Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in Bethlehem tomorrow!

February 2, 2010

Tomorrow I return to Bethlehem for the second weekly NVC class with a group of 20 or 25 Palestinian women. I loved last week’s class. We practiced staying in the energy we choose to come from in the face of difficult messages and situations.  Getting off  of automatic pilot- which usually means judgments, anger, going back and forth between blame and shame. Last week, we mostly worked on how to respond when our needs for appreciation and communication aren’t being met inside our families.  When, for example, one woman cooked her son’s favorite dish and he didn’t say thank you or look up from his computer.  Or another cooked a major meal for the extended amily and no one said thank you.

We worked on connecting with oneself when this happens, with our disappointment, pain and  exhaustion,  to help us back away from judging other family members as “selfish”, or wanting to leave the family all together.

We began to experience the opening that comes when we connect with our own feelings and needs in these situations, our need for appreciation and support, for love. The opening that then comes,  to being curious and interested in what is going on in them that caused them to react this way.

I also was excited about the discussion we had about what you could call “spiritual bypass,” or going for “transcendence instead of transformation.”  One woman was saying that she felt guilty for wanting thanks- it was all in God’s hands, why did she need thanks?  We talked about how God fits into this equation for us- that wanting to be free from needing someone’s thanks was a way to reach a deeper  freedom, and that feeling disappointed in oneself for wanting the thanks was also a way of bringing that freedom to oneself. And we modeled through empathy that sometimes saying “it’s in God’s hands” doesn’t meet our need for self compassion- it can be a way of ignoring or skipping over a block of pain that is really there. And we can give empathy to that block of pain, hold it tenderly, and connect with what it’s wanting. And then, letting go into God’s hands isn’t at the expense of what is really going on inside of you, and its less likely that you’ll carry a resentment or a judgment .

After an hour or so into the class, I asked for some new situations.

One woman said, “The checkpoint. They make us wait and I’m sick of it. We can’t get medical care or visit our families.” She gave as a specific example that she wanted to go to Jerusalem to have a doctor look at her knee that is bothering her. We all used the feelings and needs charts to help guess what she was feeling and what she was needing when she waited at the check point- anxious, scared, angry- wanting respect, consideration, freedom, well being.

Examples like this were flowing out. The class time was ending.

I asked people if they would be willing to try out the work during the week and come back next week to work on the issues involving checkpoints and Palestinian –Israeli relations. I asked who would be back next week to do that. Everyone raised their hands!!

So tomorrow is the next day. As my week went by, I realized I felt anxious about this. I prepared by meeting with my NVC colleague and friend, Hagit Lifshitz, who is an NVC trainer in Israel. We met this morning and did role plays. I realized that tomorrow, when I step into the role of an Israeli guard at the border, or some other role of an Israeli, or maybe an American, or any Jew, that I am closer to this than I usually am when I role model in NVC classes and workshops.

A few weeks ago, when I was modeling NVC work at Al Quds University, the person I was working with asked me, well so what if I connect with my feelings and needs- how does that help the situation? And I have heard here from several Israelis who have participated in various dialogue groups that the Palestinians in the dialogue generally weren’t as excited about processing and talking as the Israelis were- the Palestinians wanted more action, direct action.

So Hagit and I role played this- I played one of the women, saying, so what good does all this do, to connect with feelings and needs. How does this help give me freedom from oppression by Israel? Hagit stayed with me, repeating back my feelings and needs, and I, in the role, kept saying, well what good it this? She said, so you’d really like change? And effectiveness? Yes. Yes. I would. Do you think this will help? “So, you’d like to hear from me about his?” Yes, I would.  And Hagit spoke about how moved she felt to connect with my role’s needs for peace and safety and freedom. Because she shares those needs. And she too wants action, wants action that will really change the situation. And her vision for a new way of resolving the problems- one that doesn’t involve violence, one that will address everyone’s needs.

And I realized, out of role, that hearing Hagit, now modelling me, was giving me the  support and inspiration I need to feel confident that this model, this work, could really lead to change.

I will post how it goes!!!