Evan Hadkins recently invited me to write a guest article for his website, ‘Living Authentically‘. I was delighted to be asked (THANK YOU, Evan) and also very satisfied with what I wrote – which was a personal exploration of how NVC has changed my life over the last 10 years.

Read the article HERE.

In Evan’s article I gave highlights of what’s different for me after meeting NVC and each of the points has a whole story behind it. I was drawn to explore a bit more some of the themes, starting with this one:

Mysterious Emotions!

My emotional world is still a bit mysterious to me, and I probably need longer to reverse the 40 years of conditioning where I learned that emotions were a sign of weakness and to be ignored, controlled or suffered in silence. At least my vocabulary for talking about feelings has now progressed beyond ‘I feel ok’ or ‘I don’t feel ok’. Being able to better differentiate feelings gives me clearer signals about my needs and I even have peak moments where I’m almost bursting with joy or sadness.

It’s not that there’s anyone or anything to blame here, as I don’t see the purpose of that. Parents, teachers, bosses etc. were all doing the best they could to raise me to thrive in the world. The world, the one I was growing into, didn’t have much time or place for emotions. NVC helped me find that time and place and start to explore this mysterious inner realm of emotions and feelings.

Starting early – kicking and screaming

I learned pretty young to minimise, marginalise and suppress all emotions I find hard to deal with. In short, most of them!

Now as a parent I notice how easy it is to want to move past strong emotions of my children as fast as possible.

When our daughter (18 months) cries or screams, my impulse is to try to distract, calm or comfort her. Different ways to reduce or take away her discomfort and, if I’m really honest, my own too. Especially when she gets upset in the supermarket, I catch myself worrying about what other’s will think about us.

Fortunately I do usually catch my reaction before it goes too far.

When I’m connected to myself I do allow her the space to feel whatever she’s feeling. I do take the time to be with her as she struggles with feelings that are difficult or painful for her. I do try to help her understand, as best I can at this small age, what those feelings might be, how she might name them and to figure out what’s going on with her that gives rise to these feelings.

How else will she learn to inhabit her own emotional existence if she’s not given the chance to learn, feel, understand, and even enjoy emotions – both her own and those of others?

Wendy McDonnell wrote an article I found especially inspiring on this called ‘Love Is The Best Discipline‘.

Starting early – jumping for joy

Again as a parent I notice a different impulse with those pleasurable emotions.

Sara’s going through a stage where she has enormous fun jumping on the bed, spinning around in a circle as she does so, shrieking with laughter. I so much enjoy watching her, sometimes even joining in. It’s easy to give her the space to experience these feelings and express them fully.

Yet I see two challenges:

1.   Indulging feelings

By which I mean getting lost in the emotions until they become overwhelming. Failing to provide boundaries so she jumps and jumps until she loses all sense of balance and safety and eventually falls from the bed and hurts herself. If all she does is indulge then she loses herself. I want her to learn to enjoy whilst learning her limits and how to function.

If supressing emotions means allowing the head to rule the heart, indulging them means allowing the heart to rule the head.

How about both ruling together?

2.  Missing the needs

I believe the feelings come from needs being fulfilled. When she’s jumping around her needs for fun, freedom and self expression are getting met. It’s those needs that trigger the feelings. I want to help her understand this and find many ways to get those needs met.

If I stop at laughing along with her or joining in I’m allowing her to feel but without developing any kind of understanding. I want her to find many ways to get that experience.

My insights

I used to believe emotions were a sign of weakness. Now I see them as an essential part of being a human being. They can hurt, they can expose my vulnerability yet they are what gives me passion and energy.

I often use the analogy of warning lights on a car dashboard. Signals about something going on that might otherwise go unnoticed.

When the red light starts flashing you don’t laugh at the car or kick it for being weak. You don’t ignore it and hope it goes away, unless you are prepared for the consequences. You don’t try to control the light or suffer because it’s flashing but you accept it as information and take action. You look in the manual to decipher what it means then you do something about it.

The more complex your instrumentation and the better you understand each unique signal, the more effective the action will be.

Feelings can be enjoyed and they can be taken as signs that needs are getting met or not getting met.

For myself – I don’t yet notice all the feelings I experience and I still need the manual to help me understand them. It’s a long process – but at least now I can join in with my daughter on her makeshift trampoline when a few years ago I would have looked on with a mixture of envy and confusion.

How do you experience your emotional world?