And so I am more in contact with the humanistic world view for the last few weeks, joyfully attending and sharing NVC seminars.

The upcoming weekend I will share a seminar “Exploring the power of self-empathy”. The concept and empirical skill of self-empathy is the most important element of the whole NVC art of living, in my experience…

…and so in the present text I would like to share a few thoughts on the subject.

So, my idea (and indeed experience) is that no one can really hurt you (or me) without you (or me) somehow allowing it.
It is a delicate subject, I think, so lets tread gently.

Let us first take a look at the scientific facts. Biological psychology and neurobiology affirm that the life as we know it actually takes place between our ears, not out there. Yeah, holy sh*t! 🙂

It is the brain that interprets the sensor input and so the perception is thus inevitably (and always) subjective. I have spent almost three years studying that exact fact (I wrote a paper on the subject and then some, check it out here >>, new page opens up). Interesting stuff, to say the least.

If interested, do look into the work of Dr. Benjamin Libet; lots and lots of mind boggling research results there. Also, these volumes were of great help to me, maybe they might add to your clarity of the subject as well:
– Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology, by Ronald T. Kellogg,
– The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience, 2nd edition, Jamie Ward and
– Understanding Biological Psychology, Philip J. Corr.
All titles can be bought at Amazon.

And so the hard core science, neurobiology and cognitive neuroscience, affirms that we all live our lives based on interpretations of what we perceive as “out there”. Well, wonderful.

What has that got to do with self-empathy and the Mahatma Gandhi’s statement “Nobody can hurt you without your permission.”?

Well, here comes the tricky part:

No one can DIRECTLY cause your inner pain or happiness (or any other emotional or mental event). Let me say this again: I can not possibly DIRECTLY cause your pain / happiness. Even more: even if I tried really hard, I could not do it, not without your “help”.

You see, the perception (one of rather important cognitive processes) is always subjective, meaning that it depends on the subject, you (or me). If we try to follow this line of thought to the conclusion, where does it take us?

Maybe here:

The pain, happiness (or any other emotional or mental event) is unavoidably subjective and is happening in you (me) alone, and moreover, it is experienced only by you (me), independently of ambient stuff. It starts, endures and ends in you (me). And your (or mine) experience of some “outside” event might be that of slight pain or maybe indifference or even happiness.


So, how is it than possible for your wife, husband, child, parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, boss, postman, police officer etc. to hurt you?
No really, I am asking you, right now.

It is not possible, in my experience. It is a neurological impossibility. It is just not possible in reality.

Seems to me that Mahatma Gandhi understood this neurological fact, he said: “Nobody can hurt you without your permission.”

What is the trick here?

It is up to me how I perceive and experience the “outside” events. It is me. Always me. I am allowing something to influence my inner psychological climate in a way that results in pain or sorrow or frustration or anger.
It is not on the outside.

And here comes the wonderful self-empathy to the rescue, like a knight on a white horse in shining (read: gently and lovingly offering help) armor.

If a certain person triggers me, meaning that I react with emotions that are not really pleasing me, it only indicates that I have lost conscious contact with my inner deeper reality that is the cause of all kinds of emotions.

If something or someone is influencing you in a way that is displeasing to you, it only shows that your inner psychological climate is under stress, as it were. And it happens so fast that your conscious mind simply notices it not.

So what to do?

Well, Marshall Rosenberg has said it many many times: slow down, relax, breathe. Give yourself a break and take a huge dose of self-empathy.

When my batteries are full, when my capacity for self-empathy and contact with my inner yearnings and unlimited potentials is fully actualized, well, all is well. In that state, it is very difficult or even impossible for me to even conceive of others trying to hurt me.

And when the said capacity is not present (which happens often, I admit), well, in such situations I actually give my power away, I literally allow “outside” events to hurt me.

And this awareness, this knowledge is so precious to me. It is like a soft and thick woolen blanket, rendering me open, vulnerable (not as a victim) and willing to participate in Life fully.

What about you?
Are you giving your power away to others?

Text above was posted on the Integral Life Blog on 26th of March, by Edmond C.