Years ago, I stumbled upon a website and read an article in which the author said that what humans need more than anything else is to “raise our tolerance for bliss,” and that it is also the most difficult thing for us to do. As I thought about this idea I saw the truth in these statements.
How difficult it is for human beings to raise their tolerance for bliss, and how desperately we need to do so.
Consider how you felt before you exposed yourself to NVC and fully realized your sacred birthright – to feel your emotions, and to acknowledge your needs, expressing them to yourself and to others.
Through the NVC training and process, you learned (or are learning) to honor and cherish your feelings and needs, to welcome them. Through welcoming all of your feelings and needs, you began to raise your tolerance for bliss. Yet, even now, you may still find it a struggle.
Do you ever feel guilt or shame? I know I still do on occasion. These feelings, on one level, aren't true feelings. Rather they are judgments.
Consider that whenever you “feel” guilty, it's because you are making a judgment about yourself or some part of yourself (your thoughts, feelings, actions, or words). But consider that all of those things are just observations or attempts to meet a need.
In truth, on some level, guilt is existential. Every human being will encounter a situation at some point in life in which to meet a need for oneself and be true to oneself, your words or actions may stimulate pain in another person. In such a situation, you may feel torn between meeting your own needs and another's needs. What we learn through NVC is that denying one's own needs leads to inauthenticity. The eventual outcome of inauthenticity is pain and suffering. (As Marshall Rosenberg said, “The reward for being a 'nice' person is depression.”) Living inauthentically is not sustainable.
So when you choose to meet needs for yourself, and that choice stimulates pain in another, you may judge yourself or your actions as wrong. Yet, in NVC, we learn to refrain from judgment. We simply observe.
When you understand this – that guilt and shame are based in self-judgment – you can begin to release those judgments, and in turn raise your tolerance for bliss.
I was a child raised in the Catholic tradition of original sin, guilt, and shame from a young age, so even after seven years of training in NVC, I haven't completely neutralized those self-judgments. Yet when they arise, I can at least name them for what they are – judgments.
“Oh, there's my old friend, Guilt, and its companion, Shame. There I go judging myself again.”
I observe and give myself empathy. No need to judge myself for judging myself. Once is enough, thanks.
I notice that often what I find underneath the guilt and shame is a story about how all the pain and suffering in the world is my fault and my responsibility.
When I look at it rationally, I realize 1) how absurd that is, and 2) that's the epitome of self-importance. How can I, one human being of relatively average means and intelligence, be the cause of all the pain and suffering in the world? Am I attributing some god-like power to myself? And how can I make myself responsible for saving the world? Again, it's the epitome of self-importance, as if I think I'm some all-powerful god.
Each of us have our journey in life. I can't make anyone feel anything. My words and actions can contribute to another's well-being, but how they experience life is not ultimately under my control. To think it is, attributes more power to myself than I actually have.
When I can acknowledge this truth, I can also release myself from judgments that lead to guilt and shame. As I release myself from guilt and shame, I raise my tolerance for bliss. I begin to take responsibility for myself, including my own thoughts and feelings, my choices and actions. I stop blaming other people or the world. I move into a state of gratitude rather than blame. And I free others from my encumbering judgments, realizing that they have everything they need within them to experience their own journey as a human being. I no longer judge them as broken or inadequate.
As I free others from my encumbering judgments, I free myself. As I free myself, I raise my tolerance for bliss.
As I raise my tolerance for bliss, I find I have so much more energy for taking action in the world. My creativity expands. I have a more optimistic view of life, and I open up to infinite possibility. When I trust in Divine Abundance, it flows more easily into and through my life.
So it turns out that the more I raise my tolerance for bliss, the more readily bliss shows up in my life.
When I focus on guilt, shame, judgment, and lack, I set up the conditions for more judgments and lack.
When my boat floats in bliss, I feed that ocean of bliss. The more I feed that ocean of bliss, the more others can float their boats on that ocean of bliss.
Why is that so difficult?