‘Me Violent? No way!’ Most people would reply something like that to the question: ‘Are you a violent person?’. When we talk about violence we often refer or think about the many rapes we see in the news, the neighboorhood fights we heard about or we just associate violence with murders! Perhaps we might stop and think about domestic violence or bullying… as we might see them closer to our reality or day-to-day lives. However, hardly ever we identify ourselves as violent people, when actually we all behave violently to an extent. Our intentions are rarely violent, but our communication often is, more often than what we may believe.
What is your common reaction when something does not go as you expected? Do you tend to find whose fault is it or do you blame yourself? Not only we blame others when we point the finger at someone. There are many more subtle ways to attacking the other, and we do it constantly, without even realising most of the times.
The power of ‘YOU ARE’
Parents are often the clearest example of the fact that we often use violent communication with our best intention, and towards our loved ones.
If you stop thinking for a moment, probably you can identify a belief or two that you still hold, which comes from your childhood.
‘You + Are + Adjective = Belief’
This equation is often our reality, and it has so much power and influence on us. For instance, in my case, I remember how my parents often would tell me things such as: ‘How clever you are!’ or ‘Your writing is amazing!’ etc… but also they sometimes said things like: ‘You are so clumsy!’, as at first, I didn’t show easiness while attempting to play sports or undertake tasks that would require agility.
When you are young, words that you receive from adults are so powerful, especially the ones that come from the two people you depend on: Your parents. As always, I insist… The language we use has so much power on ourselves. If you want to learn more about it you can read: ‘The Power of Language: Express Yourself as You Want to Feel’.
My mum never called me ‘clumsy’ with bad intention, neither she thought that it could be limiting for me. She, as most parents who label their children with their best intention, had no idea of the effect that this kind of subtle violence could generate.
The moment in which we use an adjective following the verb to Be, we give that adjective the possibility to become permanent.
When you believe you are clumsy, you start acting as if you were so. You feel ashamed to try any activity that requires agility and little by little, you start limiting your experience. This way, you reaffirm your belief that you are clumsy. As you have hardly ever tried, you had less experience and practice than most people which puts you in a disadvantaged position. Your story could be very different if you had been told something like: ‘You can do it, just at your own pace’
Guilt vs. Shame
And at this point, one more time Brené Brown’s work comes in hand, as she (Better than anyone else) beautifully explains the crucial difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is helpful and adaptive: ‘You have done it wrong’, shame is harmful and useless: ‘You are wrong’.
There is a big difference between: ‘What you did yesterday was selfish’ and ‘You are selfish’.
Even though shame has more permanent consequences than guilt, neither of those emotions contribute to our relationships. In fact, our relationships would be much less conflicted if we could get rid of these behaviours or tendencies. When we blame others, we have a fake sensation of control; if it is someone’s fault, it is easier to understand why sometimes things don’t work out.
Brené Brown’s home is shame-free, guilt-free. I wonder how life would be if we could expand this rule to all kind of environments?
I guess at this point you are wondering: Aren’t guilt and shame necessary? What does it happen when someone makes serious mistakes or hurts you? The answer is that everything can be expressed and solve without blaming or shaming others.
Guilt and Shame Detox
I have a proposal: I would love you to join me on a detox: Try to spend a whole day without blaming/shaming yourself or others, and remember that guilt and shame can be very subtle. For instance:
If you tell someone: ‘I feel ignored’ – and you refer to the person you are talking to, you are then accusing this person of ignoring you.
Another way to say the same without attacking would be: ‘I feel sad. I would love us to spend more time together.’
Thanks to SATISFACTION, I have been lucky to observe the power of Non-Violent Communication in the practice of all kinds of women. Non-Violent communication is all about cleaning our dialogue from judgements, guilt and shame, and taking responsibility for our own feelings.
Assuming your part and Communicating your truth
Assuming our responsibility is a vulnerable process, that is why it seems easier to draw on guilt.
Often we prefer to be guilty or blame ourselves than to take responsibility.
Guilt and Shame block action. When you blame and whip yourself when something goes wrong, you waste the energy you need to solve the problem. However, when you take responsibility for your part, you commit to doing your best in order to amend your mistakes and grow. The same happens when blaming and shaming others, it is a huge waste of energy that often leads to more defensiveness and conflict. When you start talking from your perception and you take into account the fact that each person experiences situations from a different perspective, you can empathise and propose different possibilities of how other people could act in order to make life easier.
It is very different to say:
‘You make me feel small, you make me feel bad‘- you blame the other person.
‘I feel insecure when you tell me ___ as I perceive it like ___‘ – You take responsibility for your own feeling.
It is important to realise that NO ONE makes us feel ANYTHING; NOTHING makes us feeling ANYTHING. Our feelings are a reflection of our perceptions, we feel a certain way from our unique perspective.
As I was finishing writing this article, I started thinking of extreme violence cases: For instance, the Spanish criminal band ‘La manada’ (A polemical case in which 5 men raped a single girl together) and I start to feel how, in a way, this article was losing its meaning. In cases in which guilty is blindly clear, and the lack of accusation becomes a national danger; In the cases in which one of the parts has nothing to assume, what can we do? That girl’s only responsibility was to survive…she has no responsibility to take. She did the best she could do to survive violence. Whether she closed her eyes or defended herself, that is not the question: NO means NO.
Also, I thought of the Norwegian jails, which have a very different philosophy based on reintegration, something I have always admired. However, when I thought again about ‘La manada’, I realised that in cases where violence is extreme, sometimes blaming and punishment become one of the only safe possibilities. I truly believe Punishment is a losing battle, but I also believe that the criminals who form ‘La manada’ as many others are in itself already losing battles. Every time I hear a story of gender violence I ask myself a question: What kind of education did the raper receive? and I go further in my wonder: Would this had happened if this raper had been told non-violent communication and respect for others from the very beginning? Probably not.
That is why I believe that we need to address the root causes of conflict, starting with detoxing from guilt and shame and paying attention to the subtle violence around us! Starting from ourselves, and spreading this powerful exercise to the rest of the planet. From this place, I am sure we will solve more, and more importantly, we will get rid of the future ‘manadas’ that could arise if we keep communicating and basing the education system on guilt and shame.
There is a kind of violence no one talks about, a violence that is so present in our daily lives. Observing it is only the first step for the social transformation that we all deserve: Women, men and each scared soul on earth.
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Love and Satisfaction,