“We are dangerous when we are not conscious of our responsibility for how we behave, think, and feel.”
― Marshall B. Rosenberg
Mindful communication is paramount in building healthy relationships and it is our responsibility to cultivate this both for ourselves and others, yet it can be difficult if not impossible without the kind of self awareness that is rooted in mindfulness and self compassion. We all have deeply rooted patterns of communication that formed from our conditioning and the different strategies used to get our needs and wants met in relationships. Unfortunately, these patterns can live almost entirely in the unconscious mind because they are formed very early in life through modeling and survival, and become automatic just like other overlearned behaviors, unless we give time and attention to shine a light of awareness on:
- What we say (The words we use to express ) or lack of speech.
- How we say it. (The tone, inflection, our body language)
- How it is received. (The interpretation and reaction)
Bringing mindfulness to how we speak to ourselves is just as important as right speech with others, and many students in MBSR come to discover the inner voice of self criticism, self condemnation, and even how it can reach levels of verbal self abuse. Leaning in with mindfulness toward these habits, meaning observing without judgment and bringing compassionate understanding to this inner speech, can on us to changing patterns and cultivating a kinder, more honest and compassionate voice. Teaching Mindful Self Compassion (MSC ) has become a way that I can serve and help the world change these patterns. Changing my habitual patterns also serves to improve my relationships and recently my focus to do less and say less has currently moved up to the top of my awareness list, and I have made a commitment to my team to target this behavior pattern for the sake of all. So the cue I am using internally is not “Shut Up Patty” it is one that comes from my teacher Tara Brach. I say to myself, “Wait” pausing to take a few breathes as I ask myself:
As I breath and often down regulate my energy and emotion, I might begin to sense the activation in my nervous system that jumps into action, or often reaction. Doing some inquiry into why am I talking, what am I wanting or needing, is it kind and helpful? An important part for me of bringing mindfulness to communication has been learning and understanding how these patterns grow out of survival mechanisms that are hard wired in our limbic system designed to activate and get us to fight, flee, or freeze. Therefore, in speech we may “fight” with aggressive tactics of tone, choice of words, and even the manipulation of truth through exaggeration, minimization, or flat out denial or lying. We might flee by leaving the conversation and going to others to speak about thoughts and feelings, even gossiping. We might freeze by getting quiet, passive, even silent by withholding speech to avoid feared consequences. These patterns grown out childhood and relational interactions are part of our survival behavioral repertoire that form to fulfill our basic needs. These patterns will get repeated and replicated as we develop and continue in future relationships, even when they are no longer effective. When we look at the pattern with understanding and compassion we can pause and move toward reassessing our present day situation and respond with awareness of the needs, emotions, and beliefs that are activated and this will even give us a greater chance of speaking from this more aware place.
Paying attention to what we say, how we say it, and how it is received takes a great deal of willingness and discipline, yet remaining caught in our defensive pattern can result in the repetitive cycle of relationship struggles and keep us from getting our higher needs met, like love and connection. Again- it is important to look with the eyes of understanding and compassion because we were all born with the propensity to use defensive mechanisms so we can feel safe and survive. In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) we emphasize and empathize that although we may not be the cause of our current problems, it is our responsibility to change or heal it. This may seem harsh and often we find the truth is hard to accept. If you have ever tried to change someone else by pointing out or critiquing their communication patterns, then you know it does not work. Each person has to take responsibility of looking within and committing to the hard work of stepping out of autopilot; be it aggressive, rigid, critical, self-centered, passive aggressive, or passive, to move toward more effective communication. A critical trauma sensitive note is to recognize and know that if you are in an unsafe relationship you will find it even harder to change these patterns. It is best to practice mindful communication in relationships that are safe and capable of meeting new communication patterns with openness, acceptance, honesty, and reciprocity.
Want to cultivate more awareness? Join us in cultivating mindfulness skills that will serve as tools to foster mindful communication both internally with yourself and in relationships by taking MBSR or MSC. Our Introduction to Mindfulness is this Wednesday 11/18/20 at 6 pm and Introduction to Mindful Self Compassion is Monday December 7th. Come learn more and see if it is right for you.
Already attended MBSR or MSC? Need a reboot you can take the course again at 50% discount or get individualized coaching to reboot or deepen your practice. MBSR graduates can join our Sacred Sangha on Tuesday evening at 6 pm or Friday 11am and continue to foster greater mindfulness and communication in a safe likeminded community. Be sure to look out for advanced MBSR offerings and offers coming soon to the Sacred Treehouse.
Please share our blog, our upcoming classes and consider giving a gift of PRESENCE as a present this year by purchasing a gift certificate for family, friends, or employees.
May you be safe, protected and free from inner and outer harm.
With love and gratitude,
Dr. Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.