Happiness is what you know

The phrase “happiness is what you know” recently popped into my mind. As in dreams, where our understanding of the story is deeper than the semantic plotline, I understood the meaning of this phrase beyond the particular words that carried it--I reckon it meant that our sources of happiness needn’t necessarily be limited to our circumstance at any given time.

You know what I’m saying: the farmer may endure heartbreak and financial hardship amidst her physically taxing work, but she is made happy by the knowledge that her products sustain her customers and her land. Things like that.

(And there are probably other words for this than happiness. Satisfaction, for instance. Or maybe joy. But those weren’t the words that popped into my mind, so I’ll leave it be).
Sometimes when I want to be happier, I go for eating chocolate or taking a nap.  Delights such as these are characterized by experiencing stimuli instead of savoring our thoughts. Pretty available to anyone not living in abject poverty. Sometimes pleasures like these are just the ticket, but other times they lead us astray.

And sometimes things get really bad, and we find ourselves in such dire straights that we can’t contrive a single experience to make us feel happy. But we always have our brains with us; we always have our minds. Its storehouses are full of things we know. We can delight in those, too.

Nonviolent communication is a superpower

I've adopted a needs-based view of the world as of late. this is a tenant of nonviolent communication, which holds that people bump around in the world trying to meet their needs. In practice, it goes like this: in a potentially contentious interaction, I first ask myself (internally), "what am I feeling? what do I need?" and then I wonder about the other person, "what are their needs?"

The value in this is manifold. NVC doesn't require that you correctly guess what the other (or yourself) really needs. Sometimes that is unknowable. Rather, by developing the habit of asking what is required, you begin to deal in the essentials. You see that the other person, no matter how menacing, is actually needy. You realize that your own biases and offense are excessive and unhelpful (no time for fuss when dealing in essential matters only!). This renders the conversation far more fragile, and far more humane.

 By asking what is needed, your mind adopts a different posture to the world. One of humility (you're asking a question, after all), one of objective distance (by pausing to ask before acting), and one of receptivity (you're are availing yourself of the answer).

These three qualities add up to a compassion power-up. that's really helpful. And what's important to note is that NVC doesn't just train your mind to be more compassionate to others, but also to yourself. In fact, I think it's fair to say that not until you have asked (and to some extent, answered) "what do I need?" can you feel safe enough with yourself to inquire into the needs of others. 

What's especially cool is that with practice, I'd venture to say that NVC imparts near-psychic skills. While accuracy isn't the goal, it turns out that you can pretty accurately guess what another person needs in any given Interaction once you have arrived at a place of safety and understanding within yourself. You find this out by treating the person as if you've correctly guessed what their need is, and maybe even mentioning it. things just start to work out.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Our minds come equipped with a greater capacity for empathy than any other species alive today, but we block our superpowerful empathy-rays with our own musty, bottled up, undiscovered needs. What a waste of brainpower.

Buy into the idea that our minds--not just our brains--are made up of multiple entities and different parts, and you swiftly realize the value of inquiring into the needs of others and asking as much of ourselves are essentially one in the same. So if, like me, you can't help but cringe when you hear the increasingly prevalent self-love rhetoric, do consider that we must love ourselves because our selves are myriad and oftentimes as strange and alienated as are external strangers... and just as easy to misunderstand. So extend the same grace to yourself as you would another, because much of your mind is just that: an other. As you would invite another person into your company, smoothing the distinction between you and them, invite your mind into safe keeping.

I'm not yet very good at nonviolent communication. And there is a whole lot more to it than this little needs-based check-in. But it's a start. And once you begin, you might realize how much energy you might have been expending in trying to keep another person from saying what you don't want to hear. The dread of what they might say coupled with your attempts to thwart their saying it don't leave much energy for compassion, let alone empathy. (They are different).

This wouldn't be a problem except that unaddressed (note that I don't say unmet) needs far outlive any apparent resolution finagled out of a terse conversation. So by ignoring your own needs and those of the other you're only temporarily escaping the inevitable. and so much peace and progress lie on the other side of the inevitable. So get on with it, I say.

for more:

http://www.cnvc.org/ (someone help them with web development)