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Beliefs and Other Hinderances — 20 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this Rachel, it resonated with me very much. As far as emotional healing goes, NVC was my introduction to that whole world – I really did not know how to do any other practices when I first got into it. So it was very valuable in that it showed me that it is possible to be intentional in our social interactions as well as in our personal introspection, that it is possible to really attentively listen to other people, and that we can be really honest and authentic with other people as well as ourselves.

    However, like with what you said here, as far as emotional healing goes, I don’t really think that NVC is all that helpful beyond the things that I just stated. When I came across Vipassana Meditation, the teacher S.N. Goenka at one point says straight-out that this technique is the way to come out of suffering – and I honestly do believe that to be true. I think that this is because of the attentive-yet-not-attached-to thoughts/feelings quality that you already mentioned, but there is also the Metta aspect of it – intentionally conjuring up thoughts of unconditional good-will and dwelling there for a while.

    I think that NVC does touch on or allude to all of these different things too, because in a way I see NVC as having it’s roots in a variety of different sources and Buddhist meditation is probably one of them. However I think that Buddhist meditation is more core, more foundational to how these processes operate, so that to really get down to the work of “emotional work”, Buddhist meditation is the way to go.

    But, whatever, that’s just a thought I have. 😉

    • yes, i think the biggest danger with any of the healing approaches is falling into the cult trap of adoration which then falsely puts them into the position of being the one and only and complete answer……whereas, the real and long term healing is a long process of integrating only the relevant parts of each system for each participant.

    • Ha! Good point, Ian, that all i wrote were words based on thoughts that may, or may not, reflect reality (and every time i type “reality” i wonder what that is anyways… can we even experience it? is there such a thing as “objective reality” anyways?)…

  2. The other point i want to make is that by looking into the underlying needs of a belief, we prevent us from actually stopping to check whether the belief is valid.

    From my rain storm example: My belief was “there is a big rain storm coming and we’ll get very wet!” Clearly, the needs underneath are beautiful: I want comfort and dryness, maybe even health and safety. However, if i had become aware of my surroundings, i would have noticed that my actual experience was not of a rain storm! It was sunshine and clearing sky.

    To give a more to the point example: For the longest time, i thought that my father wasn’t expressing his love for me. I was holding the belief “men don’t express their love in this culture.” Again, i can see the needs underneath that belief (love and freedom) and i can give you lots of examples that support the belief. When i was able to drop the belief for a moment, when i was able to entertain the possibility that the belief might be incorrect, i was able to notice something: My father has been making breakfast for me whenever we’re together no matter how early. All the sudden, i realized that he had been expressing his love all along! I just couldn’t see it because of the belief. Once i let go of the belief, i was flooded with love!

    • Rachel,

      I think that by looking into the underlying needs of a belief, it does not necessarily prevent us from actually stopping to check whether the belief is valid. I can see how this can happen but I think it happens because the belief is so ingrained in our mind.

      Even if we didn’t explore the underlying needs many would not know to question if the belief is errant. When we are instructed to examine our beliefs we can put our intention there. So many don’t question and stay stuck.

      In NVC we use the term jackal to describe thoughts or beliefs that are judgements. These thoughts are our story that we are telling ourselves. They are not true. When I recognize that I am thinking one of these thoughts it awakens me to stop and realize that these statements are not true. I can also, if I chose, explore the needs behind them (which can also serve me).

      I can see how if we don’t stop to question the belief we can continue to believe it whether we use NVC or not. NVC can sometimes help us with this by recognizing judgements. I think the key is to stop and realize the thought is not true. It is not the NVC process that is at fault just the lack of knowing to stop and realize what is going on.

      • It might be helpful, then, to include the suggestion to stop and question a thought, especially when it reflects a core belief, in how we teach NVC. Arnina Kashtan, for example, integrates Byron Katie’s “The Work” possibly for that reason.

        I don’t think that invalidates NVC or lessens its power, it just acknowledges that one technique isn’t the one miracle thing (neither is meditation!)

  3. I am noticing based on the comments that i didn’t make the meditation approach as clear as it could be. By using mindfulness, i am not pushing away, dismissing, or ignoring a belief. When i notice that i am telling myself “i am not good enough,” i hold that thought with compassion and remind myself that it’s not true. The result is often similar to a soap bubble bursting – the belief has no more traction that a bubble. This is done with a lot of self-compassion, so no part of myself is suppressed or denied. It’s simply acknowledging that a belief can be a figment of my imagination and that i can chose not to belief it.

    • Rachel,

      I am glad to hear that you enter in to the moment and offer yourself compassion. This tenderness with yourself I imagine is very healing. I am glad to hear that you found another approach that supports you.

      My experience has been that if I uncover a core belief and know the underlying need, that I can recall this and with compassion remind myself that this belief is not true and rooted in the underlying need. I, too, can walk away unattached and free. If relevant, I remind myself about what this is about and if it is helpful try to meet the need in the moment by offering myself the need. If it is for acceptance, then giving myself acceptance by stating that I accept myself. Other times I may not need to do this and just can laugh it away. Other times reminding myself what is true can also be helpful.

      I think NVC can be used with meditation, with affirmations, with tapping, prayer, etc. Robert Gonzales tends to integrate meditation in his work. NVC, I hope is not the only thing people use. It can be complimented with other methods. Where we may get stuck may be when we don’t give ourselves permission to do this.

      • This comment reminds me of my guess that there are so many different self-help methods out there because we all resonate differently with them. Something i find incredibly helpful, you might find confusing, and vice versa. And i totally agree with you that we can get into trouble if we don’t allow ourselves to combine methods.

        At the same time, i also think it’s important to step back every once in a while and see if the method we’re using is actually helping us. And more generally, to see if there are patterns in how people act with or react to a particular method, especially when we’re teaching that method. We might learn that it would be helpful to emphasize certain aspects of a method or even add a dimension from another.

  4. Rachel,

    Thanks for sharing. I find this a very interesting topic. I would like to add that with NVC when we discover a belief (or core belief) we have a choice to explore it or leave it alone. Just the awareness of it can be helpful to remind us to not operate from it anymore. Yet, sometimes their is the desire to find out what our internal critic is trying to tell us by saying the belief or what need he/she is trying to meet. This can be helpful in that if we discover this we can try to meet the need and it will be addressed. For instance, I may say, “I am not good enough.” The need may be for acceptance, self-mastery, growth or effectiveness. Instead of just ignoring the thought or dismissing it or saying that is not true, I can find out why in that moment it came up and then advocate for the need. If I don’t do this the belief may arise again and I not realize why. Just my two cents.

    • Thanks, Eddie, for pointing out that we are in choice about what to do with our beliefs!

      Looking at the underlying needs of my belief “i am not good enough” was initially helpful. However, somehow i kept falling back into the belief, which was increasingly painful. That is why i started to explore other ways of dealing with it. I am now neither dismissing it nor ignoring it. I know that there isn’t anything wrong with me (which isn’t to say that there isn’t anything i’d like to change ;-)), so when the old habit of the belief is coming up, i can laugh at it, welcome it back, and not believe it.

  5. (con)…but, perhaps, had i found a group i felt safe with to practice-learn meditation, i may have also had the compassionate support for the part of my work needing mourning. that might have freed me of my need for support in meditating.

    i’m noticing this topic is complex due to characteristics of meditating vs those of group sharing deep pain. BOTH are foreign to our native western culture where we grew up and formed our present personalities……BOTH are challenging to me……deeeply and consistently…

  6. (con)…my other comment is about the mourning and examining old beliefs vs. pushing them away in meditation. my own experience meditating has been less successful than yours, due to a lack of ability to experience the mourning over my old habituated, harmful habits. that part was because i wasn’t able to first (or simultaneously) have worked on total acknowledgment and then mourning for the old beliefs controlling my life. that part needed more group support, which i lacked enough of.

    • Thank you for pointing to mourning, Shira, because that is actually an important part of my meditation, too. Though, first, i want to point out that i am not pushing beliefs away! I simply realize that they do not reflect what is really going on, which actually dissolves them. In contrast, in my NVC experience, by spending time investigating these beliefs, i actually feed them.

      I have done a lot of mourning around how i’ve been treating myself. Beating myself up no matter what i do is rather, well, abusive, actually.

  7. actually, i didn’t follow your logic about beliefs well….in your example of the rainstorm, you had enough facts to justify your belief the storm was there and act accordingly. (after the forecast and the actual rain, what could cause anyone to believe otherwise and plan accordingly? to me, the challenge is: changing course when that rain ends earlier than forecasted, ie, taking risks based on beliefs when there’s now no proof of anything to come……am i being clear, now, or are we on different wvelengths with this……?

    • No, the fact, my actual experience, was that the sun was coming out and the sky was clearing. I didn’t trust this experience because i expected a rain-storm. Interestingly, when i got home and checked the forecast, it had been updated to “occasional showers,” which actually reflected my actual experience.

      My belief was “there is a rainstorm coming” and that belief filtered my experience not allowing me to adjust based on what was actually going on. This is a simple example, actually, of how prejudices work…

  8. yes, this is a challenging situation and topic. my general feeling is, since the 2 approches are so different, they’re both needed, though i can’t say in what proportion.

    nvc seems so much more INTERACTIVE, teaching ways to relate successfully. meditation seems inward focused, relating to self.
    to me, the more dynamic of the 2 challenges is relating to others, though self relating is no easy task, ever. maybe they’re 2 sides of being……

    when interacting with others, my immense, palpable need for personal connection, for demonstrated acceptance, love and encouragement is what i seek more than anything. when that’s missing, almost nothing about that method works for me. in fact, it seems to me a doubled challenge: to do the inner work, while connecting that inner self to others present…….wow, what a challenge…..no wonder it doesn’t work well for so many people.

    • Thank you for adding yet another dimension to this, Shira: How we interact!

      And, again, i find it important to be aware of my beliefs and own them as mine and as at least potentially not reflecting reality.

      To give a simple example: Yesterday, i had seen the weather forecast showing a major rainstorm heading our way. When it rained hard for about 15 minutes, i believed that this was the beginning of the rainstorm. I made some decisions that impacted others based on that belief without questioning it’s accuracy. So, my interaction was impacted by my belief without me realizing it. Only later did i understand the connection – and that i was unable to challenge the belief based on my experience of the sunshine after the rain!

      I am guessing that this kind of dynamic appears in my life more often than i would like. And i find increasing my awareness about the influence of my beliefs more important when interacting with others than figuring out what feelings & needs might be there. If i focus on the feelings & needs (like wanting to be dry), i can easily miss that my experience is actually different from the belief (it was not raining!). Does this make sense?

      (Btw, i consolidated your comments for ease of reading…)

  9. Hi Rachel! Nice to read your blog and hear from you again. I think the imposition of any set of beliefs is bound to lead to depression because we must live in our lives, not in our ideas, no matter how beautiful they seem to us.

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