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Staying Connected Even Under Stress

mary-mackenzie-150I leave this afternoon for a 1.5 week training trip.  I’m leading a weekend retreat this weekend in Arizona and then leave for Washington State Tuesday to lead a 4-day retreat, followed by time with my elderly Dad.

I have noticed that whenever I am getting ready to leave for a trip, I feel a lot of stress and it would be easy for me to express myself in a grumpy or disconnected way.

Yesterday, I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and my phone rang way more often than usual, a couple people stopped in to see me at my office unexpectedly, and many of the things I was trying to complete weren’t getting done as easily as I’d hoped.  So, by 2:00pm I was starting to really experience the pressure of it and my jackals began to howl.

This is all so familiar to me.  Yet another time when if I choose to believe my jackals that I can’t get everything done, that people are interrupting me, or that there’s just too much…, I could fall into a heap of overwhelm and despair.

I could feel myself heading down this path and so I chose to give myself empathy several times in the day by saying or thinking to myself, “Ugh.  I would really enjoy more ease and flow.”  Followed by a few deep breaths and then reminding myself how much time I have before leaving.

At one point I was talking with a friend who had something he really wanted to talk about and I could tell the conversation would take longer than I might enjoy.  In my mind, I empathized with that part of me that likes to get things done early, “Deep breath.  You’re disappointed because you’d like more ease and reassurance that everything that matters to you will get done before you leave?  And, reassurance that you’ll get plenty of rest also?”

Then, “And you really care about your friend and you want to support him too?  So, really, you’d like reassurance that you can care for your friend AND get done all the things that are important to you?”  Once I connected to both sets of needs – reassurance and caring for my friend – I relaxed and could listen to him with an open and joyful heart.

I relaxed because I could connect with my great desire to balance all the needs on the table, and by connecting with the needs I had the reassurance I needed.  Of course I could get everything done that mattered to me and connect with my friend.  It merely looks differently than how I planned it.

I ended up working later at the office than I’d planned, but still had plenty of time to get everything done that I wanted to, to enjoy a nice dinner, and even relax by watching a movie.  I felt completely satisfied.

I find that I often have an idea of what “ease” is especially when I tell myself that the pressure’s on (i.e., quiet working space with no interruptions, doing things in a certain order, short meetings, etc.), and when I hear it as a demand within myself, I can react rather than respond to people and situations.  When I react I’m not making conscious choice; I am truly just reacting to the trigger (usually attached to a story, i.e., “I won’t get everything done.”  “There’s not enough time.”  Or some jackal message about the other person). I often don’t even think about empathizing with the needs when I’m in this frame of mind.

If I react, I usually regret my behavior.  If I empathize and respond, I feel a deeper satisfaction than I could have imagined.  My experience with my friend yesterday is such a sweet reminder of how taking just a few moments to connect with needs can literally make all the difference in the world!

Tags: Empathy, feelings and needs, NVC Consciousness, relationships

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