Wednesday, March 30, 2011
An Insomnia Journal, March 30, 2011
It’s 1:30 Am and I am awake. I went to bed at 10:30 but was itchy and agitated. I could tell by the way I felt that it was probably going to be an insomniac night, but I tried to sleep anyway.
First I just lay there to see if maybe I would sleep. Then I counted breaths. I’ve never found that particularly useful, but it was recommended in a book I read, so I gave it a try. Then I did some more breath counting exercises--more difficult ones. That didn’t help either. It rarely does.
Meanwhile, I got itchier and itchier. My skin itched.
I lay awake thinking of all the things I could be doing if I were up. Then I worried about how being up would ruin the day for me tomorrow and I lay there some more. Wishing I could just go to sleep. But I didn’t. I got itchier and more agitated.
I felt hungry. I wanted to get up and eat. But I was not hungry. I was having cravings. I had two bad days over the weekend, bad food that is. I ate a lot of soy at the party, and chocolate. The day before, I ate biscottis. And other junk.
I started thinking about food, wondering if it was the food from the weekend, from the salon and Sophia’s birthday party that was giving me insomnia, or something I ate today, or something else entirely. I still feel hungry. I still want to get something to eat. :-( Today, I ate carrots and peppers and extra ww bread. (more than normal). Otherwise, everything I ate was normal. (I think).
I got up and read a little in the book that I want to send to Rachel while the computer was booting up. I wanted to read the note from Ruth the Shaman poet. But it wasn’t that interesting. I am interested in thinking about Shamanism again. When I was in bed, not sleeping, I tried to go on a journey, but the hole in the earth that came to me was a rat-hole--the one last summer’s rats made under the terrace, That may have come from Milo’s rat. Down in the rat hole, there were “good” rats and bad rats, by which I mean friendly and unfriendly rats. I thought about how my judgement of them as good and bad depended on how they reacted to ME. Rats are social animals. Once they get to know you, they are fine (unless rabid). But I didn’t get anywhere beyond this sort of intellectualizing.
I read the rest of chapter 1 of The Hunted, by Gloria Skurzybski and Alane Ferguson. It’s a national park mystery we must have picked up for Graham in Colorado, but I don’t remember reading it and the book is perfect and tight as if it’s never even been opened. I figured I’d read it and send it to Rachel, since I told her I had some books for her and I already sent Judy Moody. I had this one in mind when I said that, as I had been rooting around in Graham’s discards looking for books for the kids and I’d seen it there.
When I was laying in bed, I imagined playing with fractals, doing art, working on my stories, reading, eating, doing some chores, getting the mole ready to mail, etc. But each things takes a while and it turns out that my inbox was full so I wasted some time deleting messages (and more need to be deleted.).
I try to start XAOS fractals multiple times, but I will not start. Maybe it’s expired. WAHN! It’s a great activity for insomniac nights. Oh well.
In order to accomplish something useful, I print 2 copies of the Mike Kline Address labels for mailing the mole. I feel tired, which is common for insomniac night--it’s time to be in bed, not up farting around.
I read chapter 2 of The Hunted. It’s pretty good so far. And, now I read chapter 3. I recorded the books I read yesterday, children’s books for Frankie, in my book list.
I went downstairs and ate almonds and baby carrots. I wanted something healthy, or relatively healthy, that would not exacerbate my cravings. I read through chapter 6 in The Hunted. The plot thickens and gets more interesting. Upstaris again, I read through chapter 8. It’s almost 3 Am and I am really tired. I think I will try going back to bed. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
An Exercise In Reflective Listening And Empathy
with apologies and thanks to: Sustainable Employee Motivation
Reflective listening in its purest form means that you verbally repeat
what you hear somebody else is saying, not by rote, but with caring.
It is listening to others from a position of empathy.
So what is empathy? It is the shift from me to we. It is the ability
to understand others on both a feeling and thinking level…to recognize
emotions in others…to make the basic shift from "the world revolves
around me" to being caring and motivated to help others.
Empathy is an essential part of emotional intelligence. (The original
piece said, "Empathy is where you grow out of the ego-centered part of
being a child.")
Empathy can be tricky. People who demonstrate a lot of empathy are
very good at tapping into their own life experience in order to relate
to what someone else is experiencing. But they use it only as a
starting point and not as the end itself.
If you are empathetic, you use your own experience as a guide, but
always "check out" whether your interpretation of another person's
feelings or thoughts is accurate.
You always maintain the thought that another person might feel
differently or think differently than you do in any given situation.
This is why reflective listening is so powerful. It helps you to
listen to others from that point of view.
Reflective listening can be trained, like any other emotional muscle.
The very act of repeating what the other person are saying will
immediately cause you to stop before you act on your automatic
The following activity will train that reflective listening muscle. It
is a good activity to do with your spouse. (a spouse work particularly
Reflective Listening Exercise
• Select an issue on which you have differing opinions. It is
important that you choose an issue about which you have differing
opinions, because that's when it's the hardest to listen to each
other. (We often invest in being right or in winning and don't come
from a place of wanting to understand)
• Begin your conversation with one person sharing their perspective on
the issue. The spotlight stays on that person until they indicate that
they agree that their partner clearly understands their perspective.
· If I, person A, am the first to share my perspective, person B
takes as much time as necessary to feed back to me their
interpretation of what I am saying.
Person A does one of two things. They either VALIDATE and say "Yes, I
think you have an accurate understanding" (Or "yes, that's what I
meant," or "yes, that is what I was trying to say") or they "CORRECT"
the interpretation by saying "that's not exactly it. Here's what I
Once person A has VALIDATED that person B is understanding, person B
then has the opportunity to share their point of view and allow person
A to check out their interpretations.
• Caveat: When you are communicating your point of view, share a few
ideas and then let your listener clarify. Then continue sharing more
If you speak for 5 minutes straight before your listener has a chance
to check out what they're making up, they won't be able to remember
everything you said.
Debrief After The Activity
• Did you feel that you and your partner understood each other better
or that you made some headway in solving the problem?
• What was it like to focus so intently on understanding the meaning
of someone else's communication rather than on what you were going to
• What did you personally have to let go of to listen effectively and
"check out your thinking maps?"
Become A Reflective Listener
After we have practiced this several times, which I hope we will,
let's try to make it a part of our lives and listening skills! I hope
some of the practice sessions that I hope we have will BE real-life
problems and situations!!!!
• Step into someone else's shoes. All of us have people with whom we
have difficulty emphasizing or situations in which we lack empathy.
Choose a person or a situation and literally "step into those shoes"
for a period of time. Spend an hour or half a day doing someone else's
job. Note whether your ability to emphasize changes based on seeing
the world from a different perspective.
• Choose a real life "hot spot" to practice it. Select a person with
whom you are having relationship difficulties. Or you can choose a
person that you know holds significantly different beliefs from your
Invite that person into a conversation in which you consciously check
your own interpretations of what they are saying.
Begin by focusing on them. Before you move to sharing your beliefs,
say, "I just want to make sure I understand you. Can you clarify? Is
this what you mean?" People rarely say no to this.
When you are speaking, ask the person if they wouldn't mind sharing
what they're hearing you say. You can then take an opportunity to
correct them if you feel misunderstood.
• Use this tool whenever you have to deal with conflict of any kind.
Remember, this is a habit, and just like any other muscle, you need to
Just practicing it once, won't make it a habit. We need to use it
whenever we can to make it part of our hard wiring. I hope you are
willing to seriously work on this with me.
I am serious about wanting to practice this with you over and over
until it becomes a HABIT for both of us. PLEASE tell me that yes you
a e willing to work on this.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
I think we BOTH need to practice reflective listening, where we paraphrase, NOT BY ROTE, but with loving care, consideration, good intention and an effort at understanding, what the other person has just said. Eg: “Let me make sure I understand what you just said. Did you say your iPad crashed and ate that art piece you’ve been working on for three weeks? Was it the iPad that crashed or the program itself?”
Perhaps we need to learn to be more pc with each other, more “personally correct.” I think there is a time and place to be PC (politically correct) and a time and place to be pc (personally correct.) (By the way, to the best of my knowledge, I just made that term up.). The time to be PC or pc (personally correct) is when the situation is sensitive. I know you know what I mean—if there is a Polish person present, you don’t tell Polak jokes UNLESS it is a person who tells them and enjoys them himself. You don’t tell Italian jokes or blond jokes in front of an Italian or a blond. And if there is a person who makes a point of always being PC, you don’t tell any ethnic or un-PC type jokes in front of them. There is a time to be PC and a time to be un-PC—in the privacy of a relationship where you know the people and their tastes, you can be as unpolitically correct as is appropriate to that relationship. (Some people, like Alain Able, don’t seem to understand this concept and keep sending me sexual jokes that are inappropriate.) I know you know all this already, I’m not lecturing, I am using it as an analogy to my “new” concept of pc—personal correctness—an sort of extension of PC with wider ranging implications.
What I mean is that we BOTH need to learn to be more pc—personally correct—in our relationships with each other, by which I mean, more sensitive to the constraints of the persons personal needs, fear, “buttons,” hot points, mood, degree of tiredness and the sensitivity or difficulty of the topic. The more difficult the topic is, for either or both of us, the more careful we need to be to suppress our defensiveness, reassure each other, practice reflective listening, take our time, etc.
I want to say YES to our relationship, YES to our love, YES to our marriage, YES to growth, healing and deep communication.
I believe we should be able to talk to each other about anything at all, and to be successful at talking about some things, the more difficult ones, we may need to be ULTRA sensitive. At least at first and maybe for some time.
Sensitivity can include not joking or making humorous (or not so humorous, or pointed) remarks about things the other person is sensitive about, even if it seems funny. We can joke about our OWN shortcomings, but not those of the other until the sensitivity to that issues abates some.
Remember, I love you and WANT our relationship to THRIVE, not shrivel. I think good, open communication with honesty, integrity and trust is a key to a thriving relationship.
Both of us bring baggage to the table and it sits on the table between us, making conversation difficult and complex. Respectful and thoughtful reflective listening can help us understand one another. Maybe we could practice with silly things and light things until it becomes a habit and we can do it more naturally when we need to—when difficult discussions have to happen.
I hope you will agree to work on this with me. I want to love you better. I want you to love me better. And I think we are intelligent and loving enough to be able to do this.