Parenting

60 Everyday Acts of Self-Care for Busy Parents

4 August, 2017

We’ve been on a couple of planes lately and I’m always struck when they remind passengers to put their own oxygen masks on before attending to their children. Jeez. How would that feel? My mind drifts to the chaos of that possible moment, the sizzling cortisol in the air, the lights tracking the way to the exit, the fumbling with the mouth piece. (Is it just me that does this?! This morbid run of the imagination?)  And then I whizz off the stats in my brain, more likely to die by a falling ladder, household furniture, waaay more likely to die in the car. A bit of deep breathing… Aaaand we’re good again; oh look they’re showing Wonder Woman! I can’t wait for the meal! It will be so gross but I’m so excited about what it is!

There’s not really a better picture of parental self-care than there is the oxygen mask. Self-care is the life-giving magic in the family home. It is the thing we need to dedicate ourselves to if we want our relationships to be  joyous and sustainable.  And, just like putting the mask on our own face first, we must meet our own needs in order to meet our children’s needs.

The wonderful Racheous just wrote a post about overcoming barriers to self-care and she made a perfect point. “Imagine your child or friend telling you how they feel guilty about self care or don’t have time. What would you ask them? What would you tell them? What would you want them to know?

Be your own friend. Listen.”

I’ve just had a self-care day, so I’m feeling full up, waiting for Nana and Grandad to bring Ramona and Juno and all the cuzzies home from the zoo. I try and get a self-care day once a month, I spend it solo and I nearly always spend it at a library somewhere with absolutely no agenda but to wander around and read any book that I’m drawn to. I’ve found my very best reads this way, it always feels kinda spooky.

Today I read the whole of Martha Beck’s Finding Your Way.  I’d never heard of her before, but I slid it from the shelf and spent the next two hours in this beautiful vortex of flow. (By “beautiful vortex of flow” I mean “sitting on a hard chair at a desk snotty crying in public”) I kind of don’t even want to recommend it as I sort of feel like she only wrote it for me? Haaahaha. Like, you might read it and be all whathehell? I’ve put an affiliate link there *just* in case you are game. Ha.

But one of the things she suggests doing, that I’m going to do, is checking in with your energy levels throughout the day and then doing something according to that energy. That’s the way to find a restfulness in your busy day. So if your energy is fun, share a funny story with someone, or if your energy is low, have a sit. Woah, as I’m typing this out it feels *quite* obvious that we should do this. But I actually don’t do it as much as I’d like! Do you? I just kinda go through the day, doing a bit of good breathing every now and then, but more or less responding to all the things outside of me, rather than that inside me. I don’t want to overthink this too much – surely if we are feeling crazy, we let that crazy out by pulling funny faces at our kids or whatever… but I’m just not sure we do the checking in as often as we should…. and that leads to frustration and impatience and the buzzing feeling of unfulfilment and dissatisfaction.

So, I’ve written a list. It is a mundane sort of list. Because this isn’t juicy secret sauce. It’s just everyday things we can do to breath oxygen into our lives and our relationships. It’s everyday self care. And I suggest you read the list and then do the Martha Beck thing. Feel into your energy and provide self care for where you are right then and there. Some days your self-care might be reading a bit of your novel. Other days it might be having a dance or watching some Youtube.

A note about social media
Everyday Self-care *doesn’t* include scrolling on your smartphone. it might include your smartphone, for sure, for an activity you have selected as being self-care. IE – participating in a group, having a chat with someone, catching up with an old friend’s photo album. All of that *can* be self care but the difference is you are intentionally choosing it, you recognise the way it lifts your spirits in a way that the common, mindless browsing more often than not depress your spirits. Imo. (Would love to hear your thoughts on that possibly controversial note!)

And here we go….everyday selfcare for busy parents

1 minute self-care

1 – A sit down with a cup of tea
2 – A whole body breath (imagine filling your belly, upper chest and your shoulders with air) – this releases pressure on your adrenal glands, it is a preventative stress management technique!
3 – Stare at your beautiful thing (this might be a print of a painting you’ve hung, a collection of photos, a vase of flowers)
4 – Make a green smoothie

Media

5 – Watch a Ted Talk
6 – Listen to a podcast (I love these by Liz Gilbert)
7 – Listen to your self-care playlist (I’m listening to Heavy by Birdtalkers everyday at the moment. So lush)
8 – Read some of your novel
9 – Flick through an inspirational non-fiction

Environment

10 – Light a beautiful candle and have a minute’s worth of stillness
11 – Burn your calming essential oils
12 – Waft some sage around
13 – Sort a messy surface out (don’t do this is you feel like all you ever do is tidy! Do it if you want to sort a tiny corner of chaos)

Spiritual

14 – A 15 minute yoga sesh (Yoga Studio is a great app for this)
I felt guilty for two years because I coudn’t do a whole yoga sesh. The stars never aligned. Then I released that. Said F*&k It and now I don’t do any yoga and I feel so free! One day I might but in the meantime I journal as my spiritual practice and I love it.
15 – A short meditation
16 – Creating and repeating your own mantra
17 – A prayer of thanks
18 – A journal entry

Friends

19 – Call a friend
20 – Interact with your bezzies snapchat group
21 – Try and make a playdate with friends that work for you and your child

Food
Like the tidying one, food doesn’t work as selfcare if you feel like you are always cooking. But sometimes making a badass nourishing soup is JUST the ticket.
22- Make some raw chocolate shizzle and keep it in the freezer for treats (I use a simplified version of this)
23- Sit down and eat something and enjoy each mouthful
24 – Eat some almonds and love all that brain nourishing, calming serotonin

Arts

25 – Put your favourite singalong playlist on and sing your heart out
26 – Play your favourite song on the ukulele
27 – Get out some watercolours and do a quick splash of colour
28 – Write a haiku
29 – Knitting
30 – Crocheting
31 – Papercuts
32 – Colouring
33 – Dance to your favourite dance tracks

Body
34 – Have a bath
35 – Have a foot spa
36 – Do some power poses
37 – Do one or two of your favourite yoga stretches (mine are cat and python… they might not be the right names… I feel like I just made them up)
38 – Go for a walk (I think this kept me well when I was a new mum – just going for huge long walks.)
39 – Teach your children how to give you a hand massage

Sites of Mutual Fulfilment

This is the ULTIMATE self-care for parents. It is the Holy Grail of parenting! Finding places that are mutually fulfilling for both you and your child. I list some of our in this piece on Sites of Mutual Fulfilment  but here are some too:
40 – The library where you can both read/ play/ watch
41 – A gated park where you can read and they can play
42 – A cafe with a play area so you can drink coffee and they can play
43 – Watching funny videos on Youtube (most underrated self-care practice EVER)
44 – A friend’s home where you can chat long and deep with the parent and child can play contentedly with the other child (these are trickier to find than you think, so if you have one NEVER LET IT GO!)

And then, if you can swing it, give yourself a self care date once a month/ once a quarter, whenever you can. Try and get them in the diary so you can get partners/ grandparents/ friends to look after your kinder:

45 – Go to a gig
46 – Go dancing
47 – Go to a craft workshop
48 – Art galleries
49 – Go to a coffee shop and read magazines on your favourite topic
50 – Go to the library and read all the books
51 – Go for a hike
52 – Go for a swim
53 – Have a huuuuge nap
54- Buy some flower and plant them in boxes so you can see them everyday!

Nature

55 – Climb a tree
56 – Walk around on grass/ beach/ forest barefoot
57 – Sit under a tree with your back leaning on the trunk and breath it in
58 – Watch the clouds
59 – Swing on a rope swing
60 – Play hide and seek with your children/ friends (we forget to play as adults and it is so important) (you can also play hide and seek with strangers, without them even knowing and that’s quite fun haaaahahaha *laughter that says “that might sound weird but I’m not really honest I’ve only done it once it’s not a regular thing*)

***

My friend, you are worth this. You are SO GOOD inside. And you are SUCH A LOVING PARENT. You love so hard and give so much and it’s time for you to replenish yourself. To remember what you love to do. In these small minutes each day and in your self-care dates, you will find yourself, and nurture yourself and learn to love yourself.

And you show your children how to love themselves.

xx

PS – If you find my blog helpful please do consider supporting my work through Patreon from as little as $1 a month. I create mini-series and behind-the-scenes posts for patrons so do take a look here  in case you can 😀 

PPS – New video in case you missed it xxx

Feminism

Bleeding like a mofo

19 July, 2017

I was a full 33 years old before I began recording my moon cycle. I didn’t come to it from even a vague sense of what was going on. I started with an almost total dearth of knowledge. I was 14 when I first went on the Pill for acne. I stayed on it for five years, took a small break (long enough to feel like I was doing the hard yards with painful, angry bleeds) then went on the mini pill for a further three years. I would munch my pills every day, gleefully skipping bleeds, sticking my finger up at the rage and pain that used to blaze each month, and not associating my general malaise or low libido with the pill.

Then we decided to get pregnant. Mid twenties and I discovered a thing called ovulation. I remember calling a friend and being like “Do you know you can actually only get pregnant for a few days a month?!” I’m embarrassed now by how much of a revelation it was. It didn’t really help with getting pregnant though; it was either my Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome or the years on the Pill that stretched our trying-to-conceive phase to a tearful, shame filled three years.

So, pregnant, then breastfeeding, then pregnant and breastfeeding again and I was 32 before I had another full cycle. This time I was more in to my body; curious about it, especially about the mysterious and ridiculously awesome parts of it. I began applying the same understanding to menstruation as I had to other parts of my body. This understanding being that the body is, by and large, quite good at doing what it does. If it does something, it is probably for a reason, I should find out what the reason is! This logic has ended up making me a big advocate of the shampoo-free movement– I’d set out to discover why our bodies produce so much sebum, and why we get locked into shampooing everyday. And I’d learnt that our bodies can thrive without shampoo if we are willing to work with our body’s natural processes.

I began to wonder about periods, about hormones. About my moods and body aches. My periods had come back with a vengeance and they propelled me into the herbalist for a tincture to soften the blows of PMS and into the library to read everything I could about women and bleeding!

Eventually this bought me to the work of The Red School in the UK, set up by Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope and in particular their recent book Wild Power.

Wild Power is an invitation to every woman to look anew at menstruation. To record their cycle, to observe their feelings and to begin to work with the menstruation seasons. Reading Wild Power was like the culmination of this last year’s menstruation journey and I am now I am able to embrace each element of my cycle, I find myself looking forward to the parts that used to be hard, because actually I know that when impatience and intolerance gurgles in my belly, my mind is at its most lucid and my soul is getting ready to enter this state of weird, visionary power.

I used to hate my menstrual cycle. I know hate is a strong word, but I mean it. I really mean it. And now I feel sad that I might only have ten to fifteen years left of it.

These days I plot my own cycle to the cycles of the moon, as women for hundreds of centuries have. When the moon disappears and then comes as a sliver I know I’m about to bleed hard, or enter a state where I am getting great insight from daydreams. This sense of living under the moonbeams is a cool glass of water to me; I never really knew I needed it until I realise how refreshed I am through it.Wild Power Book Giveaway  Lulastic

Wild Power is a mystical book, and I hope that that isn’t a barrier for people. Alongside the expansive, spiritual descriptions of the two vias of the menstrual cycle, and the four seasons, and the five chambers, it also has heaps of frank disclosures from women about their cycles. It is a beautiful thing to read about another woman’s insomnia fuelled by worrying about injustice, war, the Jungle in Calais; I have a similarly themed sleepless night that visits me every month at the same time.

I wish every young girl could get a copy of Wild Power. It’s an antidote to the bloodhate and a lifeline in a patriarchy.

GET YOUR HANDS ON THIS BOOK!
You can get it here at the Book Depository (affiliate link) but I also have a copy to giveaway to someone- come on over to this Facebook post to see how to enter.

Would love to hear your own stories of menstruation. We need to talk about it more, to take all the shame away and bring us more understanding. xxx

writing

Good things come in threes… (SO MUCH EXCITEMENT)

6 July, 2017

Four days ago we left our yurt in the wonderful hands of a little family that came to dog, duck and cow sit. We endured a 26 hour plane journey that included a full belly vomit on my lap. But now we are here in sunny Blighty and it feels SO GOOD.

I have three incredibly exciting things to share with you:

PARENT ALLIES IS LIVE

One of the dreams of my heart is live and kicking TODAY (undisputedly thanks to the support of my patrons that gave me the room to make this happen) and I am utterly full of hope and ambition for it. You can find the Parent Allies website here and the Facebook page here and hopefully you are reading this i time to catch me live on Facebook at 9:30AM British time, 8:30 pm NZ time Thursday July 6th. If not you can always catch up with it later.

I would love you to join the network of parents committed to being allies to their children. Please like and share the posts and do all that wonderful stuff that builds a movement.

WILD AND HOPEFUL UK TOUR

Oooof! A tour! So glam! Says she, who hasn’t brushed her teeth for 24 hours.

I am coming to a town near you and I would love, love, love to see your face:

Wild & Hopeful – Bishop’s Stortford
Wild and Hopeful – Bristol
Wild and Hopeful – London

They are going to be super fun events, with lots of laughs and deep, meaningful conversation with some incredible local mamas. You can also catch me in the Guardian Literary tent at Camp Bestival or in Manchester on August 17th (more details to come ASAP.)

 

PATREON

Here are four reasons right now is the best time ever to support my work through Patreon:
1- We have a whole mini-series coming up on how to journal your way to a better you. A more YOU kind of you. If you get me. How to be more intuitive, less triggered, happier and more the you you really are. So many yous. It is all about you. Please join us!
2- Some incredible discount codes for Patreons for the Attachment Parenting UK Positive Discipline Course. One of the best courses I have ever seen with so many wonderful, respectful ways to have a harmonious relationship with your child. Plus other discounts codes for all sorts of things in the pipeline!
3- Free entry to all the Wild and Hopeful events for Supremes and above.
4- Access to all the posts of the last three months worth of rewards including never-seen-before poetry, parenting mini-series and e-book downloads.

lulastic

I feel so full of thanks to all of you, patrons, readers, passionate parents. I love that we are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. Just making the world a sh*t tonne more beautiful.

PS – Speaking of beautiful things, here is my latest video, all about an amazing idea Ramona had…

Parenting

Meet your regulation tool box! (Or 19 things you can do right now to back it up when angry)

29 June, 2017

This morning four year old Juno was circling one of the chairs in our lounge. She’d been doing it for a few minutes, muttering to herself, with the slightest manic touch.  Curious, I asked, “whatchyou up to Juno?” She answered “Practicing being a mummy… walking around and around, picking up dishes.”

Ohhhh. How I laughed. (On the inside, outwardly I simply left her to her circling, and got on with picking up dishes manically.)

She had plucked out one of the things I do and was, you know, practicing it. Of course, the thing she chose could have been better- I mean, imagine if her answer had been “practicing being a mummy…mindfully tending herbs” or “practicing being a mummy…actively listening to my babies” or “practicing being a mummy…building a chair out of old planks”  I would have been like YEOW I AM A KICKASS MINDFUL EMPATHETIC FEMINIST ICON OF A MUMMY! but it could have been worse too, it could have been “practicing being a mummy… shouting at everyone and then crying under the duvet”

‘cos the honest truth is I have done all those things in as a mama.

These days, I reckon I do less angry rampaging, and I have a lot of things to thank for that, but one of them is DEFINITELY because I have recently gotten real up close and personal with my regulation tool box.

This is something I touched on in my post “There are no “cool moms” or “mean moms” but I wanted to expand on it a bit more.

In that post I was discussing a recent workshop I went to with Ruth Beaglehole, founder of Nonviolent Parenting. At one point Ruth began; “And this, THIS, is the work of the parent” – we all shuffled to the edge of our seats, desperate to hear the silver bullet. “The work of the parent is REGULATION.”

If we focus on one thing, if we can only focus on one thing, our job is to keep ourselves regulated – in our higher brain. Because if in the face of our children’s emotions, actions and words, we can keep our empathy neurons firing (and they are ONLY in our higher brain) we will be able to provide what our children (and the world!) need from us.

Once we have entered a disregulated state, it is hard to come back from.

So actually we need to get really good at listening to our bodies and trusting the signals we are getting, the warning signs that tell us we are about to sink into disregulation.

The tricky thing is that we all have different warning signs and different ways to regulate ourselves. There is sometimes a clue in what people do when they are in a disregulated state.

My own warning signs are a fastly beating heart, short breath. This tells me I need to tap into my Regulation Tool Box pronto. I tend to head straight to Spotify and a carefully curated playlist! Your regulation Tool Box

Auditory regulator

I am an auditory regulator. My warning signs tend to come from my mouth – gritted teach, short breath.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Making a “regulation playlist” – music that lifts your spirits
Having a mantra that you say or listen to
Listening to affirmations.

Movement regulator

If you want to fight and move your body when overwhelmed, you are possibly a movement regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Going for a run
Doing some yoga stretches
Punching a pillow
Having a bath
Swinging or rocking

Oral regulator

If you swear and scream or sigh then you may be an oral regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Taking a deep breath in, holding for a few seconds and then breathing out through a mouth pursed, as if through a straw.
Singing
Roaring
Repeating a mantra

Touch regulator
Do you pull at things, your hair or your top? You may be a touch regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Stroking your pet
Getting under a soft/ weighted blanket
Having a bath/ shower
Using a stress ball or ones of those new fidget spinners.

Visual regulator
If you do a death stare or need people to look at you, “LOOK AT ME you may be a visual regulator.

Your regulation tool box includes:
Looking at your favourite painting on the wall
Looking at photos of your children when they were tiny
Looking at photos of your favourite people or places

***

Getting our heads around what is in our own and knowing when we need to turn to it, can save some really hurtful parenting from happening. Understanding the importance of those early warning signs and recognising the power of something as simple as having a shower can be a game changer in our families. For we can turn our anger into something useful, and we can show our children how to as well.

Imagine a generation growing up able to get the creativity and wisdom from their anger, rather than letting it be a source of shame or hurt.

I would love to hear from you, about what kind of regulator you think you are and what you have discovered works for you in bringing you back from the brink. (That should be called “brinking” don’t you think? Like, I’m getting real good at brinking these days…”

***

I have a new video up today – one about parenting in the tough times.

writing

I’m sad today

15 June, 2017

My chest is fizzing and my tooth is throbbing. I hack out a cough and drop my head to ease the worry my shoulders are holding.

I push my nails around this rash I’ve got. It’s a political rash. It arrived last week when I heard mining operations had begun on our mountain. And then it ebbed when Corbyn did so well in the UK. (YAY CORBYN AND YOUNG PEOPLE!) Like it disappeared for the whole day. Then the DUP turned up and my rash came back. Someone tell me you’ve had a political rash before? It’s real itchy. And symmetrical.

There’s an ache in my throat because I shot a lot of footage on Sunday and then deleted it all accidentally as I left the house before dawn this morning.  I’m holding back my tears because it seems pathetic to be so sad about that.

I am sad about that.

It was exciting to be up on the mountain with Protect Karangahake and a hundred other people protesting the mine. And I’d captured the feel of it and was so ready to share it with people.  And then on the way out this morning, heading up the mountain again, this time to try and stop the miners from going to work,  a blur of sleepiness made me hit Erase All On Card.

But I guess, underneath it all, if I admit it, which I’m not wont to do because I am trying to see our mountain activism as privilege and an honour, rather than a drag, perhaps I’m sad about the mining. karangahake conservation land from mining

I’m wracked about living in one of the countries most well known for being clean and green, and they can’t even keep their exploitative hands out of Conservation land.  The only parts of the country we have marked off as being out of bounds from destructive capitalism. Being destroyed.

I’m wracked about the disconnection between humankind and the earth.  That there are millions of people who feel fine about ravaging mountains. Mountains! The jewelled crowns of earth.

And in amongst this grief is this fidgeting sense of having too much to do (the mining, my writing, the parenting stuff – ohhhh, the parenting stuff! People are supporting me on Patreon to do parenting stuff and my whole brain and body is in earth warrior mode and there is guilt around that. For sure.) There’s not enough time to do it and I can’t focus and I’m useless but I’m really not hello I got up before the larks but it still feels like all my energy is dust and I feel like saying sorry to everyone. Sorry for being rubbish.

Ohhhh.

So maybe I’m just sad today.

Someone told me last week that they would never have guessed I had bad, loose-my-shiz days from the internet. I was gutted to hear that as I try REALLY hard to kick out any pedestals set up for me and other mamas on the internet. I only ever want to be completely real and honest.

But thinking about it, I NEVER type when I’m really feeling all the emotions. My writing then comes out in illegible Biro on journal pages my children have already felt tip penned all over. Black scratchings of mind monsters that can’t be read, least of all understood.

So. Here you go. Pedestal builders.

Today I’m sad.

(Sorry for not meeting your expectations.)

It may be because of my video footage, or maybe because of the mountain, or my uselessness. Maybe it’s because every so often sadness swells up in us like the squalls of wind that toss up the burnt leaves in autumn and it’s a seasonal thing. And we welcome it as an honoured guest, a guide. And all that. Yeah.
~

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
 
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

(Thanks Rumi.)

(Not sarcastic thanks. Real thanks. Honest. Several times a day I remind myself being human is a guest house…)

~

And, well. HAhahaha. After all that. Here’s my video about the protest. My friend took some great video on the day and I have used it in here. It’s not the same but still captures it. And I still feel sad. So there you go.

writing

When Facebook meets Non Violent Communication (Seven tips for being kind online!)

7 June, 2017

I try not to get into debates on the internet. Because I make my living online I need it to be as safe a place as possible. Not a day passes without someone saying something cruel on my Youtube Channel so I try hard to keep the other corners of my internet safe. Most of the time this means me biting my tongue, even when it comes to things I am *really* passionate about.

Sometimes it’s too hard though, just the other day on my Facebook page I was urging people to vote in a progressive government in the UK election this week and couldn’t help rebutting someone who shared an alternative opinion. I was feeling so much in that moment, all the weight of the people who are going hungry, dying because of the stripping away of health services, the rising poverty. Since that interaction I’ve been thinking about how our interactions online must reflect how we live in real life. I mean for most of us, most of the time, they do, right? We use the internet to connect with friends, to laugh and feel joy, to take action on things we care about.

But when a polarising topic comes up it seems all of our values disappear.

And at the moment the polarising topics are in abundance. We have the British election, a huge vaccine debate here in NZ, intense opinions on the terrorist attacks. Over the last week alone I have seen my friends in interactions on all of these topics that have bought out intensely disconnecting behaviour, engagement that pushes each other further and further away.

So a few days ago I met up with my friend Rosalie. Rosalie is trained in Non Violent Communication and works in a community organisation delivering programmes that helps families live without violence. Her business is restoring relationships and helping people keep their connections alive. I wanted to know how she manages polarising debate on social media. I wanted a vision of Non Violent Communication meets Facebook.

Firstly, Rosalie said…

if you do ANYTHING different let it be this: 

Do two minutes of deep breathing. 

When someone says something COMPLETELY IDIOTIC (lol) on Facebook the first thing you must do is turn your back to your laptop and take a deep breath. It’s legit, my friends, take a big breath in, fill your belly, your lungs, right to the top of your chest, hold it in and breath out as though through a straw. For good measure, imagine you are floating on the ocean.

(For even better measure, imagine you are floating in the ocean and the person who said something stupid on Facebook is swimming towards you with cocktails and chocolate and is singing a song- they have a surprisingly nice voice!!-  with lyrics that go like “I think you are truly great and I’m so sorry that I’m such an idiot on Facebook”)

People being cruel or idiotic on Facebook can actually trigger our bodies fight or flight reaction – a biological response that bypasses our the parts of the brain where empathy and reasoning is centred. This flush of anger can set in motion a response that aims to maim someone. Causing emotional pain rather than physical doesn’t make it any better.

If we take just two minutes to breathe and consider that the person receiving your comment is a human being, possibly with a mum in hospital and a child being bullied by her best friend, and job cuts at work and a dog that just did a vomit on the rug, we are SO much more likely to flick the switch on our Kindness function. (All humans have that function, some have just forgotten where the switch is, or the knobs fallen off.)

Last night I watched a bit of David Attenborough’s LIFE on Netflix with my daughters. We watched a bug, the Stalk Eyed Fly, blow bubbles of air into its eyeballs until they were sticking way out on stalks on either side of it’s head, getting a good look around.

I’m going to be like the Stalk Eyed Fly. Taking those big, deep breaths in order to get a better perspective. Keep it kind online

Next, we spoke about activating the empathy centres in our brain. We do this by taking a minute to understand the needs the other person is trying to get met.

Identify their needs

A few years ago my family went through a heart wrenching Non Violent Communication process. The main thing I took from it was that even these people, the people we were in conflict with, were simply trying to get their needs met. We felt deeply betrayed by what they had done, and still now can’t fathom their actions, but I can understand why they did it. I can see that they were trying to meet a need that they had – and every human need is valid.  Understanding this is our first step towards empathy.

It can be really helpful to take a few moments to consider what of their basic needs the person on social media is trying to get met. A good starting place for our basic needs is provded by the Centre for Non Violent Communication:

Connection
Physical Well Being
Autonomy
Play
Peace
Meaning

The person arguing against raised taxes is feeling their need for autonomy is undermined. The person arguing about vaccines is trying to meet their child’s needs to stay healthy or even alive.

Thinking this through can really help us move into a more empathetic conversation.

Make observations rather than judgements

Beginning a conversation with an observational statement without our own values placed on it allows room for engagement. 

“You told me to shut up” (an observation)
vs
“You told me to shut up, wtf, that’s bullying!” (evaluation)

“You shared a post that claims that Islam should be banned” (observation)
vs
“You shared a racist post that claims that Islam should be banned” (evaluation)

Share your feelings

We need to be able to be more free with our feelings, to be vulnerable and honest. This helps the conversation open up into connection but it also can remind them that YOU are human too! I read an article by a marriage counsellor lately that said that the word “OUCH” can help keep a marriage on the right tracks (or some grand claim like that) because instead of revving back at your partner when they say something hurtful, you take a second to tell them that that really hurt you, even though you kinda wanna just barge in and get them back with something more hurtful – which obviously then gets you on a ferris wheel of hurtful comments. Stating our feelings can do the same thing on social media.

“You told me I was stupid and it made me feel angry.”

“You shared a post that claims that Islam should be banned. I felt sad because my best friend is Muslim and she walks my children home from school every afternoon and gives them juice and biscuits while they wait for me to get back from work.”

Share your needs

It is, as mentioned above, your own basic human needs that are at the root of the feeling. So share that too. This adds to the picture you are giving the other person. It adds the context needed for that conversation, it gives them more of you and keep connection firing.

“You told me I was stupid and it made me feel angry. I need to be able to share my opinions on my page without being insulted.”

“You shared a post that claims that Islam should be banned. I felt scared because my best friend is Muslim and she walks my children home from school every afternoon and gives them juice and biscuits while they wait for me to get back from work. I need everyone in my community to be safe.”

Make a clear and do-able request

Making requests rather than demands recognises that we are all free and autonomous humans, simply with the job of being kind to each other. It gives you a chance to get your needs met and gives them an example of how to get their needs met. This is a slowly, slowly thing on Facebook, but, hey, they might read or do this one thing and even that would be a step towards progress in someway!

“You told me I was stupid and it made me feel angry. I need to be able to share my opinions on my page without being insulted. Would you consider engaging in this conversation without insults?”

“You shared a post that claims that Islam should be banned. I felt scared because my best friend is Muslim and she walks my children home from school every afternoon and gives them juice and biscuits while they wait for me to get back from work. I need everyone in my community to be safe. Would you consider reading her article about the attacks?”

Go long

I notice on Facebook threads that people just try and swoop in with one excellent paragraph. We try and squeeze into that paragraph all our braininess and wit and then we swoop away. We come back, of course, because *PING* someone replied to your comment with all of THEIR BRAININESS AND WIT! How very dare they! And we. just.can’t.resist. letting our righteousness shine again.

But the thing is, these huge remarks back and forth are not a conversation! Conversations go: question, answer, comment, comment, question, answer. They are engaged and open. They often build a context to work within. Not fired off in a burst of anger.

To help me see this in action I stalked Rosalie on a thread with a very, very, very angry person. Someone who had a deep unmet need and was taking it out on everyone who had a different opinion. I watched her gently asking questions, being polite, asking someone to read something. It looked SO different to normal Facebook debates.

In a way, it mimicked real life conversation. Gentle questioning and observations and feelings. The best conversations hardly ever look like even the above NVC examples, they are usually spread out with gentle back and forthing. And lots of thank yous. “Thanks for sharing your feelings about that.”

We need this kind of conversation on social media.

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Before we left Rosalie told me the story of how First Nations people view emotional well being and community.  A Yankton Sioux elder,  Phil Lane Sr., was talking to a large gathering of tribal people. He took a stick and drew a circle in the dirt. “Our people used the circle to explain many things,” he said. “For instance, the circle represents the hoop of the people. All of the people are a part. No one is excluded. The hurt of one is the hurt of all. The honour of one is the honour of all.”

Even though the internet feels like a different world sometimes, it IS our world and the people we interact with on there are our community.

When we hurt each other on social media, in order to make an excellent point, we break the hoop and we all suffer. Every time we put connection at the heart of our interactions we keep the hoop whole and we honour our community, and ourselves.

 

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PS – Thank you for reading this! I’ve had such an urge to write it after failing so hard earlier in the week. If you find my blog helpful, please do consider supporting my work on Patreon through this link!

PPS- I am joining in with the awesome Keep It Kind Online campaign today. You can find their website here and their twitter here. 

PPPS – It is Kindness Week over on my Youtube Channel – see our first bit of kindness in my latest video: