Up until 2 months ago I’ve never tried living in “community”. Family, yes, total strangers for an extended period of time, no. Here’s what I learned.
It’s important to be witnessed. Living alone I get really good at not asking for help, not letting anyone know I’m hurting, and I forget that interactions with others are important. The first week of moving to Hawaii to live in community we all took a community course. Basically we learned how to communicate, be seen, and be transparent with others. At first I had a good guard up around certain things like nudity. It never totally shifted, however I did get more comfortable being nude when it served a purpose, rather than, just be naked all the time because I could. What I really struggled with though, although I’m a very emotional person, was identifying my emotions and being vulnerable enough to share them. In general, I’m really non confrontational. But in community you can’t get away with that. When someone hurts you, violates your boundaries, or neglects you, it is your job to tell them and make a request about correcting the action. You see you can’t get away with not being accountable because too many other people are watching. If you complain to someone other than the person you’re upset with, you bet they will expect you to get it out and put it on the table, so to speak. So time after time when I’d run into something that wasn’t working for me, some triggered pain, or undesired interaction, I couldn’t keep it inside but I also couldn’t get away with just complaining about it either.
What this means is that I had to be authentic and accountable for my authenticity. I had to learn to identify my feelings, I had to speak like “here are my observations”, ” here are my feelings”, “here are my needs”, and “here is my request, can you help me with it?” This in real life looks like.
“I observe that you didn’t do your dishes yesterday, and they were left for others to clean up.”
“I feel angry, because I perceive that you don’t care, I feel hurt because I do care.”
“My needs are, to not have to clean up after other people who can clean up after themselves.”
“My request is that you take more responsibility for the messes you make, and clean up as you go.”
“Is this something you are willing to meet?”
This conversation comes from a place of vulnerability. Even though the topic is light, the feelings can be intense. Before you approach your person it’s good to release any pent up emotions so that when you go to communicate you are not so charged that you just blame, shame, and guilt the person into submission. Non of this is easy. It all takes practice, support, courage, and vulnerability.
During this time I learned that hiding is counter productive to problem solving. I also learned that not speaking up is more of an abandonment of self than it is just a convenience. Damage gets done every time you don’t speak your truth. Even if you don’t ever say it to that person, you still need to say it out loud to yourself. You need to hear yourself speak your truth. And when you do share it with that other person you give yourself a chance to solve a problem and change a destructive pattern. Even if that other person chooses not to meet your request, you still honored your own needs. Having made your request, you now can make different ones that work better or you can remove yourself from the situation altogether and ask someone else for help. Being true to self is a profound concept for integration and healing. Often people go their whole lives and never learn to respect or honor themselves.
Living in community taught me to be authentic, honor myself, hold accountability for my feelings, needs, perceptions, desires, and boundaries.
So I share these thoughts with you and hope to inspire action towards showing up for yourself. Good Luck!
If you’d like more information on this communication style, research Non Violent Communication.