the anatomy of trust

have you ever thought about the anatomy of trust? we all throw the word “trust” around, but what does it really mean?

in 2015 brené brown, my favorite author, gave a talk on one of oprah’s super soul sessions on trust. she broke down how she defines trust using the acronym BRAVING. to watch this part of the talk, click here.

Boundaries – be clear about boundaries ; hold boundaries ; respect boundaries

Reliability – do what you say you will do – over, and over, and over again ; be honest about and communicate limitations

Accountability – when mistakes are made own them, apologize, and make amends ; allow the same for others

Vault – maintain confidentiality ; share only what is yours to share ; avoid “common enemy intimacy”

Integrity – choose courage over comfort ; choose what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy ; practice, not just profess, your values

Nonjudgement – refrain from judging self and others

Generosity – make generous assumptions and check-in

when the talk first came out i was at a place in my life when trust was really being questioned in multiple areas of my life. this really got me seriously thinking about trust. i thought if i could get a better handle on what “trust” meant to me then maybe it could be a game changer.

to get started i consulted the NVC needs list to help me gain clarity. i really found value in this, and to this day, i still use the same 5 needs from 2015 that i found on the NVC needs list to define trust for myself. i define trust as the need for dependability ; reliability ; predictability ; consistency ; and accountability.

i may ask some of the following clarifying questions as i examine the needs to determine if trust exists.

dependability – does this (person / place / thing) show up when i need them? when they show up do i feel ease or dis-ease?

reliability – do they regularly and mutually show up? do i feel at ease when thinking about if or how they will show up?

predictability – am i mostly certain about how they do / can / will show up and contribute to my life? to some degree do i know what to expect? is their often ease or dis-ease around how or when they show up or contribute?

consistency – are their actions / behaviors repeatedly the same? do i notice feeling patterns of ease or dis-ease?

accountability – are they able to identify and own problem areas that they are aware of or as they arise? are they able to acknowledge the ways in which they contribute(d) to dis-ease? do they initiate apologies? do they appear to want a mutually beneficial outcome?

there have been times in my life when knew i didn’t trust someone or something, or even myself. “something seems off,” might be something i’d say. yet, i don’t remember pinpointing exactly why trust was missing.

today, thanks to the help of brené, the NVC lists, and the many life experiences giving me plenty of practice, i am able to identify why trust does or does not exist, and clearly communicate about why. even further, i can identify body sensations and feelings that usually bubble up for me when i am feeling mistrust. these sensations and feelings can act as sensors alerting me that a need is probably not being met, which is great self-awareness and perhaps a signal to change course!

it is my hope that this post may help or inspire you to think about what trust means to you. as brené said, when we trust, we are braving connection, and again, i believe connection is why we are all here. #divedeeplivewell

the exercise

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image | contact to claim | courtney’s cell phone screen for years & logo inspiration

in the last post i shared a brief introduction to SALT practices – the hybrid method of mindfulness and nonviolent communication (NVC) for improved well-being. in this post, i’ll share with you one of the most helpful treasures i’ve found to date – “the exercise” by thom bond, a thought leader, author, activist, and founder of nycnvc.

before you get started with “the exercise,” i encourage you to participate in this 1-minute breathing practice. simply inhale as the shapes in the video expand and exhale as the shapes contract. we so often get caught up in our daily tasks that we forget to pause, breathe, and center ourselves in order to think more clearly. a short mindfulness practice like this can help with shifting focus!

hopefully you are feeling a bit more relaxed, and are ready to try something new! please allow yourself adequate time to complete all of the guided steps – about 20-30 minutes, especially for the first time.

you can return to this practice as often as you would like, as many times as needed, for always … eventually, after much practice, you will probably be able to do this from your mind’s eye without paper. also over time you may notice this process becomes your go-to automatic response when trying to understand situations. this will be proof that new neural pathways have formed and that you are shifting towards compassion!

click here to start “the exercise.”

SALT practices

every criticism, judgement, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need. – dr. marshall rosenberg

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image courtney connecticut shoreline

a colleague / girlfriend of mine reached out over the weekend and asked to meet up soon to learn more about SALT practices. i thought i’d share some of what i’ll be sharing with her here, since one of the main intentions of this blog is to share treasures! #divedeeplivewell

SALT practices involve participating in mindfulness modalities and nonviolent communication (NVC). the cool thing about both of these is that they can be done pretty much anywhere and at any time. you just need an intention to be more aware and a willingness to repeatedly try. at the SALT studio, we often said the mantra, “i matter. i care. this is healthcare.” i truly believe that over time and with a committed effort these practices will help to improve well-being.

mindfulness :

mindfulness can look very different to us all. the father of this movement, john kabat-zinn, defines it as “paying on attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” this can be with our breathing, thinking, eating, exercising, etc.

through repeated mindfulness practices, we are able to rewire neural pathways which helps us to create new stress responses. over time we may observe changes – for example perhaps our defensiveness begins to fade as we find new, more effective, ways to handle stress. when we are less reactive and more self-regulated we are apt to communicate and connect in  more centered, healthy ways.

believe it or not, the founder of nonviolent communication, dr. marshall rosenberg (rip), actually had been called to war zones to help deflect conflict using his method – this is how powerful NVC can be! conflict is inevitable ; it’s in how we handle the conflict that makes all the difference. i explain it as a practice of gaining a new lens and vocabulary for which to understand life experiences. honestly, it’s the best way for me to try to interpret my own life and this curious world we live in. living in a more curious state has become my favorite mindset to have – i often say i live in gray, as opposed to black and white, and i love this about myself. nonviolent communication can help with achieving this.

nonviolent communication :

the trickier SALT practice to explain is nonviolent communication. i like to think of NVC as one of life’s best-kept secrets! it seems in my day-to-day interactions, not too many people are familiar with it (though there are plenty of people around the globe who are actively practicing it), yet for me, it’s been the most influential treasure. many of you may be thinking, “what is nonviolent communication? it sounds scary!”

people are often confused or turned off by the term “nonviolent communication,” however i think it makes a lot of sense. if we hurt people with our words (especially when we are triggered and in attack mode), we are indeed being violent. i think hurting others or feeling hurt is far from what we are truly craving, and i strongly believe we are most here for connection – one of the strongest human needs we all have.

think of NVC like this … imagine everything you have ever done, are doing, or will do, is an attempt to meet a human need of yours. the same goes for every person, and every person on the planet shares the same human needs – sure we may weigh them differently, but to some degree we all have the same needs, and there are many ways to meet each need.

then imagine that how you feel, moment-to-moment, encounter-to-encounter, experience-to-experience, over a lifetime, is based on your needs either being met or not. if you are feeling well, then chances are that your needs are being met. if you are not feeling well, then chances are that your needs are not being met.

when you can identify and nonjudgementally observe a situation, and then identify the related feelings you are having, and then identify what needs are either being met or unmet, you can better understand the situation and yourself. you can then communicate (to yourself or others) with more clarity, compassion, and ownership about the situation. this has the ability to transform how we react, act, mend, and tend.

so how do you “practice” NVC? nonviolent communication involves a 4 part process – 1) make observations ; 2) identify feelings ; 3) identify needs ; and 4) make requests. thom bond, author of the compassion book and who studied under rosenberg, encourages taking a lot of time to practice, sometimes even years, simply to understand feelings and needs. i can attest to this, as i’ve been practicing NVC for about 5 years now and i still feel elementary at times! scary honesty!

back in 2015 when i was in couples therapy with mike, i was given this handout. at the time i had no idea what it was about or how to apply it, but today i realize how helpful it is. i remember feeling ashamed that mike knew what it was, as his family practiced NVC, and I didn’t, and this further infuriated me – i thought he and the therapist were ganging up on me! in the next session i used the steps to share just that – ha! needless to say, we didn’t last long with that therapist and the relationship ended shortly thereafter, but the best outcome was she connected me to my current therapist and now i practice this all the time!

a lot can happen from this process. you can begin to connect dots about your life experiences and notice trends. you may recognize people, places, and things with a new lens as mentioned earlier. perhaps you’ll find a new appreciation when you realize what value and joy someone or something brings to your life. contrarily, you may also realize that there may be people or things in your life that may require some distance because you realize they no longer meet your needs. from all of these revelations, you can yield greater consciousness, communication, and connection – and a whole heck of a lot of self-awareness!

next steps :

so are you ready to give NVC a try? in the next post, i’ll share an exercise that is really practical, and puts SALT practices into action! your homework is to think of something someone has said to you that triggered something in you. remember it, and check back to begin bringing NVC into your life!

the rest is still unwritten

well, here we are! the first blank page of a new year! did you follow along on the countdown to 2020? as we start fresh today and begin anew, i pause and reflect back on all that i’ve been grateful for, and think ahead about the excitement of what’s to come. as i do this, i make conscious efforts to breathe a bit deeper – from the depths of my belly with a big inhale, a pause, and an expanding smile on my face to end each exhale. i encourage you to listen to my parting song for the decade (#3 on the countdown) and breathe into the lyrics as you reflect and think ahead alongside me. cheers to all that will fill these unwritten pages!

a salty hello & a happy new year

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image | courtney | dominican republic 

hello ocean, my old friend

i’m learning i’m more and more like you again.
we have our high tides, we have our lows
those vulnerable depths where broken beauty grows.
you have warm breezes, and i take deep breaths
both somehow cleanse my mind
until there’s no worries left.
we have our waves, some are gentle, some are rough
they’re baby steps each day that vanish and say good luck.
you have your depths, i have thoughts only i know
few people will dive deep to understand those lows.
we have our surface, we have our currents
those impossible parts of us that make little sense.
you splash, i crash, we have riptides and storms
then wake up to sunlit glassy mornings,
our favorite art form.
you have your saltwater, and i do too
maybe that’s why it’s such a relief to always cry with you.
so if i come back frequently,
to hold my breath and dive in,
just please continue to wrap me in your salty, loving,
i totally understand you arms
– time and time again. 

hello ocean, rebekah steen