What happens when we don't talk?
From Michelle's heart - Post 2
I recently had a terrible personal experience. It was really awful. I am going to refrain from sharing too much detail because it wasn't only my experience but I do want to share some of the insights gained from it.
In my first post in this series I shared my observation of the collective self censoring and silencing I've been witness to and experienced myself. Like a lot of people, I have silenced myself in many places including some personal relationships. I did this because I know from things that have been said that not all places are a safe space for me to express myself on certain topics. It seems now that more places are unsafe than safe anymore for most people and so, we go quiet. If you are like me, you may have gone silent in many relationships and even taken distance. I have had no desire to talk because I know we are in a time when people can not be convinced of another's perspective and I have no desire to change minds anyway. Some people still do want to change minds which creates a very uncomfortable imbalance that can damage relationships. What did I learn from the awful personal experience? Self silencing is not better. It kills intimacy and connection. It is very stressful. Pressure builds and builds until you have what I went through which felt like an explosion of built up hurt and fear. When we don't speak our truth, those we are close to will be left to imagine our experience or perspective without our input. Judgements are made on assumptions. Relationships lack understanding or compassion. Resentments build. How do we rebuild intimacy in relationships where we or the other has silenced themselves for self preservation? I think (I'm still figuring this out too) we need to re-establish healthy guidelines for how to rebuild trust and safe space for each other. Some of those might include:
Decide what the best platform for communication might be for all parties involved. In person is as real as it gets, it gives opportunity for body language and tone to bring clarity to the message. We can respond to the queues of the listener. However, when feelings are big, emotions can be triggering, you might end up with an explosion like I had. That might not be a bad thing for the relationship, or it may be very damaging depending on what follows, the people involved etc. There has to be an intent for deepening intimacy and a commitment to the relationship continuing. Telephone offers tone and emotions. Texting can be a safe space because words can be erased and edited and carefully and thoughtfully composed, but it is difficult to understand how our sharing is being received and respond to that with the absence of tone or emotion etc.
Mutually commit to a goal of better understanding each other's perspective, not of changing anyone's mind. This is ego stuff. The goal should be expression for the sake of compassion, not being right and not selling our worldview to others. We are more rigid in our realities right now, and that's okay. It's all illusion, but we are humans experiencing it, we have our own fears, knowledge, algorithms, alliances and goals. The mission isn't agreeing, it's connection and compassion.
Stick to describing our own experiences and feelings rather than ideology. What are our fears? What do we struggle with? What has been hard? We are humans with souls having very complex experiences. We're going through deaths and rebirths, awakenings, evolution, depression, anxiety, trauma. Give yourself and others grace to not do it well. It takes a high level of awareness and maturity, we can only do what we can do.
Try not to pass and express judgement on the other's fears, experiences and feelings.
Stay grounded in your body and when you feel triggered, it's okay to express that. "I find this thing that you said really difficult to hear because of my experience of ___ "(or fear of ___, or even expressing that you don't know why). When we honour our triggers as wounds, we can separate our identity or ego and simply acknowledge that these words hurt. Sometimes it hurts because the other wants it to hurt (consciously or unconsciously). It's not okay to take abuse and that can be a boundary that is established as needed. "I want to understand your perspective better but I can't or won't listen to attacks of my character." Hard work!
Listen with the intent of deeper connection and understanding. Open your heart with sympathy. Who is this human? How have they transformed over time? What are their fears and motivations? What are their needs? What do they believe or know? We've forgotten how to allow space for others to be their individual selves. We've lost compassion for those we disagree with.
It may be a bit of a fantasy to expect that all of the people we have these relationships will agree to these kinds of guidelines. If at a minimum we can do our best to do these things ourselves, we can make a lot of progress.
It's time to move past convincing other's to agree with our ideology, politics, worldview, belief system, religion, activism and perspective. We cannot go on divided. There is no division when we can have collective compassion. This requires us to let go of fear. When we have compassion and true connection, we are actually more likely to find our way back together remembering more of what we have in common than what divides us anyway. How do you know if you are stuck in a pattern of needing to convince others? Can you share information for the sake of sharing, and let it go? Do you need everyone to agree with you? How do you feel if they don't? How do you respond when someone shares something you disagree with? Do you say things consciously or unconsciously to shut down a conversation? Can you maintain relationships with people you disagree with? We are human so it's unreasonable for us to expect perfection of ourselves or others. A commitment to reconnecting and opening our hearts again is enough. Fear and attachment to our identity and worldview are the forces that keep us stuck. Remember, you are not your ideology, you are not the labels you identify with, you are not your experiences or beliefs. You are a light being having a human experience bumping off other light bodies having their own human experiences. Can we identify and release our fears to lessen their control over us and our relationships? Can we take ourselves a little less seriously and be a little more gentle and playful with ourselves and others? Can we allow all humans an opportunity to make mistakes and redeem themselves?
Notice the forces that contribute to fear and divide and try to give them a little (or a lot) less power in our lives.