Dear people who voted for Trump:

This message isn’t to those of you who feel proud or satisfied with the outcome of your vote. If you feel this way, then you can stop reading now. I’m not here to change your mind.

This message is for people who may now feel regret, shame, or guilt for having supported Trump. There may be days when these feelings are just a passing sensation or thought. Maybe you hear a family member mocking him, and the image of a different ballot card crosses your mind. And there may be other times, perhaps during one of his tweeting rampages, that these feelings plague you for days. If you fall in any degree of these categories, this message is for you.

This isn’t to shame you. It’s to give your permission to the feel regret, shame, or guilt that’s been showing up in your life if that’s something you need.

There’s a lot of voter bashing happening on social media. It’s understandable. This US administration is putting lives at risk, and people are scared and angry. I speak as a Canadian person who’s been living in Korea for twelve years. In those twelve years, I’ve gone through varying degrees of emotions related to our neighbors to the north. For the first few years, I’d call myself stupid for choosing to live next to a country whose president launches some form of weapon each spring.

Then, as time passed, I adopted the South Korean sentiment: it’s always been this way, and it won’t change, but we aren’t really at risk. Now, I’m less nervous about North Korea, and more worried about the United States. Kim Jong-un almost seems sensible compared to Trump. Almost. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But I’ve gone off track a bit. Back to my point about giving you permission to feel what you’re feeling.

It may be hard to hear people insulting you or even threatening you. You may feel angry or ashamed when you hear all this. You may even feel afraid for your life. It’s my sense that this isn’t encouraging you to speak out against Trump. Maybe you feel safer to defend yourself or to remain quiet. It makes sense. Why would you say or do something if you feel this way?

It seems like there’s no way out of it for you, right? So why am I writing this?

For two reasons: people make mistakes. Or it might be better to say, people make emotional, uninformed, or spontaneous decisions. I’ve made some, and I’m sure many people have too. Voting for Trump may be one of these.

The second reason for writing this is because I don’t believe putting people on the defensive is particularly useful. I also don’t think people who behave in defensive ways contribute to the healing of a society. And while I think it’s important to have the freedom to express anger we have about societal problems, it can’t stop there.

There’s a point where the anger has to transform into action. Otherwise, the person who is expressing anger is also contributing to the problem.

So what do I mean by behaving in defensive ways? Here’s a personal story. I realize this example doesn’t have the same gravity as putting a president in office. My intention isn’t to make light of the seriousness of the political situation the world is facing due to Trump. I’ll get to that later. But I think my experience will help clarify why I’m even bothering to write this message.

For years I was ashamed of myself for not speaking Korean. This internal shame was brought on by years of hearing people — often strangers or acquaintances (ie: bank tellers, teachers I worked with, distant family members…) — say things that varied from, “Oh wow, really? Don’t you think that’s disrespectful to your family?” or “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” So my internal defense mechanism sounded like this, “Yeah, you’re right. I should be ashamed. What kind of person am I? Worse yet, what kind of wife am I? I clearly don’t have my priorities straight. I should have tried harder to learn Korean. I’m so uncaring. I’m one of those ignorant foreigners.” Then I’d burn myself out by adding Korean lessons to my already heavy schedule.

Other times, when I was tired or annoyed, I’d say something like, “Don’t blame me. Blame my husband. He never speaks to me in Korean. But HIS English has improved a lot since we’ve been together. If he had more patience, maybe I’d be speaking Korean just as well by now.” Then I’d look over at him, and he’d be looking at his feet. By blaming him, I had just shamed him.

None of these defense strategies were helpful. My relationships suffered because of my blame and shame lens on life.

The shame would often consume me. It was underlying all my interactions: at work, at home, with friends. I often second guessed myself with people, and it definitely didn’t encourage me to learn Korean.

As much as we think shame will motivate someone into action, it has the opposite effect: it encourages us to defend or to retreat. None of these approaches contribute to expanding understanding and growth within a community.

When someone says something hurtful, we have three response options: to blame or shame ourselves; to blame or shame others; or to respond compassionately to others and ourselves. In my example, there was a lot of blaming and shaming. So what would a compassionate response look like? The first step might be to create the space to listen to you, Trump supporter, without judgment.

It doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for having done what you did. Like in my case, I realize that not learning Korean has caused my Korean family some hardship. I know it’s uncomfortable for them to interact with me. I know that me not being more fluent could be a safety issue somewhere down the line. I’m accountable for this.

But when someone acknowledges my struggle, I’m more able to listen to their worries. When I feel someone is showing me compassion, I’m more willing to take the steps to change. It could be the same for you.

When someone offers me a compassionate response, I feel a sense of expansion. More is possible. I’m more able to remember a Korean term, and I’m more willing to practice speaking with a stranger. When someone blames or shames me, I contract. I lash out or hide.

All this points to the difference between expansion and contraction.

By offering you permission to feel regret, shame, or guilt, I hope I’m offering you the space to expand. Maybe I can offer you an opportunity to create positive change in your community. I know many people would love this change very much.

Find someone safe to share your feelings with. Find someone who will allow you to expand into something new. And if you can’t find that person, send me a message by clicking here.

Sincerely,

Josette

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Interrupted Meridians: Korea in Mourning

For three weeks now I’ve been getting acupuncture for a wrist injury. As is standard in Eastern medicine, the doctor checked my tongue to learn more about my overall health. He discovered that my qi (natural energy) is very low. In order to balance my qi, he suggested that I “take it easy and eat a low fat diet. No fatty meats and no sweet bread.” That meant giving up one of my favourite Friday night traditions: barbecuing samgyeopsal 삼겹살 with Byongchan while listening to our favourite Korean radio host Bae Chul Soo play classic rock and the top American Billboard hits — his show is a little piece of home.

This diagnosis got me wondering about communication. In order to regulate my qi, the doctor stuck two needles at different points in my foot. In order to rework the enflamed ligaments in my right wrist, he put two needles in my left foot, three needles in my right hand, and one needle in my right arm. These points were all communicating to each other via the meridians in my body. The wrist is healing quite well, but it will take time and effort for my qi to restore itself.

acupuncture under a heat lamp
acupuncture under a heat lamp

Why will it take so much time?

Because my habits get in the way of the meridians. I like pies and pastries. I like beer and chicken. I like samgyeopsal. In order to heal my body, my mind has to get out of the way. I need to give up my bad habits to make room for those points in my body to communicate with each other and do their job. In essence, I need to listen to the messages that my body is sending me.

You may wonder how all this relates to Korea in mourning. As you have surely heard, a ferry full of high school students and their teachers has sunk and there is very little doubt as to the fate of the souls that remain on board. And why do they remain on board? Because the meridians of communication were interrupted. Interrupted by ego, by pride, by fear, by confusion, by upbringing, by habit. From one point to the other, messages were not transmitted. Whether it was the lack of a message from the captain, or whether it was not being able to listen to their own hearts, now we all mourn these students and grieve for the loss their families are suffering. Poor communication came at a high cost.

And last night, I did not stop our Friday night ritual. Once again, I interrupted the healing communication in my body. Interrupted by ego, by desire, by upbringing, by habit.

But last night Bae Chul Soo didn’t share his usual repertoire. No top ten hits and no classics to groove to. He only played melancholy songs. Korea is in mourning.

Making the Link: Nonviolent Communication & Reflective Teaching

This was one of the latest posts on the Dalai Lama’s Facebook page:
Modern education pays attention to the development of the brain and the intellect, but this is not enough. We need also to be able to develop warm-heartedness in our educational systems. This we need from kindergarten all the way through university.

I couldn’t agree more. Without cultivating warm-heartedness, compassion and empathy for the self and other, we risk cultivating ignorance, indifference, fear and hate. And everywhere you look, there are far too many examples of these human characteristics. The world doesn’t need to develop these anymore. I believe that one of the ways to develop as the Dalai Lama suggests is to learn how to communicate in peaceful, nonviolent ways. This is why it is important to teach this form of communication.

This brings me to a point of clarification. After receiving kind feedback from one of my favorite readers, and after rereading yesterday’s post, I realized that I wasn’t clear about why I chose to write about my experience with nonviolent communication (NVC). I usually post my reflections on what happened in the classroom, but yesterday’s post was much more personal.

Daegu NVC Practice Group

Continue reading “Making the Link: Nonviolent Communication & Reflective Teaching”