Reconnecting . . . Sooner

Dorset Campbell-RossI have lost count of how many times I have been asked if I still have arguments in my own intimate relationships. And the answer is “yes”. Sadly, I still react unconsciously sometimes. So what is the difference between how I was behaving in my relationships in my youth – which never lasted more than 3 years – and now, in my present relationship – which is more than 12 years old?

The difference is that I am now able to reconnect sooner. In the old days it took weeks, months, sometimes years – and sometimes never – so we split up. Now it’s never more than a day. I have the tools . . . and the willingness to use them. Making amends by apologising in giraffe – connecting with my self, listening to my partner (with empathy), and expressing myself honestly without attack – are what restores harmony after I have blown up our bridge of connection.

Learning to Walk before you can Run
I had to slow down what was happening inside me in order to see the steps I was taking every time I  reacted unconsciously. I realized I had come to NVC with a desire to resolve conflicts instantaneously. I was disappointed when that didn’t happen, and attacked myself for not being good enough – which, I discovered, was a life long pattern.

Held back by Shame
Lurking under this belief was my shame. I was ashamed that I was not good enough to get it right, to change. I was ashamed that I was still reactive and still had tantrums. I was ashamed that I attacked the very ones I loved the most, and I was so ashamed I didn’t want to talk about it.

The 6 Steps to Recovery
In her eloquent TED talk on Shame, (, Brene Brown tells us the road to recovery is through speaking about it. To do this with others takes a big risk in being vulnerable. I have found the first step I can handle is to talk about it to myself.

1.    Notice what is happening inside. My first step is I tell myself “I’m having a shame attack” or “I’m having a tantrum”.  This then helps me to recognise I need time and space to reconnect with myself.
2.    Take Time Out. I might then say “I need the toilet”, and go somewhere where I can be in private.
3.    ‘Come to Your Senses’. Whether I am simply angry, or having a shame attack combined with being angry, I am mostly up in my head with a barrage of jackal thoughts about myself and/or others. If I am numb in my body and unable to feel anything, I ‘Come to My Senses’ by scanning my body and noticing any sensations that occur while I do this. This enables me to get out of my head and get back into my body. Sensations such as a tightness in the stomach or throat often have an emotion (e.g. fear or sadness) attached to them. These emotions are what lie beneath the anger and/or shame, and are far easier for another to hear than your anger.
4.    Identify Unmet Needs. Attached to each of these feelings will be an unmet need. Some kind of fear will be attached to some sort of safety. Seeing how my behavior didn’t meet my need for connection connects me to a feeling of sadness or disappointment.
5.    Identify Feelings Now. Having done these steps I often notice a shift in my feelings. I have some relief from my pain and feel more relaxed.
6.    Return to the Other and Reconnect with a Giraffe Apology. This will sound something like this: O ~ When I remember saying and/or doing . . . (when I got angry) F ~ I feel. . . (sad/disappointed) (I have sometimes expressed my shame when I felt safe enough to be that vulnerable at this point, and it has been very healing for me.) N ~ I really wish I’d done it differently (or) If I knew then what I know now,d have done it differently, because what I did and/or said didn’t meet my need for. . . (connection/respect/consideration/care) R ~ Would you be willing to. . . (e.g. If your need is for connection: Tell me how you feel when you hear this?) 
[This last step is written in the Classic NVC form for beginners. With practice you can make it more colloquial by dropping the use of the words ‘feel’ and ‘need’, and changing the order of expression.]

Remember, as always, the essence of using NVC is in the consciousness of the underlying principles, not in the details. For example, one such principle is about not making others (or yourself!) wrong because you appreciate they have needs that are just as precious and beautiful as yours. Holding this in your heart will enable reconnection. Another is about taking responsibility fully for our emotions and actions. Having some strategies like those I have outlined above are simply a way of applying this consciousness.

I look forward to seeing you at our Embodying NVC Consciousness Training (ENCT), where you can immerse yourself in a supportive, safe NVC community for eight months – including fortnightly coaching – such that applying NVC becomes second nature!



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