Self-Acceptance without Limits
[Please note: The views and opinions expressed in each post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BayNVC as a whole.]
Here’s a paradox. On the one hand, self-acceptance provides a clear foundation for integrating the practice and especially the consciousness of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). On the other hand, people who want to embrace this practice are, like so many people in the culture at large, often challenged in terms of accepting themselves. Because of shame about who they are, how they learn, or what they do, people often focus on “getting it right.” For example, I often hear the question: “What should I say when …?”
As a motivation for action, “should” thinking generates stress, anxiety, fear, and displeasure. “Should” thinking tends to interfere with the easeful flow of energy that comes from desire, longing, and love of where we want to go. It’s simply no fun. Without pleasure and satisfaction, we are very unlikely to stay motivated to do the hard work of changing our habits of thought and action to align with a principle or a goal, no matter how wonderful they sound.
Is there a way to make the journey less arduous?
Because we are such complex, rich creatures, it is not humanly possible to be or do anything 100% of the time. How can we then be gentle towards ourselves when our actions are not aligned with our intentions, practice, or values? How can we consciously cultivate self-acceptance, especially for challenging times?
It is when our needs are not met that we are called to practice love, acceptance, the assumption of innocence, and all other aspects of NVC consciousness. I long for a world and a way of living where many more people have many more needs met much more of the time. Yet I know that we cannot ever eliminate unmet needs from life. More and more I see that nonviolence, as a studied art, is best practiced when things are not working for us. So, as a personal practice, I want to focus on how I respond in those moments.
In particular, I want to grow in my capacity for nonviolence towards myself when I don’t live up to my own commitment to nonviolence. How? I search for the needs that gave rise to the action I am unhappy with. I make full contact with the humanity of those needs. I connect deeply enough to hold these needs tenderly.
Let’s look at a couple of example. Do you reach for a cookie when you are trying to be off sugar? Take the time to open and open and open again to how much you yearn for easy pleasure in your life. Grant yourself the freedom to want that instead of fighting that desire in you. Are you yelling at your children? Open yourself to the intensity of trying to navigate the challenging moments, and to how much you are wishing for flow, cooperation around tasks, or respect. In both these cases and others, the trick is to open to the need and to the human condition we live in. This is not about making the action OK. It’s about moving out of assigning right and wrong value to actions altogether, even when some other needs are very much not met. It’s about coming back to the need that’s hard to own, so that you can soften toward yourself and regain a sense of full choice.
The commitment to self-acceptance is one of the 15 commitments that form the foundation of the Consciousness Transformation Community. Self-acceptance arises when working on any of the commitments. Let’s say you are working on availability for feedback, and then you find yourself defensive and judging the person giving you the feedback. You could think of yourself as weak and wavering in your commitment, or you could touch the pool of longing to be seen, understood, and appreciated for who your are that generates defensiveness. That pool lives in all of us. Bringing tenderness to it is an antidote to shame.
In practical terms, you can begin a practice of picking actions you don’t like, and finding the needs that led to those actions. Note that for most people I have seen it be easier to connect with the needs that the action didn’t meet. The challenge is to find, understand, accept, and embrace fully the needs that led to the action even when you don’t like the action. This way you can build a foundation of joy and desire to move closer to your intended practice, a motivation that’s much easier to sustain.
by Miki Kashtan