Feb 162016

Anger is a rich emotion that is both useful and troublesome. It is possible to understand anger is a deep way and to bring clarity into oneself and into situations where confusion, trouble, and helplessness once reigned. Relationship skills are also enhanced with the clarity and insights revealed by understanding how anger works. It is also possible to develop a new way of looking at what most people call “evil,” but that is another topic.

Anger can be used to keep the world away and sometimes this can be helpful and sometimes it is harmful to oneself and others. Anger can often have a self-righteous quality to it where we fortify our defenses by feeling and proclaiming that we are right! This can be troublesome in interpersonal relations such as social, intimate and family interactions. Understanding how anger works can be liberating. It can make conflict safe by reducing violent behavior.

On the other hand, many people, especially women, have been conditioned so that they cannot express or feel any anger at all. In these cases people may not be able to tolerate anger in others, even in their own children.

I would like to speak here about expressed anger, rather than suppressed or repressed anger. First of all, it is important to realize that there is anger with hatred, and there is anger without hatred. How do we tell the difference? Well, it’s not easy for most of us. Often the first step is to hear about this distinction – someone points out to us the fact that anger can be hooked into hatred, or can be free from hatred. One kind of anger is rather hot and confused and dangerous, the other kind is somewhat cool and clear.

Upon hearing this for the first time you might not believe it or you might feel puzzled. You may not, at first, be able to see this in yourself, unaided, but it is relatively easy to observe in others. For example, some people respond to perceived slights with wounded rage while another person will just laugh it off. This observation alone shows that anger works differently in people. And there is a reason for that which is not generally understood.

The person with a rage response is still carrying an undetected, unresolved, and unhealed emotional wound received in childhood. The source of anger with hatred, whether it occurs in a parent, a politician, a criminal, or a lover is an unhealed inner emotional wound. In order to admit to carrying an inner wound, a difficult thing to do for many, one will be interested in and committed to engaging an inner life. Otherwise we are hopelessly stuck in projection, unaware of yourself and always blaming the other person as the source and cause of your anger. In this case, the confused thinking mind attributes the “cause” of anger to others – he did this, she did that to me – it’s their fault! Although this unfortunate blind cycle can continue, tragically, through one’s entire life it can also be seen through, changed and healed. The hard part is that sometimes other people re art fault and this clouds the issue of understanding and healing our own anger-with-hatred. The point here is that other people’s perceived faults are irrelevant to our own healing.

In contrast to anger with hatred, anger without hatred and without blame is not a problem. It is simply a clear and healthy expression of a violation of boundaries, like when someone steps on your toe. When invasion of one’s boundaries is inappropriate to dignity, privacy, etc., then anger brings focus, clarity, and energy to properly identify what’s going on. Simply naming what’s happening is helpful in acknowledging healthy boundaries.

Often situations of closeness or intimacy can activate an internalized wound and trigger a cloud of hatred to spring forth, attached to the anger. The reason why anger brings out hatred is that the original wounding was never recognized or grieved when it was happening. It was caused by repeated, neglect, deception, abuse or emotional distance in the family of origin that had failed to mirror loving-kindness and understanding during crucial developmental stages of childhood. The original hurt, frustration, anger and injustice was never acknowledged properly and we remain stuck there.

Canadian psychiatrist Gabor Mate, MD says,

“When you’re a child and your parents can’t handle your feelings, you learn to suppress them to maintain your relationship with your parents. But what was a coping response in the child becomes a source of illness in the adult.”

Since hurt is always at the bottom of anger with hatred then this acting out anger is also a mask. What is it hiding? It effectively covers up the deep hurt from childhood and renders that buried pain inaccessible. You can’t feel it. You don’t want to feel it. It is this buried and inaccessible hurt that feeds the sick, unhealed anger – the anger with hatred that continuously gives rise to blaming, shaming and complaining.

Hatred is the reeling of wanting to hurt, harm or kill someone. It’s about unconscious revenge for perceived injustice. The lack of awareness, the ignorance, of the connection between anger and mask is what gives rise to violence of al kinds. “The most violent element in society is ignorance,” said Emma Goldman. Always hidden beneath anger with hatred is old hurt. When we start to see this we can start to heal. In one of my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) practice groups a participant said, “Anger is a sideshow for hurt.”

For many people the early pain of rejection or emotional abuse is so great that this connection with buried anger cannot be made at all. Nor is there interest in making it known. Psychopathic serial killers and self-righteous religious fundamentalists are what I think of in this extreme territory. But the same basic pattern of rigidity is there in most of us. The wall is so solid. For most people the wall can be taken down, brick by brick. The anger, in this case, has served its role as a survival tool long ago and now it can usefully be relived and seen as a signal which is saying: Hey, I’m hurting, I need help, I don’t want to continue hurting myself and others, or being right…it feels terrible, like molten lead…and it’s so isolating! Once a person sees how dysfunctional and harmful they are with the hatred/anger/self-hatred loop then that glimpse can provide the ground for increasing self-reflection and self-insight. One can actually learn how to create connection with self and other instead of the old life-alienating habits of thinking, behavior and communication.

The way to work with destructive and harmful anger is to educate oneself about it. There are many resources for this in our society. The helping professions, self-help books, NVC, and the 12-step programs are some places where clues and insights may be found. Erich Neumann wrote a wonderful book about scapegoating and blame titled Depth Psychology and the New Ethic. The new ethic is simply to become willing to study oneself, see oneself, “know thyself,” heal thyself physician! This program of self-reflection requires, for example, giving up blaming, shaming and complaining. It’s not an easy path and calls upon strong motivation. As Anais Nin, wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

The first step is to surrender, to realize that you are powerless over your disease and your pain. Recognizing that you have a dis/ease, and that it’s not your fault, is the first step. How to work with anger is to recognize its source in ourselves and to own it, to take responsibility for it. Without this first humble step of surrender and of ownership nothing can happen. It’s not your fault, but you own it. This is often the hardest part to grasp; a difficult middle ground where things are neither black nor white. We surrender black and white toxic thinking and open to the truth of body feelings.

The next step is to see and feel how a pool of hurt underlies your, or somebody else’s, misdirected anger. But this inner seeing must be accompanied by an outer seeing as well. The outer signal to look for is blame, which is a most significant obstacle to healing. You are always blaming others. Blame is the extreme toxic self-poison. It’s cousin, resentment, is the final killer that keeps you down, ignorant and blocked from a dawning inner life of relative freedom. Scapegoating is an age-old tool of ignorance; like blame it is outer directed, a powerful distraction to healing. But inner awareness is our birthright. It is the joy of healing. It opens the door to genuine compassion, self-insight and self-worth, intimacy, confidence, love and a living feeling sense of connection and appropriate boundaries. It is the seed of wisdom.

To summarize, anger with hatred comes from an unhealed wound. It comes from legitimate unacknowledged pain, shame, hurt and emotional abuse and neglect that continually blocked our healthy emotional development as a child. We are still stuck back there somehow. Healing with emotional awareness is about recovering from this. It is not about blaming parents or siblings. It is about seeing and owning the tragedy of the hurt you have inherited, the needs and care and understanding you missed. It is about working directly with and through the grief of all that now in the present moment. Some call it re-parenting or waking up. Grief is the doorway to awareness, to grace, to surrender, to an awareness of deep emotions that is necessary to fulfill our human capacity. Robert Bly said, in A Little Book on the Human Shadow, “The person who has eaten his shadow spreads calmness, and shows more grief than anger.”


 1. The Wisdom of Imperfection -a short book by Brene Brown.

2. Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, shame and empathy:


…23 million views and counting, this contains an important message.

3. Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw.

4. The Surprising Purpose of Anger in Living Nonviolent Communication -Practical Tools to Connect and Communicate Skillfully in Every Situationby Marshall Rosenberg.

 5. Nonviolent Communication –A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg.

6. The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford.

7. Undefended Love by Jett Psaris and Marlene

 Posted by at 11:03 am
Feb 032016

Nowhere To Hide

In the recent book by Pema Chodron titled Living Beautifully…with uncertainty and change (Shambhala 2012) Chapter Nine is called “Nowhere To Hide.”

We are studying this book in my ongoing NVC (nonviolent communication) group in Crestone, Colorado because it brings a Buddhist perspective to the subject of living transparently. It is also is one of the first and finest examples of a Western Buddhist teacher able to speak clearly and knowingly about experiencing feelings and needs, which forms the backbone of NVC practice and study.

In this chapter, Pema speaks of the need, when we wish to live a full and present life, to come out of hiding behind our dark emotional reactivity behaviors such as blame, judgment, criticism, withdrawal, attack, aggression and other defense mechanisms that cloud our basic nature of compassion.

The following Chapter Ten is titled “Charnel Ground” where the subject of hiding ourselves behind various false personas is stripped bare to reveal who we really are without shame, restraint or bravado…to embrace what is.

A charnel ground is a scary place in some Asian countries where the dead are brought to decay and be eaten by various animals. In some yogic meditation traditions yogis aspiring to freedom and enlightenment spend time there to deepen and transform their meditation practice. In this way, hidden beliefs are uncovered.

We hold many beliefs that we are not aware of, that are hiding yet dictating our behavior, our speech, thoughts, judgments, etc.

So, since NVC is a tool for developing transparency via mindfulness and awareness, it should be a juicy journey for all spiritual seekers to spend time looking into the tapestry of our fragile identity woven by the clandestine interaction of beliefs and hiding.

What need is met by hiding? I am beginning to ask myself this as I begin to see myself better. And the beat goes on.

The CHARNEL GROUND ENERGY is to see what’s there, whether we like it or not. And to accept what’s there, and also to see into the wide river of attachment that flows deep in the psyche of all, the attachment that binds us to a false and limiting identity, that limits our options and freedom, and that steals much of the joy and fun that is there when we completely relax into our pure essence.
–Paul Shippee
More: http://cnvc.org/

Jun 302015

We all yearn to participate, to know that our presence matters, that our actions have impact.

When we feel insecure and unsafe, we keep our essence shrouded in an attempt to protect ourselves.

What to do?

Since we hold back our presence we lack confidence that it matters; our impact is diluted because we place a censor between our inner self and the outer world, inhibiting our behavior. Not only does this censor constrict our actions, it also prevents us from fully discovering who we are, and it prevents us from deeply experiencing those around us.

We then live in a world of uncertainty where we strive to control events, fearing we’ll be taken advantage of by others or expose ourselves to ridicule by revealing our inadequacies.

Training in Nonviolent Communication helps us become aware of our feelings and needs. When we connect with our needs a few things happen. Clarity and recognition resonates through our being, we become grounded in ourselves, and we become clear about our boundaries. Rooted in this recognition we grow a deep inner connection, stability, and calm.

Our drive to control events diminishes as we begin to trust ourselves to handle situations without rehearsal. We experience ourselves, rather than external reference points, as the true source of our own well-being and find the confidence and courage to be vulnerable. Not only do we have a deeper, wider experience of our being when we are vulnerable, we experience others more directly too. We may discover that we are of one essence, the perception of the “other” as different dissolves, and we enter a generous and empathic rapport. We might see that we are participants in a larger life force, and we can’t help but want to contribute. — David Steele (edited by Paul Shippee)

Visit the RMCCC new site:   http://rmccn.org

 Posted by at 12:57 pm
Aug 012014

Paul ShippeeGreetings,

This is a conversation between a well-loved Tibetan meditation master (HH Khyentse, R.), who passed away ten+ years ago, and a student. You might find yourself in it like I did!

“How does one extend compassion to aggression in the environment?”

“Begin with the person nearest you.”

“How does one do that?”

“First, you do not respond with aggression even if you feel hurt and that the other person is at fault. That is simply adding fuel to a fire that is already very hot and painful. And beyond that, you express gratitude to the person who harmed you.”

“Why gratitude? I don’t understand that.”

“You are grateful to them for being your teacher, for showing you where you are still reactive and defensive. You are thankful to them for showing you the work you still need to do in order to become liberated.”

Note: This conversation is taken from a 2012 book by Frank Berliner titled: Falling In Love With A Buddha.

Here is a Commentary I wrote for those of us who wish to learn more about the density of our reactivity & defensiveness:

To me, this conversation is profound and wickedly on target. Who talks about this in the West? Nobody! To express gratitude to someone who has harmed you and has triggered your “reactivity and defensiveness” is so far ahead of our human evolutionary trajectory as to seem unreal, as if from another planet, or maybe seriously misguided. However, to me it clearly shows the next step for my own development, my own trajectory.

For example, my brother says to me, “You want people to come to you, you don’t want to go to them,” implying clearly a judgment that I am selfish and that something is wrong with me. I was stunned so I asked him how he knows this? His reply is that it is only “conjecture,” whatever that means. But truth be told I felt hurt but it did not immediately occur to me to feel or express gratitude to him. But my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) training did prompt me to ask myself later, “What’s going on with him that he would say that to me?” And I thought he was probably feeling some pain and wanted me to come up to Denver to visit him. NVC teaches that it is not necessary to get the answer right to this query. What’s important is the shift in direction and emphasis from my hurt, my pain, my reaction, my defense, my blame,  over to shine the light of consciousness onto his feelings and needs. It is to become curious about his pain. In NVC we call this empathy.

It is a shift in me from dwelling on myself over to extending true compassion to another. And this in no way implies that I “should not” feel the hurt emotion. I can and “should” certainly honestly acknowledge what I am feeling. Yes, I am still “reactive” inside my bones, heart, cells, heart, tissues, etc. But I think what Khyentse R. is talking about is is to become mindful of my hurt, yes, but to not let this internal reaction leak out into a behavioral expression, a big reaction or defensive maneuver of speech aimed at winning. This is not a battle, but rather it is to contain my blood even if heated, and remember to also switch over to concern for the other person. Being peace is achieved in each moment by giving up struggle.

Now, is this “spirituality?” Well, if transforming the pain of perceived hurt and harm away from reaction and defense into compassion is not an earthy spirituality, then I don’t know what is. It is like Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche says, “Feel your emotions directly and selflessly and let their power open you up.”

That’s what it means. Yes, feel your emotions and allow their power to open you up to the other person or the situation, open you up to seeing the bigger picture than just your own hurt, sadness, anger, whatever. This does not mean to diminish or judge or shame your negative or difficult feelings. But it does mean to not get stuck there. It means to use the event or occasion as an opportunity to transform your reaction and defense into compassion, becoming curious and seeing into the feelings and needs of the other.

Your reactive nature, such as it is, is now viewed as a launching pad for an earthy spirituality, for it takes a spirit element to uplift you out of self-centered, dense reactions. This spirit is needed to transform confusion into wisdom, and it feels like a blessing. It is the higher human nature, so to speak; it is a distilled essence we call “spirit” that is necessary to accomplish this movement from dense to light, from neurosis to enlightenment. That is, it feels light as opposed to heavy. And it all started with a difficult emotion (never call it negative) handled in such a way as to facilitate transformation. Wow!

This is a wonderful opportunity to access both the wound, the hidden pain that produces the reactive and defensive behavior we are carrying somewhere deep in our bones and cells, as well as the blessing that can open our heart to others, to compassion. When we can access both the wound and the blessing, that is where we can find liberation.

 Posted by at 2:27 pm
Aug 232013

Nonviolent Communication

Compassionate Communication

– A Community Building Tool –


Making Life Wonderful…Part 1 of 3

Nonviolent Communication (NVC), sometimes called Compassionate Communication or Compassionate Connections was originally founded by Marshall Rosenberg as a way of communicating and resolving conflict amidst dangerous, even murderous, circumstances around the world. Thus the name Nonviolent Communication came into wide use. It was also famously used earlier by Ghandi during his campaign to liberate India from British rule. What does Nonviolent Communication  mean to you? To some it sounds harsh and you might say, “I’m not violent!” and thus dismiss it as something that applies to others, not to you. This would be a mistake.

Since the NVC method of communicating was used as an effective and compassionate method of resolving dangerous conflicts between people killing each other — gangs in Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit; warring tribes in Africa; ethnic clashes in Kosovo and Ireland —  it was also found to be brilliantly effective in everyday relationship communication. Many of us who have learned this communication method sometimes prefer to call it by its softer name Compassionate Communication to reflect its ultimate purpose of facilitating empathic connections. I view NVC as serving three areas of human aspiration:

community building

relationship enhancing, and

a spiritual path.

In short, NVC has earned a reputation for making life wonderful for those who practice it sincerely.

What Is Violence?

The root of the word “violence” reveals itself when we make others (or ourselves) wrong. In cultures based on conformity, oppression and obedience to authority there is a learned undercurrent in language and conversation that often implies that others are wrong. Even using the word “should” falls into this category, for example, whenever we think we know how others should live. Thus make-wrong behavior springs from a learned attitude of superiority, insecurity and separation. We may have an unconscious propensity to make people wrong when it takes the form of blame, judgment, criticism and shame…and it can manifest as very subtle or very loud.

In Buddhism, the word “aggression” is used to denote violence, a violation of some kind, the opposite of respect and openness. Violence characterizes any behavior that causes harm and pain to oneself or another. There is also a quiet emotional violence that manifests when we withdraw or push others away in a misguided effort to protect ourselves from vulnerability and authentic connection. Since humans manifest a wide range of behavior and speech -from aggression and violence to compassion, vulnerability, respect and openness- we might well wonder what our real basic nature is.

Some say it is separation, aggression, originally sinful and evil while others say it is compassion, unity, openness and connection right out of the womb. NVC defines aggression and violence as learned behaviors, and like Buddhism and Sufism, teaches that our basic nature is, in fact, goodness…that we are hardwired for unity, connection and openness.

What lies on top of our basic goodness, covering it up, are various conditioned behaviors from our family upbringing and cultural influences and emotional woundings. Thus we have developed habitual patterns of communication that originally served to protect us from danger, pain and abuse -such as withdrawing or attacking or going numb- but that no longer serve us as adults who inherently and universally desire connection, harmony, happiness and peace.


The Fires of Consciousness…Part 2 of 3

So, in order to cut through these old habits that cover over and make us blind to our basic goodness, NVC encourages and trains us in remembering our basic compassionate nature that we have forgotten. And the way NVC specifically does this is to train in changing our daily consciousness from the old destructive, isolating and emotionally reactive habits over to recovering and remembering how to identify and honestly express our feelings and needs. NVC practice reveals that feelings and needs are an easy way to experience what’s alive in us.

It seems we have to go through the fires of changing and expanding our consciousness in order to become fully human. The fires of grief, anger, sadness, pain and vulnerability are like initiation experiences. From this perspective embracing emotional pain is a way of undoing habitual patterns of self-deception. In this sense initiation experiences bring a feeling of newness and change that undermines fixed identity. They are really nothing special, only more or less human portals we must peel open and embrace in order to glimpse our true compassionate nature. This is part of the positive journey that NVC invites us to engage in. It is none other than the basic human task of cultivating our lost legacy, which is to master the literacy of our core feelings and needs. This involves learning how to honestly express these in ways that are non-defensive and non-aggressive.

By being vulnerable in this way, NVC serves to increase our chance of  receiving a compassionate response from others, a response that is not defended. NVC reminds and trains us in connecting in an empathic manner with our own feeling and needs as well as the feelings and needs of others. It is a softer way of living that opens us up to a gentle way of seeing the world and ourselves. Since we are addicted to our old largely unconscious habits of emotional reactivity and defensive postures, it might at first feel awkward, like we are running low on oxygen to live from this new and softer place.

The change of consciousness that NVC is pointing out is asking us to give up the pleasure trap of being right, and making others wrong. These old habits limit us, hold us in a limiting pattern of daily consciousness. By contrast, the new consciousness we are creating and discovering might feel like a no-man’s land of blankness and uncertainty, and that is indeed what a change of consciousness feels like. However, to reconnect with our long-alienated basic nature we might have to tolerate a few uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms until we catch on to the process of waking up to the healthy and wonderful world of freedom, free from aggression and making others wrong. It is so liberating! We learn that softness is ultimate strength, ultimate maturity, ultimate security, ultimate wisdom!


The Basic Method…Part 3 of 3

The basic method of Nonviolent Communication that fosters connection is to learn and practice these four components:

-How to make an observation

-How to honestly express feelings

-How to value the beauty of needs, and express them

-How to make a request, instead of a demand

We do this deliberately, slowly and consciously at first as an honest expression of who we are in a given situation or moment.  We do this within ourselves with a new consciousness. It is actually a first step of awakening an inner life. And we develop empathy by seeing these same four components in others, at least the feelings and needs part. Eventually it becomes a dance back and forth that operates from the truth that everyone’s needs matter.

In a diagram the new consciousness looks like this:




This is the MAP of a new consciousness in relationships that NVC trains in. It invites us to come out from hiding, to see through emotional reactivity, and to connect our intrinsic need, for happiness and connection, with an actual process of realizing and manifesting it on the spot. This is vulnerability and it might feel scary. But it is our new assignment, should we choose to accept the challenge, for cultivating sustainable conversations, cooperation, unity, richness and perhaps as Bucky Fuller said, our “final evolutionary exam.”