Empathy for those who piss us off

Everyone and everything and all experiences are teachers if and when we are receptive to the lessons.

We spent much of our working career in a college, which means we spent most of our life at school. This was by choice because we like learning and teaching.

Here is what Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teaches about how to deal with people/institutions that you despise:

  1. What are they doing that triggers us? Identify the action(s).
  2. Be conscious that we are judging them because this judgment is the actual source of our anger. Other people cannot actually make us angry; we have to choose it. This may seem untrue because our conditioned reactions are not willingly chosen. Yet, we can unchoose, unlearn, these automatic responses by engaging in this very kind of analysis.
  3. Look beneath our judgment to identify what need of ours is not being met by the interaction.
  4. Attempt to give ourself empathy for what need of ours is not being met via this interaction.
  5. Attempt to identify what needs of theirs they are trying to meet by their actions (which triggered us in #1 above).
  6. Attempt to give them empathy for what is alive in them when they engage in this action (#1 above).

We will put this all together with an example:

  1. Yesterday, the local school district sent families an email that claimed to include Department of Health guidelines for when to keep an ill child at home. In reality, the email contained district guidelines for when to keep kids at home, and the email heavily implied that the district guidelines were the same as Department of Health guidelines. They were not the same.
  2. We judged the sender of the email as manipulative. We perceived the email as implying that the Department of Health has the same guidelines for when to keep a child at home as the school district. Since the guildelines are not the same, we chose anger, frustration, at the sender–and assumed nefarious intent–and let these judgments build in a self-reinforcing cycle of confirmation biases.
  3. We have a need for transparency, for honesty, for integrity. Because of how we have been abused and neglected by other human beings in the past–and we should remind ourself that it has been 30 years since the worst of it, which is helpful to know because it means we have been relatively safer for a long period of time–we are suspicious of anyone who is not clear. We tend to judge all lack of clarity as intentional. Or careless, which is its own fault. OCD likes perfection.
  4. It makes so much sense that we would be on the lookout for danger! AJ has made it our life’s work to uncover untruth. We wrote our master’s thesis on a “big lie”; we wrote about ideology, hegemony, oppression, liberation. We really want to keep people safe. We really want to feel safe. We really want to experience safety. We can have compassion for that need. We love you, AJ. We love you, OCD.
  5. We are so glad that we posted about this email yesterday, because Ashley and LovingSummer and Skinnyhobbit helped us see that fear of pandemic, contagion, was probably the genesis of the email. The sender of the email likely wants to keep kids safe, which is literally the mission of our life, too. So what is alive in the sender of the email is to keep kids safe, keep the schools operating, keep everyone as safe as possible. We have compassion for that.

This is a real-life example of how to try to learn from people and experiences that piss you off.

It took us a while to cool off from this, so we went through it again and added some more compassion! It was a rare moment of self-compassion for us, and so this exercise was a gift.

Many things are alive in us right now.

Folks, we are multiple. We experience the world as a threatening place, and E-squared knows that the reality of the world is not as harsh as the young people who run our mind and body most of the time would have us believe. This is a prison in many ways. There are no bars, doors, locks. We can walk out. We have ventured out, and we have returned time and time again.

We go to therapy 4-5 days per week. We try very hard to suffer less. We are not a victime anymore except by choosing. This Now is safe for us. We want to learn that. Teach all our me’s about it. It is a long and challenging process.

Interacting with you via these posts, your posts, and in Comments here and on your blogs gives us a sense of community, acceptance, belonging. And confidence! Yes, we worry, doubt, fret. And right now, what is alive in us is gratitude and friendship and love.

9 thoughts on “Empathy for those who piss us off

    1. Cool! Thanks for letting us know! We read your questions/post about anger and rage. We are twinsies today!

      NVC treats anger as a clue, a gift. It’s like decriminalizing our feelings 🥵😂 We are practicing

      We also take notes or regret it. Writing is remembering for us

      Liked by 1 person

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