How Are You Peeling?


Our favourite book at my mother’s house would have to be How Are You Peeling? by Freymann and Elffers. It’s such a cute, funny book about feelings, and tends to inspire all sorts of creative fruit & vegetable chopping too!

I spent some time thinking about peelings, I mean FEELINGS, over the weekend, at my first NVC (Non Violent Communication, sometimes called Compassionate Communication) workshop, conducted by the lovely Kara Matheson. It was part 1 of a 4 part series called “Mindful Parenting with Mindful Communication”, and I’m really looking forward to the other three! I can certainly see the benefits of using NVC principles to help relationships be more positive, productive and peaceful. It’s also particularly useful within the context of an unschooling family, being a tool that can greatly help with negotiating the difficulties that arise in a shared daily life!

The 4 key components in NVC are Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests. Since first learning about NVC, I’ve been amazed how often it has proven incredibly helpful to me in negotiating some challenging situations, and also learning to better understand myself. I love how it’s not just a one-way street. It’s not all about me. Or all about seeking to understand another. It’s about the feelings and needs of both people, and make respectful requests in response.

The location for the workshop was SO beautiful. My friend Kara and her family recently moved to a gorgeous part of the world, where they are currently grazing Llamas and a couple of horses, with plans to do much more! Here are two of their Llamas, Candice and Elvis.

We began the day with some mindfulness practices, which I really appreciated, as a stark contrast to the usual busy, chaotic nature of my life! I was again reminded that meditation is something I would like to do more regularly, and I believe the benefits will far exceed the time taken.

We also talked a lot about the importance of Self Compassion, and the helpful work being done by Kristin Neff (an Associate Professor in Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas). I love that her website has so much information (even videos) available for free, to provide easy access to the information without people even having to  purchase her book!

Here is one of her videos:

Then we did some NVC workshopping, using “needs” and “feelings” cards. One of my favourite activities was where we took turns to share a situation from our life, and talk about some of the feelings that arose for us. On the floor were a large number of “needs cards”, which were simply laminated cards with each one having one of the universal needs printed on it. The other group members would listen quietly to the speaker, and then silently select any of the needs cards that they assumed might be appropriate to the person’s situation. What was beautiful about this was that you felt heard, and the needs cards were like gifts of empathy and understanding. It was honestly quite a moving experience, and helped many people find clarity on the needs that their feelings were pointing to, and also some of the needs underneath the surface needs!

People often confuse basic human needs (such as “I need support”) with strategies for meeting that need (such as “I need you to help with the housework”), thinking that their desired strategy for meeting their need is the need itself and therefore the only solution, and so they hold tightly to their chosen strategy, not realising that there are a variety of other strategies available. Often, when there seems to be a clash of needs, it’s actually a clash of strategies! It can be quite tricky to discover the needs that underly those strategies, and I found that workshopping was a really helpful way of getting better at this. I’m looking forward to practising this in my family context now, and learning more about it at the next workshop. Based on how well I (didn’t) do at applying some of these principles today, I say, “Bring on the next fortnight’s session asap!” 🙂

Finally, we talked about how easy it is to stay stuck in our habitual ways of thinking, being and relating, and Kara shared with us a fantastic little poem called “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” that I surprisingly hadn’t heard before. Here’s an animated video of it. Enjoy! (And excuse the guy’s little promo at the end) 🙂

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