Where is the we in me?

Where is the We in Me?

Probably not in my thought that he abuses his power to exclude others. Nor in the thought that she should listen before she speaks. And certainly not in the thought that they should change their minds at minimum, if not their hearts.

I recognize all those thoughts as us-versus-them thinking. Right-wrong. Better-worse. More compassionate versus less compassionate (ouch, how can I think that as a student of Thich Nhat Hanh?).

And yet, my life would be so much simpler if I see myself as the protector of the underdog, and “THEM” as the bullies. What can I say? I fight for all that is good and pure, for inclusion and compassion, for mindfulness and loving speech. And they? They want more power. They want to exclude anyone they don’t like. They want to operate in secrecy. It makes all my anxiety, anger, and self-righteous indignation acceptable. Who wouldn’t be upset in the face of such ill-intent?

I am pretty sure that, since I have such an abundance of compassion, mindfulness and empathy, I should teach them to open their hearts, listen, and include everyone. I should show them how to transform our community in a delightful place of peace, harmony and joyful connection. I, me, Elly van Laar, the compassionate one, has the wisdom and they should listen.


So in my quest to make sure that everyone is heard, even those that speak in pretty unpleasant terms, I shut others up? In this mission to see us all as one, I am actually seeing us as the “we” party and them as the “them” party? In my care for the underdog (at least, in my view) I forget to care for the perceived bullies?

What if they are not the enemy? What if there are no underdogs and no bullies? What if I drop the compassion competition? What if there are just people who do their best  within the limitations they have? Who sometimes act and speak in ways I don’t like, and who always deserve a chance for understanding, support, acceptance, love, and belonging? What if I try to expand my inclusion to those I see as the bullies?

Gosh, I imagine I start listening to the “bullies”. I imagine I move over to their side and try to get what it’s like to see the world through their eyes. I imagine I see the beautiful, universal needs behind their feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and exasperation. I imagine I understand the values behind their unwillingness to enter into yet another dialog.

Yep, that’s where I should start. With listening.

Listening to understand. Not to reply. Just listening.

That is where I find the we in me

You want to learn to see the we in you? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Stand your feelings

How often did I tell myself to stand my feelings? How often did I proclaim that this is the indispensable first step to connect to the needs underneath those feelings and recognize them as precious and beautiful? How often did I tell people that standing your feelings is crucial to find strategies that are truly supporting all needs, yours and those of others?

I don’t know. Maybe a couple of 100 times?

And now that I am in this rage of anxiety and fear, I hate the idea of standing my feelings. I hate my racing anxiety, my accelerating heartbeat, my running away urge. I want to find the culprit (and guess what, I already found her) and get rid of her (yep, the whole strategy is laid out in my head). I want to make sure that nothing triggers my anxiety, and if there are, that they are minor triggers, like the fear of a cockroach.

And yet.

3. Stand your feelingsI do want to practice what I preach. I take a deep breath and return to this simple tool of mindful breathing. Which, by the way, sucks. It is no fun to focus on my breath, when a boa constrictor is wrapped around my chest. Just so you know.

I focus on my second breath. No fun either. I’ll stop saying that I hate standing my feelings, but I can’t think of another way of saying how much I dislike it.

I focus on my third breath. BANG. Rudimentary, old fear. If I don’t stand up, the Nazis will come and take away those that I care about. I have to speak up. I have no choice. I have to save those that will be excluded.

I continue focusing on my breath, hand on my belly. The first panic attack dissipates. I am a bit more aware that I am here and now. That she is a human being, not a Nazi. That she is doing her best to serve the greater good, within whatever limitations she is facing.

The fear is still present. More tender now. More caring. More longing to connect, understand, be heard. The fear is willing to speak up for the needs unmet (safety, inclusion, transparency, dialog, fairness), and give me space to act in alignment with my aspirations, values and dreams.

Standing your feelings is not a command. It is not a trick to get rid of them. It is an invitation to listen, deeply listen, to what is true for you and make choices that are grounded in your values.

You want to learn to stand your feelings? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

My fear, my child

She hears a soft crying. She can hardly hear it with Anger yelling in her ears. He is trashing the place down. She probably should pay attention to him, but something is drawing her to this crying. She can’t quite determine where it’s coming from, somewhere in the corner over there.

Image courtesy Flickr.comAs she walks over, she sees there is a door she has never noticed before. She feels her heart pounding as she turns the knob. The crying gets louder. Not that much, just a bit. It is dark inside, pitch dark. Coming from the brightly lit room, her eyes need to adjust. As she gets used to the dark, she sees a child. Maybe eight years old. Exhausted. Almost starved to death. She probably hasn’t been bathed for years. She can smell the urine and feces she has been drenched in.

The child turns her face to her. Startled, she recognizes this is her child. This is Fear whom she locked away years ago, hoping she would never see her again, hoping she would never feel afraid again.

As she looks at her child, a wave of compassion, love and care well up in her. A kindness for the child, a grief for the harm she contributed to. She strokes Fear’s hair. She sits with her for a long time. Finally she gets up to bring her some food, some water. As she walks to the fountain, she notices Anger sits in the corner, reading a book on compassionate communication. He looks quite satisfied and content.

She understands how Anger tried to cover up Fear, so she would not feel the anguish of being afraid. She has some appreciation for his efforts to empower her to overcome her fear and stand up for herself, even though they were somewhat unskillful. And she is grateful for having found Fear. For getting a second chance to connect with her child, and understand her. Collaborating to find ways to support her. Listening to how Anger can trust that she works on getting her needs for respect, safety, inclusion, and kindness met.

You want to learn to connect to your own anger and fear? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.

Meet my Jealousy

My jealousy is really ugly. Not a bit ugly, like unpleasant to look at, but really disgustingly ugly. It is dangerous too. It is covered in a contagious chemical that you can’t smell, taste, feel, see nor touch. It contaminates anyone that comes close to it by making small, insidious remarks about anyone it is jealous of. And sure enough, those around it start to look a little less positive on that person.

I need to protect others from it. I need to hide it and make sure it doesn’t see the light of day. It is too dangerous to even talk about.

True, I have more unpleasant feelings. Like anger, rage, sadness, loneliness, shame. But they all try to support a beautiful, precious, human need. Not always so skillful, and still: a beautiful, precious need. My anger and rage help me to take a stand for myself, to make sure I get respect. My sadness helps me to grief and to make positive changes in my life. Loneliness wants me to find connection, community, closeness. Shame, my dear friend shame, longs for acceptance, love, belonging. And Jealousy? Jealousy just wants to destroy, slash out, get rid of those people who get the resources I want, who get the care and appreciation I long for. The people who matter to my loved ones.

Wait a minute?

My jealousy actually tries to support a precious need? My need for care? For appreciation? To matter?


I could actually work with my jealousy, instead of against it? I could listen to it? I could try to understand the pain behind the jealousy? Maybe, baby, I could even ask it to help me formulate a request to relieve some of my suffering and meet my needs?

“Those with a coaching philosophy accept the expression of all feelings – including anger, sadness, and fear. In emotional situations, these family members often help one another solve problems and cope with difficult feelings.” (Gottman, J, The Relationship Cure, 2001, p. 145)

What if I take an emotion-coaching strategy with my Jealousy and empathize with it? Wouldn’t that change the whole situation?

You want to learn to coach your own unpleasant feelings? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see how I can help.