Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning by Telling the Truth

I've been doing so much inner work lately, it's like I'm Spring Cleaning from the inside out, and boy does it feel great! What most excites me is practicing the yoga of conscious communication and telling my true feelings when it feels risky. This is satya, telling the truth, the second yama (social guideline) of Patanjali's yoga sutra. It's not like I've been lying, but I just haven't been disclosing all of how I feel, in order to protect myself or the other person in some way. But it's created disconnections rather than the true connections I crave.

I've stayed away from phrases like "you made me withdraw," "you've caused me so much frustration," "you hurt my feelings," etc., because I want to avoid blaming the other person for causing my feelings. I know I am the only one responsible for my feelings ( = "owning"), and "telling the truth" for me has been sharing them. The truth cannot be argued with. Nobody can tell you what you're feeling is incorrect, right? It's yours and yours alone. So when we let others know how we feel without putting any blame on them, they are much more likely to be receptive. It's a win-win! And for sure, it takes commitment and steady practice (abhyasa).

One tool that I found especially helpful was the NVC (Non-Violent Communication) lists of actual feelings and faux feelings. Many of us don't have a large vocabulary for how we feel. It's just not something that we're trained in. So even when we may be trying to take full responsibility, we often end up using words for feelings that are not true feelings, they're actually assessments of how we think others are treating us, and people may respond defensively. Here are some examples of faux feelings (notice they can even be positive): accepted, appreciated, blamed, ignored, abandoned, criticized, attacked, pressured, intimidated. Those words are actually attempting to evaluate what the other person has done "to you" instead of saying how you actually feel. This is judging language. It tends to close the door to intimacy rather than open it. And it is not taking 100% responsibility, so it is disempowering.

In fact, it's quite common to insert the words "I feel like" in front of a thought, belief, or one of these faux feelings, to make it sound like a feeling. For example: "I feel pressured," or "I feel like you're neglecting me." I know this a tricky one to grock because this language style is deeply imbedded in our society. So if "I feel like, I feel you, or I feel that" could be replaced by "I think, I believe, or I think you," then it's an assessment, not a feeling, and it will probably not be received in the way you'd like.

Go here to learn more and for a great list of true feelings: http://www.cnvc.org/Training/feelings-inventory. Also, Marshall B. Rosenberg's book, Non-Violent Communication is a great read and an easy introduction to learning the practices of NVC, which involves much more than expressing our feelings.

So lately I've been taking big risks in some close relationships like never before. I've been telling my truth where previously I've withheld it out of fear of being rejected or hurting someone's feelings (which of course is impossible)! It's been scary for certain, but also incredibly liberating. I'm doing it consciously, fully owning it and the outcome has been awesome. I've found that when I've shared my truth, my friends have been very receptive and appreciative. They want to be let in and it inspires them to be more honest with me. Together, we break down a wall that we hadn't even realized was there.

Aaaah, I'm thrilled to finally be doing this deep work and letting in more intimacy. The Spring Cleaning has begun: I'm clearing out the old habits that have been hiding in the dusty corners of my closets. It's not always an easy task, but definitely very satisfying!

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