What Holds Us Back from Opening to the Other Person

Tonight in the Old City of Jerusalem about 25 of us, mostly religious Jewish women, learned and practiced transforming our judgments about others. We started by thinking of someone we have a judgment of. Then by coming up with one thing they do that supports that judgment. Then we took on the transformative work of looking deeply at exactly what that person does- looking with the eyes and heart of connection- looking to understand what exactly that person is feeling and needing when they did exactly what they did.

We do this to bring ourselves into connection with that person. We do this to bring ourselves into alignment and connection with the deepest and highest values and ideals that we hold-of valuing all life, of serving all life., in some languages, of serving God.

The first example we worked with as a group was a very painful personal situation. And quickly we encountered resistance- resistance to letting go of the judgments about the other person.

What is the resistance about? We came up with several important fears, concerns and needs. First, we are afraid that if we connect with the other person’s feelings and needs, if we meet them right now in their own experience, if we reach out to their heart-we are afraid that this will be ” condoning” what they did. “Condoning” in the sense that we will be giving up the value and need that is important to us.

We also realized that if we are unable to open to the other person’s feelings and needs-either because in that moment we just don’t care about them, or because we are too stuck to really open even though we want to- it means that we need empathy- we need to refill our own empathy cups. (This self empathy healing work- connecting with, meeting our own needs- will be presented Monday afternoon, April 23, at Rosh Chodesh at the Carlebach Moshav).

Someone then asked, what about “terrorists?” Are we supposed to look into their hearts, to have empathy for them? Isn’t that making them victims and making us bad guys?

We talked about how this dilemma- of connecting with the other person, with their feelings and needs, without giving up what is important to us-whether it is our own children or estranged partner or people we think of as enemies- that this is indeed the work of Nonviolent Communication.

We can ask ourself- is it true that if I listen with an open heart to the other person’s suffering, that I am giving up what is important to me? Maybe its just the opposite- that by listening to the other person, I am bringing into my actions and consciousness exactly what is important to me- valuing life, respecting life, respecting and valuing honest looking etc. And it seems to be true that only after I have connected with the other person in this way, by really “getting” what is important to them, will there be the possibility of them opening to what is important to me- the possibility of meeting my needs for safety, trust, honesty, respect, being seen and mattering.

People asked, why would I even want to do that? Why would I want to connect with people who do things that I see as really terrible?

Several responses came out to that: to live freely, in the energy of life and light that I chose to live in-to be free of anger and judgment- so I do this for myself. Another: when my energy and thought and awareness is focused out there, on the other person, I lose myself; I lose connection to myself, to what is important to me. When I lose that self connection, I can’t possibly act from my deepest place of self awareness and choice. Another response: if my choice is to bring a new light, a new way of being into the world- a way of living that embodies love, peace, valuing all life, I do this work. And yet another reason, as described above, is that only by creating the quality of connection with the other person where everyone’s needs are seen and valued is there the possibility of my needs being seen and valued.