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Comparing Jackals

To speak the language of nonviolence it's helpful to recognize potentially violent language.

The word "violent" in NVC refers to anything that disconnects us from life. I experience disconnect from life in various ways: a contraction or pulling in, a closing up, a numb or listless feeling, a hardening or rigidity in mind, heart, or body, or a deflation of energy.

Marshall Rosenberg talks about several categories of violent language in his book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. One category that I have found to be popular is comparison.

Comparing jackals can wreak havoc with connection and confidence.

I have spent a lot of time dialoguing with my comparing jackals. One comparing jackal likes to compare my work day with my partner's work day. My partner works 10-12 hour days nearly nonstop. He rises at 4am, leaves the house at 5:20am and returns sometimes as late as 9:30pm. I work at home unless I am seeing clients or teaching a class. I keep my own schedule which looks nothing like his. I can't imagine keeping the schedule he keeps. His endurance and energy far exceeds my own.

My jackals like to bark, "You should work as many hours as he does a day. You should have more energy and stamina. You're weak. You're not contributing as much as you could. Don't be lazy!"

What do I do with these comparing jackals?

I come back to myself and my life. I ask myself some basic questions:

Observation:  What are the facts? On a particularly jackally day I wrote out hour by hour all I had done that day to see exactly how I was making use of my time.

What are my feelings? Am I happy with my work? Do I feel satisfied with my days? Do I feel alive?

Are my needs being met? Do I notice people benefiting from the work I do (need for meaningful contribution)? Am I doing the best I can to take care of my mind, heart, and body so that I can be a vehicle for contributing to and enjoying life (need for integrity and health)? Are my partner's needs for support and mutuality met in our relationship (need for partnership and consideration for others)?

Do I have any requests of myself? Is there something I want to do differently based on my needs? – not based on my jackal's idea of what I should do.

Like any jackal, comparing jackals have our needs in mind. In my example above, the comparing jackals are pointing to needs for integrity, contribution, effectiveness, and partnership. However, thinking I can meet needs by trying to be someone else is a doomed strategy. I am completely unique. There is no certain way set up for me. I get to find my own way, moment by moment.

Notice the next time a comparing jackal starts barking in your mind. Take time to name the observation, feelings, needs, and requests in that situation.  Each time you are able to pause and check in with yourself like this you build self-trust.  When you trust yourself, you can move through life with a greater sense of confidence and ease.

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3 Responses

  1. Jun 14, 2012

    What can I do about the"hardening" or closing off you mentioned at the beginning? This happens during fights and I have a really hard time controlling it; it's like I am shutting down behind a wall. It's very hard for me to get back to normal.

  2. Jun 16, 2012

    the hardening starts in the body and as such you can start there. Deep breathing and just noticing where there is tension and being with it is a good place to start.

  3. Jun 17, 2012

    Ah, this jackel is the worst when it turns out and snarls at others!

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