Welcome to the New Year! For some of us, getting to January 1st brings a sigh of relief—the holidays are over and things can get back to normal. For others, it’s the New Year itself that might feel groundless: “Where am I going? What am I doing?” Of course, there are those who embrace it all without distress. However, if you are one of those who struggles with this time of year, I’d like to share an NVC practice that I think might be helpful.
The first step is to give yourself the gift of some uninterrupted time in a setting that invites a compassionate heart. Sitting quietly, let yourself remember or experience what it is or was exactly that’s difficult. It’s helpful to have a specific situation in mind. With a gentle and kind heart, allow yourself to feel each feeling as it arises. It may be helpful to name your feelings. When difficult emotions arise we often want to find a story to explain them, but for this practice that probably won’t be helpful. So if you notice that’s where your brain wants to take you, gently nudge it back to being simply in the experience.
In this mix of emotions you might find loneliness, sadness, exhaustion, worry, longing, disappointment, or fear that you’ll never find what you’re looking for. When you know what you feel, ask yourself, “What are the needs these feelings point to?” For those happy to see the holidays go I’m guessing there may be needs for belonging, connection, solitude, appreciation, or order. For those looking to the future with some hesitation, needs may be contribution, efficacy, or clarity, among others. Name your needs as well, embracing them as you might a child who’s had a hard day at school. You could use phrases like, “Yes, dear self, being a human being is difficult. I hear you and I want you to know you’re not alone.”
When you’re ready, take another look inside to see if some part of the difficulty lies in holding onto “how things are supposed to be.” If it does, explore the sensations that arise with that. Can you sense a link between having this expectation and feeling needy and helpless? Try saying this “supposed to” judgment out loud to yourself. How does it sound? In the big picture, is this expectation helpful? Does it support your wellbeing? As you work with this, please be aware that “supposed to’s” can be powerful and tenacious. Sometimes they are embedded so deeply, to let them go feels like a carpet being pulled away. Please offer them all the gentleness and compassion you have. They are also part of the human experience.
Now with a confident heart, take a few moments to ask yourself, “What steps am I willing to take to meet my needs?” Remember these are do-able steps, and sometimes do-able means baby steps. No step is too small. And once you know what they are, take them. Taking steps changes what comes next because it changes us: it strengthens us and builds our confidence that we can work with the difficult times and that we can find ways to ease our own suffering.
In this New Year, I have this wish for you: May you be happy and may you be free from whatever might hold you back.
With deep affection,