Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: July 1, 2015 - Year 13, Issue 7
Traditionally, the summer issues of HEN are my time to replenish - where content is slim and rest time is large. Summer is the time to kick back, relax and reconnect with and nourish our bodies! It’s also the time that I only write one article for HEN. This is it!
What I want to offer this month is in keeping with the offering of the last 5 months. Each month, I’ve included an excerpt of one chapter of an e-book I’m working on with Judy Zehr called “Hold Onto Yourself – Through Difficult Conversations.” Each month we’ve been moving sequentially through the book, so this month’s excerpt is from Chapter 6 about “schemas.”
“What if deep down inside you, you knew you were more amazing and magnificent than you thought you were?”
… Roger James McDonald
In stress and conflict, most of us have one or more resident “schemas” that get activated. Schemas are belief patterns that get wired together when we are young and impressionable. Schemas are most often beliefs we can’t even see and, because we have believed them for so long, we have become blind to them. It’s even hard to believe we have them, as our beliefs are so real to us.
When in conflict, however, these unconscious historical associations can get triggered frequently and intensely and decimate communication and relationships over and over.
We can make different choices – but only when we can shift our usual pattern of thinking. Raising awareness about schemas gives us more opportunities to heal old wounds, rewire faulty beliefs and be more resourced in the present.
An ancient system for identifying schemas can be found in a model called the Three Malas, taken from the yogic and Hindu traditions. It’s simple yet can have a much broader context.
These three malas are three veils, or obstacles, that prevent us from seeing our true nature or our true selves. The yogic philosophy teaches that when we are brought into this world, we all don these veils and wear them throughout our lives.
A little bit of these three malas resides in each of us. See if you can glimpse these faulty belief patterns obscuring your magnificent self.
Anava Mala - Unworthiness
The first veil is called the Anava mala, or the myth of unworthiness. Tara Brach, in her book, Radical Acceptance, calls this the “trance of unworthiness”. Anava mala is the veil that disconnects us from our core worthiness and wholeness, resulting in low self-esteem, insecurity, and a worried preoccupation with self. We end up feeling not good enough or broken, needing to be fixed, less than others, or shame about who we are.
When you are trapped under the Anava mala, you forget your true nature and become blind to your goodness, wisdom and strength. You may develop a sense of isolation and loneliness, and an over-focus on what is wrong with you or an over-focus on your problems and faults. It’s easy to get stuck on the non-stop wheel of trying to fix and change yourself.
We all are vulnerable to fall under this “veil of unworthiness” and it shows up in many areas of our lives. It can get triggered in an instant, and leave us feeling badly about ourselves, stuck in our flaws and weaknesses, disconnected from our value, worth and strengths.
Difficult conversations can easily activate this mala. Feeling less than, unworthy, of little value, not heard or understood, powerless or not good enough can all be signs of this mala showing up in your communications.
The antidote to this mala is to cherish, connect with, and trust your true self, your essential self, your divine nature. The antidote requires accepting that you are human, you make mistakes and have weaknesses.
Accepting you aren’t perfect and that you have a dark side or a “shadow” is important to lifting this veil. You don’t have to be perfect to be worthy. You don’t have to be anything other than who you are. There is nothing to fix or change. You were born worthy, and you retain that essential worthiness throughout your life span.
Maiya Mala - Separation
The second mala, the Maiya Mala, is the myth of separation. This second veil leads us to believe we are separate from others and from all of life, separate from nature and from the spiritual. We can suffer in aloneness, feelings of not belonging, negative comparisons, and isolation when this mala is triggered.
When you are trapped under the Maiya mala, you can get lost in comparing yourself with others and in your self-judgment or judgment of others. Your mind is busy judging and comparing — am I better than or worse than? Is she, he or it better than or worse than? Over and over your mind can be judging and evaluating, checking to see who is coming out on top, who is on bottom. You can lose your sense of connectivity, or shared strength and mutual intentions. It doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable and connected. It’s easy to lose your sense of humanity and the oneness of all life. You can lose the sense of the sacred.
This mala shows up in difficult conversations when you feel angry and hateful, or try to push away, distance from and reject the other person. Or, you may end up feeling alone, like no one understands you, and like you can’t connect with or understand the other person.
The antidote to this mala is to embrace your vulnerability, being open, authentic, and alive. Feel your true feelings, acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and lovingly accept the strengths and weaknesses of others. See all as a reflection of the one, and the one as a reflection in all.
Remembering where we came from and where we are going can also help. We are made from the same molecules and energy systems that are a part of all of life. We breathe in and out, sharing the same oxygen with every living thing around us. We share energy and atoms with each person we encounter. Life is an ecosystem, and we are a fundamental part of the flow.
Karma Mala - Doingness
The third veil is the Karma Mala, the myth of doingness. This myth tells us that there is something we need to “do” in order to be OK. We get stuck in performing, proving ourselves, or operating on “shoulds” to impress others. We think our value comes from our accomplishments, or we fall into the pattern of feeling not accomplished enough, like what we do is not good enough or not right.
The myth of doing will fuel overthinking and “trying, trying, trying”. It will fuel overworking, overeating, anxieties, compulsions and obsessions. This mala makes it easy to become trapped in perfectionism and overworking.
Our marketing and media set the bar so high, we can never really reach it. We can get stuck working to fix, change, or make things and ourselves better, but we end up with a sense of failure and inadequacy. Or we become overwhelmed with all that we have to accomplish and feel fearful, powerless and anxious.
In conflict or difficult conversations, this mala can send you into an anxious drive to “fix it” or solve the problem. It’s easy to then ramp up into over-responsibility, thinking you need to do something, when often just listening and making space for differing opinions is all that is needed. But you can get slammed into a desperate need to take action.
The antidote to this mala is to trust in your essence, that deepest quality of your being. It takes a trust in life, that there is no desperate rush to a finish line. That there’s not always an urgency toward an answer or an action. Doing can be helpful, fun and creative. Accomplishments can feel good. But it is the quality of being that you bring to your doing that matters most. It is not about what you do, but the spirit and energy, the intention behind it. You can remind yourself over and over to enter into the deep, true, loving essence that you are. And that is enough.
You can move back to your heart, your deeper values and intentions, and slow down on the doing so each action has more meaning. You can focus on how you want to be in the world, what qualities and energy you want to contribute, and let go of some of the over focus on mindless or less intentional doing.
Awareness and Compassion
The first step in re-wiring your stress-related tendencies is always self-awareness and compassion. If you can have empathy and understanding for your own humanness, for that which arises in your inner life, not by choice necessarily but by conditioning, if you can practice observing it and limiting your judgment, analysis, criticism and self-condemnation, you have begun to set the stage for change.
These models give us clues to what might get triggered in difficult conversations. You know by now the foundation is self-awareness. So simply noticing what tends to arise for you — which of the schemas are most reflected in your experience is useful. Notice when one of these malas might color your experience and see if you can lift the veil. There is more there than meets the eye. It is finding a place of expansiveness that puts us in more of a balanced state. Being in balance means we can hold onto ourselves when conflict invariably hits again and again. Instead of reacting, we can stand in a mindful place of centeredness. We can be more than our reactions – we can be a safe port in any storm.
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training