My time here in the USA is drawing to a close for now whilst my attention turns to going to the UK to complete my Certification for CNVC. I’m taking this moment then to celebrate some of the achievements that I’ve made so far and mourn some of the things that I wished I had been able to do but haven’t yet.
What did I do?
One of the primary objectives was to support Wes to be effective at introducing key aspects of NVC to the staff. I primarily imagined that I could provide an empathic presence in his life so that he wasn’t alone in rough moments. From the positive feedback I’ve gotten from Wes, I provided much more than this – I’ve been an active part of planning the curriculum, engaging with the staff during the classes as well as in the work environment, and debriefing to harvest our learning from the events. I also got to contribute in many ways outside the hospital, working in the Blueberry Hill community where Rhonda lives, sharing NVC in prison, and doing lots of pet-sitting. One of the unexpected ways I got to contribute was offering to edit all the audio recordings produced during Miki Kashtan’s Fearless Heart teleseminars.
Another key objective was to learn as much as I could while I was there. I have had so many opportunities to learn – most completely unexpected. Working alongside Wes planning, executing, and debriefing the classes has really helped me get a much richer picture of sharing NVC within a large organization. Shadowing the staff while they work has opened my eyes to the challenges of working long hours in a continually stressful environment and convinced me that healthcare professionals would be so much happier if we could help them learn nonviolence. Other learning opportunities included visiting a local prison and getting to listen to why prison inmates valued learning NVC, helping practitioners of Focusing learn NVC while I learned Focusing, and getting to work alongside the hospital security staff and learn how they engage with disruptive behavior.
One of the other major gifts of being here was being with family and friends. It was so close to my birthplace, I could spend most weekends with my mother and her partner, hanging out and sharing my love of watching ecologically conscious movies together. And my mom could see her grandkids for the first time in 5 years. I also got to hang out face-to-face with my closest friend from school and his family for the first time in 15 years. And I also made loads of new friends.
Working side-by-side with Wes was the hilite of this project. I was pretty sure I’d find a way to be helpful but I was expecting to be mostly observing or participating. From almost the first day Wes has had me by his side, introducing me to the entire staff of the hospital and introducing me as: “This is Jason, he’s joining us here for a while, his background is similar to mine in Nonviolent Communication and he’ll be offering you his own perspective on this material at various times during the class.” Wes held my ideas and intuitions with a great deal of respect and regard during the planning, execution, and debrief of our work.
Working at Mercy has given me my first insight into the challenges of sharing this material in a large organization as well as the great need for it. The Mercy project has also given me a huge range of experiences of health care professionals and the stresses and challenges they live with day to day and the way they suffer because they lack access to regular empathy and they lack the skills to be empathic to others.
There is so much more that could be done in this project. I’m taking a break at a time when the staff of the Emergency Department are increasingly concerned about their Safety and Security. The message of class II was – Safety through Connection – and although it was helpful it showed how much more was needed. Many staff expressed pain and frustration because they don’t trust they can protect themselves emotionally and protect their human dignity against the most challenging patient population. That means many of them work in constant anxiety or fear.
The project I am most excited to work on is the idea I call: Empathy Angels in the Trenches. Creating teams of volunteers trained in empathic listening to work in hospitals and other high-stress jobs offering listening to staff and others.