Welcoming my loneliness at the Christmas table

Loneliness is a tough feeling. At least for me. It has something to do with thinking that I am not lovable enough to belong. That there is something wrong with me, that I am not funny, cheerful, smart, pretty enough to be invited to the Christmas table. For me the toughest part about loneliness, is the shame I feel around it. I don’t want people to know that I am not invited, that I am not worthy enough to be welcomed. I am not taking the risk that people will find out the truth of my unlovability and confirm it. The shame keeps me from sharing my loneliness. So there I am, feeling lonely in my loneliness.

christmas-1047321_960_720We all want a family where we belong and are accepted for who we are, with all our quirkiness, idiosyncratic weirdness, sensitivities. We all want a family that is willing to deal with their triggers around us, in a compassionate, empathic way. Without blame, criticism or demand that we have to change.

Not all of us have that kind of family (fortunately, I do, they are just an ocean away). For some, maybe many, our family didn’t have a sense of unconditional warmth and welcome. Our families didn’t have that unconditional commitment to turn toward each other, no matter the challenge and the pain. Many of us had families where triggers were met with turning against or turning away.

Christmas is one of these times where this pang of loneliness is most palpable. Because Christmas offers the assumption of warmth and welcome. We see people gather in family circles around the Christmas tree, and here we are, by ourselves. The pain is the result of seeing others have what we so desperately want: warmth, belonging, acceptance.

If that is true for you, I invite you to be your own family. I invite you to find the inner resources to have compassion and care for your own happiness. Maybe you can invite the parts within yourself at the Christmas table, whether you like them or not. Pull out a chair for your loneliness, your sadness, your grief, your anger, your fear, your joy. And if you’re up for it, offer a talking stick to each of them. And then listen. Just listen. What are they about? What do they want to be known for? Do they have a request of you, so they can relax and trust that you will take good care of them? And once in a while, breath into your resistance to their message. Welcome your resistance with the same love and open-hearted curiosity.

If you notice a deeper compassion and understanding for yourself, you could extend that compassion and care to everyone else who is in the same boat. If you don’t notice the softening of the heart, you can reach out for me. This Christmas, I am only a phone call away.

You want 6-minutes emergency empathy during the Holidays? Contact me, 512-589-0482.

Beginning Anew (1/3)

When you wished your partner, sibling, co-worker had shown up differently, don’t complain.

Start with appreciation.

What did they say or do that contributed to your needs? How did they enrich your well-being?

You wonder how this helps getting your complaint across?

Your complaints isn’t the only thing happening.

If you start with your complaint you’re missing the big picture. Some of your needs are met, and some of your needs are unmet. Both are happening at the same time. It is about seeing the positive and the negative in your partner. It is acknowledging that they are more than their actions. Even if those actions triggered pain in you, their failure might not be intentional. It might be the consequence of their own overwhelm, ignorance or deficit of needs. Starting with appreciation, helps convey to your partner that their human needs matter, as much as yours. When you start with appreciation, you acknowledge the needs being met and you empower your partner to support from a place of “We”.

Beginning Anew is about building relationships.

In this safe environment, your partner can hear your complaint as an invitation to connect and understand. It establishes trust that your complaint is not a rejection of them, nor an expression of their wrongdoing. Neither is it about shaming and proving your moral superiority. Nor is it a license to blow up and get your frustration off your chest, without considering the needs of your partner.

Beginning Anew is the start of a learning cycle.

You express what worked for you, before you express what didn’t work for you. You share the idiosyncratic manual of your well-being, without demand-energy or blame. Just facts of life: this apparently works for me, this apparently doesn’t work for me. When you start with appreciation, it is easier for your partner to listen. We learn best when we feel safe and have a sense of unconditional acceptance of our basic human goodness. Our brain relaxes, we let our defenses down and our pre-frontal cortex can receive the information necessary to learn and better serve all needs.

If you want your complaint to be heard, start with appreciation. Sincere appreciation that comes from your heart. Pretty sure your complaint will be heard.

You want help to Begin Anew? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.

THANKS, DAVID! Thank you for editing this post and adding your idea that beginning anew is about seeing the big picture. I think it helped clarify my point. Love, your weiffie, Elly.

Appreciation NVC-style (3/3)

We “receive appreciation with the same quality of empathy we express when listening to other messages. We hear what we have done that contributed to others’ well-being; we hear their feelings and the needs that were fulfilled. We take into our hearts the joyous reality that we can each enhance the quality of others’ lives.” (Rosenberg, M, Nonviolent Communication, A Language Of Life, 2003, p. 188)

2015, Nov-12, Pedernales2There is nothing to be shy about. There is nothing to be proud about. There is everything to be happy about: life is wonderful when we contribute to needs being met! We celebrate needs met: ours or others. Receiving appreciation is letting go of our inferiority complex, our superiority complex, or even our notions of equality.

Appreciation is beyond judgement.

Receiving appreciation NVC-style is stepping into the understanding that we inter-are and that your happiness is connected to my happiness, that we share an inter-happiness. We don’t need a special skill to contribute. We don’t need to hide in embarrassment when our contribution is appreciated. We don’t need to pretend that everyone would have done the same. Receiving appreciation has nothing to do with wondering if we are worthy of appreciation.

Receiving appreciation is the unique opportunity to deepen our understanding of the needs that are alive and important to the other person. It is a quality of understanding that is like reading a personal manual of their idiosyncratic well-being.

It is also an opportunity to know ourselves and understand our contribution-niche: these are the actions that I enjoy taking that others enjoy receiving. It may be a signpost for the crossroads of our purpose in life: “this is what I am good at, that brings more joy and happiness in the world.” When we receive appreciation we open up to “the awareness that God has given everyone the power to enrich the lives of others.” (Rosenberg, p. 189).

When we receive appreciation in this way, we give a boost to our aspirations: what if we did this everyday? Wouldn’t that make the world a better place? For you and for me?

You want help to receive appreciation? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.

Appreciation NVC-style (2/3)

“The beauty of appreciation is spoiled when people begin to notice the lurking intent to get something out of them.” (Rosenberg, M, Nonviolent Communication, A Language Of Life, 2003, p. 185, 186)

There is a difference between appreciation and praise and compliments. Appreciation is an expression of how our lives are enriched by the actions of others, the needs that are met and the feelings that arose from those needs being met. Praise and compliments can be a shortcut for appreciation. “That was a yummy dish” can have the same intention as appreciation, a summary with fewer words.

TeacherPraiseGirl-HiAnd often praise is used to get someone to do something. Sit still in the classroom. Do chores. Work harder. “You’re such a good girl.” “Thanks for being a team player.” These compliments often hide a request to continue certain behavior to support needs that are unspoken, and sometimes even unclear to the speaker. The speaker doesn’t reveal the needs met by the action they praise, nor the happy feelings that arose from these needs being met. There is just an evaluation of who you are and what you did. As if they are God and know who is good and who is bad, what is right and what is wrong.

I find the sticker sheet that parents use to encourage their child to do their chores a clear example of the lurking intent behind praise and compliments. ‘If you sweep the floor, you are a good boy and you’ll get a sticker.’ And after 10 stickers for 10 chores, you get to buy your favorite toy, or watch your favorite movie, or get to eat ice cream.

These praising and complimenting strategies certainly get your child to do what you want. They work. So much so that we continue to use them in the workplace with salary raises, job evaluations, choosing the best employee of the month.

But they only work to a certain extent. They get people to behave a certain way, but we don’t get them to do so out of the joy of their heart. They contribute to get the results they want for themselves. We are not sharing how their action meets our needs, so they can’t understand how they make a difference in our lives. Praise and compliments reinforce instrumental contribution. They don’t inspire us to contribute out of the intrinsic joy of contributing. Once the reward loses it’s appeal, we lose our excitement to modify our behavior.

I believe that appreciation is the way to go. Simply sharing the actions that have contributed to our well-being, the particular needs that have been fulfilled, and the pleasurable feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs. Appreciation expresses how others contributed to our needs. It is a celebration, not a hidden request.

You want help to appreciate NVC-style? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.