It's a typical Tuesday and I find myself in the most uncommon place. I'm sitting in a room with four women chained to their chairs. Not only that, they have chains around their waists, around their hands, and feet. I'm in a small echo chamber room in the middle of segregation at the Women's Prison - or what's often called, "the hole". And although I'm not usually claustrophobic, just seeing them in their chains in this cold, cell block, I feel claustrophobic. I'm co-leading a Nonviolent Communication class in segregation with another volunteer and today we're talking about Anger. To violent offenders. I listen to one of the inmates, a young woman who has a son, who is in for 7 years for assault. She speaks about growing up with everyone hitting each other. She says with tears in her eyes, "I need to find another way. I don't know any other way, but I know I need to change." And I think at first, we've had such different lives. YET, as she explains, "When I'm angry I can't think." I can relate to that! Any human can relate to that. Our brains just shut down as we go into "Fight or Flight", in this case her brain has taught her to fight. And I think of how many things I regret doing while in the grips of anger, or some other emotion - fear, hurt, desperation.
And I realize we are the same. "There but for the grace of God go I," I think. And I know that Nonviolent Communication can help her and everyone else who wants to know how to work with emotions and act in accordance with their values. It's helped me.
- teaching me how to slow down, check in, notice what's going on and get to the feelings and values that are important to me.And then act, not react. It's helped me listen to others and hear what's underneath their words or actions, even when I don't enjoy what's happening. It's not just for violent offenders! She pleads to us in the class - "I'm so much more than violence - that's not all of me. You got to help me." And I look in her eyes and I know that I trust this process I have come to live by. And I think of the formula for dealing with anger (or any intense feeling).
1. Notice what's happening - that you're angry. 2. Stop! Don't speak or act. You're about to do or say something that won't get what you're really wanting. 3. Breathe - get oxygen back to the thinking part of the brain! 4. W.A.I.T. What Am I Thinking? (that's leading me to these feelings?) 5. What other Feelings are there? (besides anger - there is usually other emotions - often hurt or fear underneath). 6. What am I Needing? What is important to me? -What do I value that I'm not connected with - Universal Needs, such as Consideration, To be heard, To be seen, Respect, Peace, Ease, etc. 7. Request - What do I want to do now to meet my needs? I give her a worksheet so she can look back at times she has acted out of anger and find what was really important to her underneath. She realizes what it was - to be heard and to protect herself from uncomfortable feelings. Maybe there are other ways she can get this. It's a start! She is determined to learn about herself so her son won't grow up with physical violence as the only choice to get what he wants. And I am grateful for being reminded of how people can change. That I can change.That Nonviolent Communication can help people get self-awareness and self-compassion so that they may express themselves in ways that can be heard and listen to others with compassion in ways that lead to understanding and connection. As humans we can learn ways to communicate that are more serving, and ALL of us need these skills to improve our relationships, to act out of choice. IF WE DO THIS, we can change the world. More inner peace, more understanding, more compassion will ripple out and maybe people can be heard without choosing tragic and often hurtful ways to be heard. *IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in learning how you can improve your relationships, your life and the world, read Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenberg. It changed my life. OR take my next class - I love to share what's so meaningful to me. Strengthening Relationships: A foundational course in Nonviolent Communication, Fridays, starting May 10th for 8 weeks, 7-9pm, Bainbridge Island, WA See the CALENDAR TAB above for more information. CLICK HERE to share a comment on my facebook page.
Marcia has been studying and practicing Nonviolent Communication since 2005. She has experienced immense joy & gratitude while learning this consciousness. This blog reflects some of that learning. Find Marcia on facebook at www.facebook.com/ marciachristenNVCtrainer