Control Or Agency?

How does a little girl who witnessed domestic violence, who's body shook uncontrollably with fear whether watching her father physically attack her mother or lying in bed with hypervigilence waiting for a drunken father to put the key in the door (as I describe this the cells in my body say hello, tremble with the memory and thank me for re-membering and inviting them back into a warm belonging) EVER imagine that life is in any way safe and can be allowed to flow of it's own accord? And so I learnt to control my breathing so it wasn't too loud, I learnt to pretend to be asleep in case he came into the room to caress my head, which he sometimes did when he was drunk (sensing the love now that he could only access when numbed by alcohol). Yes I learnt to live through the portal of control for fear of consequences as a child. That same lens is with me daily, except now it has become a system of messages and alerts, the flashing lights on the dashboard to invite me to cultivate self compassion, a 'no wonder' state that explains so much and brings so much softness, love and life.

Ungripping into the flow of life...

Gracefully moving from noticing the controlling and gripping, waiting for life to 'get better', outer circumstances to be different, waiting for the emotional pain to go away in search of happiness - towards a compassionate receiving of the signals from what Matt Licata calls 'a holy limbic system'. And so I am learning to create a holding container within myself which provides a spaciousness, a place of allowing life to impact me, saying YES! to life. A place that brings choice and agency.

Weaving A Thread Of Compassion

This process of ungripping can feel life threatening as you re-enter and experience these sensations. They are the very tide you may have kept at bay for fear of annihilation. This process feels counter intuitive from the get go. In my experience, the warmth of compassionate presence, particularly when naming what we are longing for which floods the felt sense with validation, creates a connected thread to that time so that a homecoming in the present moment can take place. Not through the practice of 'discharge' but through the practice of 'feeling'. Thus arrives a moment of being lovingly held by things that we cannot fully name or identify. (Though I have a sneaking suspicion the grace of trees have something to offer. I feel their presence like a blessing to my nervous system. And my friends the ducks at the garden centre where I have breakfast and work, the little noises and scuffles and bathing and resting bring so much joy to me.) And so these moments upon moments accumulate until they interconnect more and more and bring wellbeing and agency. A continuous compassionate thread.

My workshops are a blend of sharing practices that allow this homecoming process to take place and learning the compassionate language established by Marshall Rosenberg to support agency in our lives. Compassionate Communication (NVC) is a mindfulness practice of attending to the way we use language -- not just in speaking, but in how we listen, the meaning we make of our own experience and of what people say, especially when they express pain and blame.  My intention is to support you in building the life you long for according to your values, one conversation at a time, one day at a time, for that is all that is allocated to us.

Book your place on the September Workshop here.

Clare O'Sullivan

September 2020


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