Interview with Pernille Plantener (coach and NVC Trainer*)
Our beliefs determines how we experience life.
A : Hi Pernille, Albert Einstein asked a very important question for all people. The basic question, which is the basis of philosophy in our life, from that question everything becomes…"Is the universe a friendly place for us?” What do you think about it?
P: Hahaaa J What a lovely question. I’m just enjoying the energy that this is, this could be objective truth. I think that evolution and the fact that me and you survived, like everybody who lives on this planet right now and our ancestors. They survived lions, bears and the earthquakes and all the hardship that humanity faced in the last 70.000 years. Our brain has developed, to help people to survive and I believe that our brains are looking for danger all the time so that we can survive and have offspring. So our brain knows that our planet isn’t a friendly place. It’s a dangerous place. Looking from our human potential, yes it is a friendly place. Actually what we need to do through practices throughout our life is to work with our fears so that we become able to receive life as a friendly place.
A: I would like to share with you my experience about our beliefs. That we have some beliefs inside and this is our point of view, how we think about it. In my past, my mind was very scared and the world was very unsafe place. The world was dangerous so I have to live in defense, because I have some beliefs that the world isn’t good enough and after that my beliefs are growing and something has changed. I met a lot of good people and i have had good circumstances. I was changed and everything changed. Now I feel i know that the world is safe place for me. So maybe, our inner beliefs are helpful?
P: Definitely, our beliefs determines how we experience life. Our beliefs are subjective and it’s the reason why I laughed from this question. I strongly agree with you that this is a matter of all individuals’ beliefs, based on early experiences and you know our brain works this way that if you experience something dangerous, you will remember forever. Not necessarily consciously, but your nervous system will alarm you when something similar happens. We experience something what is loving, warm, supporting. It’s beautiful but it does not have the same impact on us. So we have to work with a positive experience in order to make it stick with us. So every individual has to do some work if he wants to have a friendly universe.
A: You know I asked you about beliefs because I meet a lot of people and they have some beliefs and their beliefs aren’t necessarily true; they don’t have connection with facts. For example i had some clients who told me that their dad told to them that he had two left hands and he will not make a success in his life and you know he always thought that he had two left hands. When we observed his life what he had was a beautiful family, his company had prospered very well, he had a lot of friends etc and when I was working with him we changed his beliefs that he has two right hands J because everything what he had touched he created something good from it. For many, many years he thought that he wasn't worthy. How strongly we have this belief noticed in our brain?
P: The beliefs were created in our early life and they served something important for us. By making sense for us in a chaotic world, or making the world safer for us. It’s quite common that people take some serious vows; it could be: “I swear to the universe that I will not be successful” In order to not frighten mum, so that mum will always know that she will be safe with me and she won’t get depressed- which would be unbearable for me when I was little. The good news is we can make a decision how we want to navigate in the world and then become aware of our beliefs, and actually we can go back in time and find the point of choice when because of the circumstances, we chose this belief and then we can work with changing them into a powerful belief, for example i have two right hands.
A: So you think that these beliefs are very harmful for us but secure some for example family system or something like that?
P: They aren’t only harmful. They might be harmful in terms of how they keep us small or they keep us away from successes. Once we realize that they origin from another time where they had a perfect function for us and they really kept us safe, and we want to change them, we can not hate them; we actually become grateful for the safety they provided. Then we can negotiate with this belief and chose some better beliefs for us now.
A: Pernille, now we live in a time where everybody wants to be happy and successful and get some high level of life, sometimes we don’ t want to feel sad or angry. On the workshop in Krakow you told us that emotions is energy in motions. Now will be my questions, If somebody is angry or he feels upset and he will take some pills or switch TV on or drink some alcohol because he wants to delete this kind of feeling. Where is that energy? Will stay in his body?
P: Yes, very much in the body. I believe that when we suppress feelings of anger or anxiety, or positive emotions as well like excitement, they stay in our body and they lead to many illness. When you keep your anger inside, you can get problems with the digestion, for instance.
A: You know I have some wonderful professor at my University and she told us if you have headache don’t take pills, you have to think what this pain is trying to tell you?
P: Sometimes it can be very overwhelming, because sometimes if you had in your history experience about suppressing your emotions because of safety reasons and then after you grow up, somebody tells you, you have to feel your emotions, you encourage yourself to ask your emotions what they want to tell you; that can be very overwhelming. So we need to do it in small steps. Not start with the most difficult situations but from the little irritation or disappointment and then just really feel what it feels like. From our workshops, you know feeling our feelings is not the same as acting them out. We don’t have to scream and shout if we want to feel our anger, we can just sit in a chair and be curious about our body sensations that anger evokes. Just be curious about it. What would be an image that would describe this feeling? What kind of emotion is it? And get it to know it carefully.
A: Yes, you are right. I meet many people who put their time into many activities but they don’t put their time to their inside world. So we can conclude, that if you feel something, you can ask yourself what this emotion wants to tell you?
P: And one question that I like specifically is what this emotions longing for. In Nonviolent Communication we assume that feelings are how we experience if our needs are met – positive feelings – or unmet – negative feelings.
Very often we have two needs or two emotions at the same time, that seems to pull in opposite directions. For example, the need for rest and the need for being trustworthy that keeps you from resting until you have done what you promised. It is important to distinguish between the need (rest, trustworthiness) and the strategy (lying on the sofa, or working hard until midnight). There might be other strategies that better serve both needs, for instance, renegotiating your deadline, or acquiring help, or having a power nap before continuing. What it takes is that we find a language to communicate our needs and engage in a discussion about strategies that takes everybody’s needs into consideration.
* Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. It focuses on three aspects of communication: self-empathy (defined as a deep and compassionate awareness of one's own inner experience), empathy (defined as an understanding of the heart in which we see the beauty in the other person), and honest self-expression (defined as expressing oneself authentically in a way that is likely to inspire compassion in others).
** Edited byJoanne Ashby