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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 663: Stop Your Harmful Communication

This continues from my previous post, please watch the video embedded therein for context.

Unconditional positive regard does not mean that you feel or act in an extremely friendly manner all the time. It does not mean that you feel one way or another. It means that you do not judge (I am not judge and jury), that you do not allow your thoughts or emotions to influence your interactions. It does not mean that you accept everyone unconditionally - only that you do not judge them and that you give yourself the opportunity to support them to be the best they can be, while at the same time having no expectations.

Here is the Wiki page for unconditional positive regard. As Michelle Charfin shows, Unconditional positive regard is not just for psychologists. It is, as a matter of fact, a concept that has been around for a while and has many different names. For a number of years I have heard of and spoken of this concept, but it wasn't called the same thing. It was all about making sure that you are clear when you are talking to someone, not allowing emotional reactions to influence you.

So Michelle tells her story very well, especially in terms of getting to the point where she saw how she was actually influencing her child's behaviour, simply because of being in a state of emotional reaction when they interacted with each other. It is interesting to see how much our emotional state actually influences every part of our lives, especially when it seems to be 'out of control'.

There are some cool tips in the video, ways to shift your communication to create big changes in your relationships - what Michelle describes can be applied equally to all relationships as with parent-child relationships. It's all about developing relationships based on mutual respect, shared decision making and empathy/compassion.

When we are calm and centered we access the more evolved part of our brain which allows us to think critically, be creative and offer empathy. When you get upset you lose access to that part of your brain and operate on much more primitive programming: fight, flight or freeze. We tend to fall into emotional reactions when we don't see another way to solve our problem (even though taking a breath and looking at the situation practically and calmly will most likely lead to developing a solution). Michelle briefly mentions a concept called nonviolent communication which she describes as coming from the theory that all human behaviour is an attempt to meet a need and that we are all capable of compassion but will sometimes resort to harmful strategies when we don't see a better way to get our needs met. These kinds of theories are definitely a step forward for us - especially when considering the position of a baby who has no way to communicate and can only relay its feelings by way of behaviours. I would also consider that the term "needs" at this point in time and our society includes all sorts of things that are not actually needs, but desires.

When we are fearful or stressed it becomes much harder to empathise or be compassionate - we will be accessing the more primitive part of our brain that is designed to find and eliminate or avoid threats - but these days most of the threats we face are imagined, yet we still physically react to them as if they were real. We can develop awareness to stay calm and centered - to not go to that place of fear, anger, hurt etc. Remember that your thoughts are not truths, you can choose different ones.

Michelle describes what she did to support herself in her relationships with her kids: Every day she would write about all of the thoughts and emotions she experienced during that day. What is important to remember is that when you are starting your journey to awareness you are probably not going to have the tools/'skills' to deal with your thoughts and emotions in the moment that they come up, which is why you write about them after they happen. To use one of Michelle's examples: "I'm such a bad parent for resorting to threatening my children" - she identified this thought as being part of a pattern she would fall into after certain types of events that would basically go downhill from there and spiral out into harmful communication and manipulation tactics with her children. After you have written your original thoughts, re-frame them in an objective way so that the thought above becomes more like: "When I'm getting the kids ready for the day in the morning and we're running late I tend to resort to threats.". The realisation within this re-framing is that even though resorting to threats may serve some of your immediate needs, it does not serve your long term goals of being the person you want to be and developing the relationships you want to have in your life. Then you can plan different things you can do to support yourself and the people around you when that pattern happens again

Most importantly, stop trying to be a perfect specimen - accept that you will make mistakes and that learning is a process that takes time and effort.

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