’ve asked this question all over the planet, and everyone seems to agree. There’s nothing that is better, nothing that feelings better, nothing that’s more enjoyable than using our efforts in the service of life by contributing to one another’s well-being.
Well, if that is so, then how come the violence? Well, I believe that the violence comes because of how we were educated, not because of our nature. I agree with the theologian Walter Wink, who believes that since the dawn of civilization—at least eight thousand years—we have been educated in a way that makes violence enjoyable. This kind of education gets us disconnected from our compassionate nature.
And why were we educated this way? That’s a long story. I won’t go into it here except to say that it started long ago with myths about human nature that framed humans as basically evil and selfish—and that the good life is heroic forces crushing evil forces. We’ve been living under this destructive mythology for a long time, and it comes complete with a language that dehumanizes people and turns them into objects.
We have learned to think in terms of moralistic judgements of one another. We have words in our consciousness like right, wrong, good, bad, selfish, unselfish, terrorists, freedom fighters. And connected to these judgments is a concept of justice based on what we “deserve.” If you do bad things, you deserve to be punished. If you do good things, you deserve to be rewarded. Unfortunately, we have been subjected to this consciousness, this faulty education, for a long, long time. I think that’s the core of violence on our planet.
Nonviolent Communication, by contrast, is an integration of thought, language, and communication that I think brings us closer to our nature. It helps us to connect with one another so we come back to what is really the fun way to live, which is contributing to one another’s well-being.Marshall Rosenburg, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come aliveHarold Whitman
Nonviolent communication keeps our attention focused on two critical questions.
Question number one: What’s alive in us? (Related questions are: What’s alive in me? What’s alive in you?) Now, this is a question that all over the planet people ask themselves when they get together. THey don’t necessarily use those exact words. In English they often say it this way: How are you? Every language has its own way of asking, of course, but however it’s said, it’s a very important question.
We say it as a social ritual, but it’s a very important question because, if we’re to live in peace and harmony, if we’re to enjoy contributing to each other’s well being, we need to know what’s alive in each other. Sadly, though most people ask the question, not many people really know how to answer it very well because we haven’t been educated in a language of life.
We’ve not really been taught to answer the question. We ask it, yes, but we don’t know how to answer it. Nonviolent Communication, as we’ll see, suggests how we can let people know what’s alive in us. It shows us how to connect with what’s alive in other people, even if they don’t have words for saying it. So, that’s the first question that Nonviolent Communication focuses on.
The second question—and it’s linked to the first—is: What can we do to make life more wonderful? (Related questions are: What can you do to make life more wonderful for me? What can I do to make life more wonderful for you?) So these two questions are the basis of Nonviolent Communication: What’s alive in us? What can we do to make life more wonderful?Marshall Rosenburg, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict