As a court reporter, I needed to maintain my composure at all times, no matter what happened in a deposition or trial or how I felt about it. After years of suppressing my emotions in my career, I understood what feelings were intellectually but had difficulty expressing them. And needs? Clueless. This ignorance resulted in several damaged relationships and three failed marriages.
In February 2009, several of my Unity of Walnut Creek friends returned from a week-long workshop in Costa Rica. They all looked happier and at peace. A few months later, when I learned the same 40-hour course was being offered in my hometown in California, I signed up and was astonished at the simplicity and transformative power of the experiential, interactive exercises based on the principles of NonViolent Communication (NVC) and HeartMath Institute.
I liked that the processes are grounded in science, so I committed to getting trained and becoming a coach. Two years later, I was invited to be a facilitator at a course and had an epiphany.
As I observed highly educated, intelligent participants struggling to understand and master the new NVC language of Feelings, Needs, Observations and Requests, I realized (1) if people with advanced degrees had trouble, then I could get off my own back for not mastering the information; (2) feelings and needs are universal – no matter our age, culture, religion or beliefs, social-economic status, or education; and (3) the foundation of all human conflict stems from reacting to sensations (i.e., feelings) that arise in us when we have unmet needs:
SAD? ANGRY? WORRIED? SCARED? ANXIOUS? = UNMET NEEDS
HAPPY? SATISFIED? EXCITED? AT PEACE? = MET NEEDS
When we are faced with an emotionally challenging situation, the amygdala (the part of the brain that manages emotions) scans past memories of similar events. Finding one, it starts pumping “fight or flight” hormones (i.e., adrenaline, cortisol, etc.) faster than we can think. As these stress hormones flood our body, our heart beats faster, our breathing is shallow, our palms may get sweaty, we can’t think clearly, and our habitual patterns kick in – wanting to run, hide or lash out.
The amygdala can keep us trapped in a negative emotional pattern loop, and we tend to overreact to situations. These habitual patterns can lead to stress, heart disease, and other health challenges and prevent us from experiencing happiness. In the extreme, violence may result.
We can transform the amygdala’s reaction and connect with our heart’s wisdom by learning how to:
— Stop negative feelings immediately
— Maintain emotional balance, even in times of turmoil and stress
— Think clearly, which helps to solve conflicts creatively
— Experience deeper self-confidence to respond to triggers and perform at our best
After two years of intensive training involving deep inner work and practice, I became certified as a coach and readily shared what I had learned with anyone who appeared to be stressed or in pain. It was gratifying to watch friends and colleagues experience how to give themselves self-empathy by connecting with their feelings and needs and to gain insights into situations in their lives that created stress, anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, and shame. Some of the results included greater self-acceptance; deeper connections with others; ability to pass exams; increased self-awareness; ability to respond more clearly to triggers; greater resiliency; and much more.
Since 2011, I have offered one-on-one and group coaching and shared the tools I learned with legal professionals and others. Click HERE if you would like to connect and schedule a session with me.