John Lennon had it right.
Yesterday I attended the Houston Non-Violent Communication Facilitators Training at the LCI Language Learning Center with about 15 other participants from across Houston, Austin, Lafayette, Louisiana and one person from Nebraska. The training ran 9am-4pm and was packed full of techniques for teaching NVC to people new to it. I ran into some old acquaintances, learned some helpful new strategies for sharing this communication technique with others and gained a new appreciation for how to shift my own thinking from conflict to compassion and especially self-compassion, which is so hard for many people. It comes down to imagination.
In one exercise, led by a professional mediator and NVC practitioner, we used an imaginative exercise to go back and forth between the image of a negative feeling and the image of a positive one. We went back and forth many times at will. One could then use this practice and pathway to enter into a more positive, centered state of mind when in an actual conflict. In another exercise we paired off in dyads and role played how to turn seeing someone as your enemy into seeing that same someone as your ally.
I came away from my day of doing various practices realizing that a person has to be willing to access their creative forces of imagination to picture the other person in a conflict differently, to imagine other possibilities about them and to see them as human. One participant used an example of a conflict in her family life to work through seeing herself more compassionately.
I used a recent example of a real conflict from my life and I found it very empowering and releasing. After going through all of the negative images I was holding of this person, I had to begin to imagine something different. Is it possible this person was just trying to help me and the situation? In that case I could begin to see them as helpful and caring about me. Is it possible they just were not aware of the effect their actions would have on the situation or on me? In that sense I could begin to see them as human, we all make mistakes. Is possible that person was really just as worried about the same things as I was, but trying different strategies to meet that need? In that case I could fathom that person as being just like me in some sense. I was able to imagine that all of those scenarios had a little truth and this let in a little tiny crack of light that can be built upon as I begin to work with re-establishing normal relations with this person again. I felt more at peace within. I could begin to let go of my anger towards them.
Conflict is everywhere in our world. The political landscape in our country and in the world has never seemed more polarized to me than it is now. We have to begin to see each other’s humanity in new and creative ways or we will continue to spiral out of control with hatred and violence. I think it begins with each of us finding ways to forgive ourselves, find compassion for ourselves and those closest to us and then carrying that beyond our smaller circles into the wider circles of society beyond us as peace.
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