Subud Vision - Discussion

Marcus Bolt - Process Not Prozac

Nonviolent communication . From Simon Beck, October 1, 2007. Time 6:32


Your piece touched me because it met my need for authenticity and contribution.

I wish to respond to your comment, “In the future, I would like to see Subud Vision broadened out into an internationally accepted, wholeheartedly embraced, face-to-face, group therapy-styled procedure. One in which a space is created where grievances can be aired without fear of judgment; a caring ‘holding space’ where the smoothest talker doesn’t ‘win the day’, where the pain can’t be ‘tested away’ and hurriedly reburied; a space where people can speak their minds, discuss their feelings and express their anxieties openly, all without fear of judgment and safe in the understanding that painful issues will be acknowledged.”

I recommend the process developed by Marshall Rosenberg called, variously, nonviolent communication (NVC), compassionate communication and a language of life. See: and his main book titled Nonviolent communication: A language of life. The term is taken from Gandhi’s use of the term meaning that when we remove violent language (judgments, blame, reward, guilt, avoiding personal responsibility from our actions and feelings) our natural desire for cooperation and compassion comes forward. When we are touch with the deep universal needs of ours and others' that are the reason for all behavior (behavior are attempts to meet universal needs) and connect with our common humanity, conflicts seem to work out themselves. I think what you described in your “process” piece was an example of what he is talking about. Just making the intention to listen and express without blame can make a huge difference. NVC does offer a model for process which one can study for a day or a lifetime. I have been studying for many years including many sessions with the founder and am still learning. The most important point is the consciousness that is behind it. The model is just a reminder and a training to go there.

I teach and use NVC in a number of Subud communities and gatherings and it seems to be well received. People say that it puts “arms and legs” to their spiritual aspirations. In my professional life (I am a counselor) I have used NVC in prisons with men who have committed serious crimes, with men who see me for group therapy for spousal abuse and in my family life. The latter is the most difficult because it the place I am most tempted to leave process and start blaming, criticizing and am attached to outcome.

In my use of NVC I do not encourage folks to go to the concept of forgiveness because as you say, it promotes evaluative language of right and wrong which prevents connection, understanding, compassion and personal responsibility. I find people move to a place of letting go, of trust and in an interest of getting everyone’s needs met, much quicker if they go through this process rather than feel obligated to forgive.

To give you an example, I work with men who have been convicted of spousal abuse. They often are puzzled about why their wives won’t forgive them. The problem here is that asking for forgiveness puts the attention on them rather than the needs of their wives for healing and moving on. The process works much better when they ( the men) can put their attention on the effects of their behavior on their partner, i.e. on what the women need to feel understood, to feel trust, and to feel safe. In this way, the men learn to be more responsive to their partner, and the women learn to assert and be clear about their needs. As they connect with each other’s human needs, they develop connection and compassion for each other, which serves them and encourages them to cooperate and give to each other than be motivated by obligation, guilt, power and control, right and wrong.

The essential second part is for the men to move beyond self and societal judgments which have locked them into an unmovable story of blame, shame and defensiveness. This step includes having empathy for themselves, for the unmet needs they were tragically trying to meet by their violent behaviour. This has a two-fold effect: it helps the men to consider other behaviors that would meet the needs of themselves and their partners, and it encourages the women to take their partners’ violent behaviour less personally when they understand its roots (poor strategy to meet needs). This does not in any way condone or excuse the behaviour. Nor does it say that there should be no consequences for that behaviour. This is about restoring relationships, and for this there needs to be empathy, connection and negotiation about how they can meet one another’s needs through strategies that are in line with those needs.

It really does work. It does take a lot of work though. It is much more difficult when we are in our pain. It is important to recognize our reactive pain and seek help through self process, process with others, and spiritual practice to come to a place of some inner calm so that we can engage in this process. It means giving up our concepts of right and wrong, of obligation, of “should”--thinking and moralizing evaluation. It seems to be in line with Bapak’s advice to “put harmony before progress” and to not judge others. The NVC state of mind is a very present kind of surrendered sort of state but with an attention on my needs and on others’ needs (for understanding, respect, love, safety, etc.)

Please note that this in not about being nice or giving in or not getting our needs met. It's about everyone getting their needs met by connecting empathically.

I think in Subud we have believed that it is the other who should harmonize with us, that others who should be nice to us or respect us. When I have my NVC ears on, I am in a place where I am open to others without judgment; it does not matter what the other says. I just empathize with the feelings and needs that are beneath it. Yes, of course, it is hard, but it is so worth it.

I invite more and more Subud members to learn this process and apply it to their many family and community relationships. Already there are members in Canada, USA, Australia, Europe and India who are putting NVC into practice. I will continue to offer workshops to members but I suggest members look to local NVC trainers and learn it. It helps to be part of an on-going practice group.

Yours truly,

Simon Beck, Langley, Canada

From marcus Bolt, October 1, 2007. Time 11:1

Thank you for your comments, Simon. This is the third time I've heard mention of NVC. The first time was from a lady on my Adlerian Counselling course, the second quite recently from an ex-Subud member, and now from you.

Yours is a more in-depth account and from what you write, seems to make absolute sense and is certainly in line with Bapak's advice. Interestingly, there is a debate going on here about 'training helpers'. This may be a way forward. I intend to research and 'check it out'. Thanks for the tip off.

From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 17:11

Responding to Simon

Hi. I started learning NVC thinking it might be "of some use in the world". I was knoked out by how much I learned that was of immediate use to me and has improved my own relationships and my understanding about communication styles.

You wrote "I teach and use NVC in a number of Subud communities and gatherings and it seems to be well received." I'd love to hear more about this - how did you structure the sessions, who came, was there opposition etc

Do you think that the need for helper training in people skills would be met by a simple intro to NVC?

Best wishes from Stefan

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