Restorative Interdependence

June 1, 2024

I call this approach Non-violent Communication, using the term nonviolence as Gandhi used it — to refer to our natural state of compassion when violence has subsided from the heart. While we may not consider the way we talk to be ‘violent,’ our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for ourselves or others.” – Marshal Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion, p. 2.

In Marshall’s quote above, he makes an important observation, “While we may not consider the way we talk to be ‘violent,’ our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for ourselves or others.” He saw that the everyday language we use is riddled (note the imagery of shooting something full of holes) with violence. Western medicine is triage medicine developed around the necessities of quick fixes on the battlefield. Western medicine tends to take things out that aren’t working well or damaged instead of trying to understand how to support the body’s regenerative processes or it uses preemptive procedures to remove organs that have potential of becoming diseased in the future but are normal at the present moment. Teams in a game of football teams are on the offense or defense. We go into the trenches when handling difficult situations. Mothers Against Drunk Drivers are MADD. We fight cancer or other illnesses. When you begin to look closely our language involves many terms that imply combat, protection, fighting, anger and violence (see Table 1.)

Armed with the factsHitting on an idea Shoot yourself in the foot
At the end of my ropeHad a blastShooting for the stars
Beats meJoin the battle Shooting holes in an argument
Bite the bulletKilling timeSon of a gun
Break a legKnocked upTake a stab at
Bring out the big gunsKicking around an ideaTake your best shot
Broken heartLoose cannonThat really burns me
Bullet pointsLocked and loadedTo be brutally honest
Give it a shotRally the troopsTraffic was murder
Gunning for troubleRide shotgunUnder the gun
Table 1. Some Phrases Depicting Violence Seen in The English Language

This unexamined violence in our language leads us to talk with each other in an unconsciously violent way and when we do we cause harm unconsciously and we fall out of relationship with those around us. Any trust we have in the other is lost, fighting erupts and we go “to war” with another in order to protect our beliefs, our position, our boundaries, our territory. This happens mainly because 1) we don’t recognize that our words and actions are actually violent and harming others; 2) we don’t monitor the impact of our words and actions on other people while we’re talking, that is, most people lack empathy, the ability to sense another’s psycho-emotional state of being and 3) when we become activated from others actions or words we are most likely falling into an unconscious trauma memory and our defense mechanisms have kicked in to protect and make our environment safe again.

Let me start out with an example of what I mean. At one time I worked out of a one-room office in a small business building. People who came to see me had to wait outside the door in some chairs that were in the hallway around the corner from the door. One day, I was coming out of the office with one client and turned the corner to see my next client sitting there. I jokingly said to her, “Oh, it’s you again.” And her smiling face went immediately to a sad face. I recognized that my words had impacted her, but I continued walking my first client to the main door and came back. I immediately apologized for saying what I did. I realized that I had hurt her and it was inappropriate for me to greet her in such a manner. She said, “Really? My family never apologizes to me.” and I said, “Yes, I’m sorry. It was not right” She brightened up and we had a great session.

What I realized from this interaction is that even though I said the words in a joking manner, they were not received that way. Deep down a part of her was wondering if I really didn’t want to be with her. Her heart was affected, and as a consequence, she felt sad. I also realized that no one would actually want to be greeted in that manner and so I deleted that type of “joking” response from the way I greet people from that day forward. It’s a form of passive-aggressiveness that is violent because it stabs the heart with a covert, but hurtful energy of rejection and the heart gets sad. It’s lost the loving connection that it believed it had with another and sadness is the result. The apology was an act of loving reconnection. It was an outward acknowledgement that I caused harm and was taking responsibility for the pain I’d caused another. It helped alleviate that pain.

From her point of view, being raised in a family that was constantly debasing her and treating like a second-class citizen, she had a lot of trauma around being denigrated. Her body-mind was always looking for signals of future similar abuse, that is, she was hyper-vigilant to her environment so that she could minimize these types of attacks from hurting her in the future. She was not expecting an “attack” from me, so it caught her off guard. My apology acknowledged that I had “attacked” her, even unintentionally, and that I had acted improperly. Again, by owning my violence, I acknowledged that I had hurt her while being vulnerable and open with me. The apology restored her trust in me by showing her that I had recognized my impact on her and was truly sorry for the pain I had just caused.

I label this act of reconnection Restorative Interdependence. It’s the time when we re-establish the sense of Oneness with those around us and we restore the sense of immediacy with another. We re-established trust, openness and vulnerable with the other again. Restorative Interdependence recognizes the sacredness of our interconnection with each other and restores a state of communion and togetherness that is and should be, our natural state of being. It also restores our interconnection and recognition of interdependence with the Earth and all of existence.

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