NVC Brings 3-D to Life
Recently, I had my first 3-D movie experience. I had imagined a flimsy blue and red cardboard mask I would struggle to keep over my eyes. Instead, I joined a crowd of people wearing dark glasses in the theater. I waited before unwrapping mine. I watched previews in regular D go on and on, irritatingly loud, and triggering feelings of helplessness and desires to complain that I paid to see something else, not this parade of advertising. Eventually, I succumbed and put on the 3-D the glasses and eventually the feature film began.
My choice for this first was Life of Pi, a fantastic visual feast. The experience affected me so much that I am now applying a 3-D metaphor to other areas of my life.
For example, my study of When Parents Hurt by Joshua Coleman, PhD becomes more significant and more relevant when I apply the 3-D glasses of NVC.
One of the topics he discusses is “Unenforceable Rules” a concept that comes from the work of Dr. Luskin and other researchers, primarily at Stanford University, developing work on forgiveness. Luskin is the author of several books including Forgive for Good.
Dr. Coleman applies this teaching about Unenforceable Rules to parents of adult sons and daughters. Here are some of the examples he gives.
“I am entitled to my adult child’s respect, no matter what.”
“My adult child should be able to balance out whatever mistakes I’ve made with all of the good that I’ve done as a parent.”
“If my adult child rejects or mistreats me, then I must have done something terrible to deserve it.”
I can relate to all of them and I have several more I of my own.
While I was sweeping my very long driveway before the freezing winter weather, I started thinking that I wanted help and soon it occurred to me that I wanted my adult sons to phone and say “Hi mom, I’m in town and would love to come over and give you a hand. Is there some way I can help you with something?” The likelihood of this happening is akin to my surviving a week on a raft with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the ocean.
It didn’t take long for this little thought to turn into a story about how my sons should want to help me. Isn’t this what adult sons of a single mother do? What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with me?
You can see the downward spiral.
I recognized this as an “Unenforceable Rule” and putting on my NVC 3-D glasses, I saw these “Unenforceable Rules” or assumptions as a combination of Demands and what Marshall Rosenberg has dubbed “Suicidal Strategies.”
The first NVC tool I applied to the situation was Observation.
Now I was back on the driveway sweeping. Just that. I decided (Choice) that I didn’t have to sweep the whole darn driveway. I could leave some of it for another day.
The next tool I chose with my 3-D lenses was Self-Empathy.
What Need of mine would trigger this kind of “Unenforceable Rule?” A stream of them came along, help, support, connection, trust that when I really do need help it will be there.
Then I made a Connecting Request to myself. “How do you feel when you become aware of this?” I asked? “Much more calm and happy,” I told myself as I finished my chore, for today. Self-connection.
As I put away the tarp, the rake and the broom, I wondered what Unenforceable Rule my adult sons might be burdened with? Maybe that their mother will always, into eternity, be there, both available and wanting something?
And what Needs, I wondered, might generate such an “Unenforceable Rule?” After this spontaneous Empathy fantasy, I asked myself “How do you feel when you have that thought?.”
“I feel like having a piece of chocolate,” I answered. And I did.
PS. Just weeks after I wrote this, my older son was in town on a job and offered me a few hours to “take care of some things for you, if you like.” Wow!