Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Three, Issue Five: "I'm so triggered!! What do I do?"

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

This month's theme is "I'm so triggered!! What do I do?" a personal journey of Peggy Smith, certified NVC trainer living in Lincolnville, ME


"I'm so triggered!! What do I do?"

a personal journey of Peggy Smith,
CNVC certified NVC trainer

"YIKES! I’m sooo triggered – what do I DO ??? !!!" gasped a student in last summer’s NVC course at the university.
(details about this summer's course here pdf icon )

This heartfelt plea set me on a journey to look carefully at what I do when my mind has fallen into a negative feedback loop or my emotions seem to have taken me over. I decided to explore new strategies that might help.

This journey led me back to the HeartMath Institute. I had heard of their work and dabbled a bit with their exercises, but not taken it to heart. This winter I read their core book, The HeartMath Solution, by Doc Childre & Howard Martin, and chose to make part of their work a daily practice; it helped so much that I want to share it with you.

For several years I have experienced a rocky relationship with a friend of over 35 years. I vacillated between two strategies. The first strategy: I accepted whatever behaviors came my way while doing a LOT of self-empathy, eventually viewing all the triggering as blessed gifts that helped me connect to needs. I could honor both those needs alive in me and those I guessed were alive for the other person. The trouble was our dance kept activating my triggered responses and I was spending way too much time in pain.

The second strategy also involved looking deeply at needs, and concluding that they had been triggered enough and it was time to let the friendship go. I wanted to develop other strategies for connecting to my needs – strategies involving less drama and trauma. I always felt a deep sense of relief when I came to this decision.

Trouble was that after about a week a tremendous panic would creep into my mind and body. The panic built up over a period of days to be terrifying. In my "good NVC mind," I knew that the intensity of the feelings was an indication of how much I treasured the needs that were triggered. I experienced a feedback loop that made it impossible to break through the terror to get to the life energy in a healing way.

Here is the how I used the Freeze–Frame Technique:

* Recognize the stressful feeling and decide to take a "time-out."
* Focus attention on the area around your heart and imagine your breathing is going in and out through the heart. Keep your focus here for at least ten seconds.
* Recall a positive time or feeling you had in your life, and bring it to mind. Re-experience it while breathing through your heart area.
* Ask a question of the heart: "What can I do in this situation to make a difference?" or "What can I do to minimize stress?"
* Listen to the response of your heart.
- adapted from HeartMath Solution, p. 67

You may hear nothing, but perhaps feel calmer. You may receive reaffirm something or completely shift perspective. The five steps take about a minute to complete. While we may not have control over an event, this practice helps us have control over our reaction to it.

I committed to using the HeartMath Freeze–Frame technique. For a few days I practiced it about a dozen times a day, whenever I remembered. I wanted to practice a lot when I wasn’t triggered so that I would be able to draw on the technique when I was triggered. After a week, every time I found my mind turning to the situation with my friend, or my body became aware of the constriction I was calling terror, I tried Freeze–Frame.

What I found over a two week period was that the terror feelings subsided. The spaces between them grew. Within a few moments my body would calm down, my mind would settle and refocus on the present moment. It was a new way to choose inner freedom.

This practice takes about a minute and has become an important friend to me. I would enjoy hearing what you do to get through your "strong emotions" moments. Please let me know. I would like to devote a future issue to this topic with your feedback.

- Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principal trainer with Open Communication.
Contact Open Communication for a presentation on NVC for your organization or business.

looking up at blue sky through the leaves and buds of a spring maple tree

Suggestions for Further Practice

  1. For a short overview of HeartMath please go HERE.

  2. Try practicing the Freeze Frame Technique 10 – 12 times a day to become familiar with the flow. After a week of practicing, try it when your thinking is bringing you down or your emotions are stronger than you enjoy.

  3. Read The HeartMath Solution, Doc Childre & Howard Martin, HarperOne, ISBN 978-0-06-251606-0

  4. Participate in the Maine NVC Integration Program: details below

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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non-certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

May 26-27, South Portland, ME
Building Bridges of Connection:
NVC as a practical tool to bring Mindful Speech to all relationships (Level 1)

offered by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


June 2-3, Bangor, ME
Expanding Open Communication

Sat., June 2: Transforming Power Dynamics in Relationships
Sun., June 3: The Art of NVC Dialogue
You may register for either or both of these days. Together they constitute a Level 2 training.
offered by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration
Please note that the dates for this workshop have been changed, from April to June.


July 27-28, Ellsworth, ME
Connecting Across Differences: the journey of Nonviolent Communication

offered by Peggy Smith, Certified NVC Trainer
pdf icon details and registration


August 6–10, Belfast, ME
Sustainable Communication: The Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication

3 credit course through the Peace & Reconciliation Department of the University of Maine.
taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details


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8 Months of Deepening NVC Consciousness:
the Maine NVC Integration Program
Opening My Heart—Opening Communication
An Intermediate NVC Experience

Five Themed Retreats spread over an 8 month period,
September 2012 to May 2013

11 days of direct instruction with Certified NVC Trainer Peggy Smith and NVC Mediation Program graduate Leah Boyd

Between retreats learning community includes:

Move NVC from a concept to practical integration while staying close to home.

Early Registration Bonus: register by May 28 and receive 2 hours additional free individual empathy or coaching from the trainers.

details and registration

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Invitation to a
Monthly Empathy Circle

You are invited to participate in a monthly empathy circle. We will gather the first Friday of each month
at The Start Center, 37 Start Rd, Camden

You are welcome to come when you can.

FMI contact Linda:
Phone 563-6712 / email



Do you want to receive emails about upcoming NVC trainings and other NVC events in and near Maine?

Join the Maine NVC Network
Yahoo Group

The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.


Call for Volunteers

Facebook Friendly NVC supporter wanted! Volunteer needed to keep Maine NVC Network's Facebook page up to date and vibrant. Your help is greatly needed to bring us into the Social Media world. Please contact Peggy.

The health of the Network depends on the joyful efforts of all who yearn to bring nonviolent consciousness to our region.
To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.


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Celebrations Corner

Since attending the IIT last year I've been extending myself to connect with my 85 year old mother after a difficult relationship history with little communication. I began calling her regularly, with the simple intention of meeting her where she is, connecting at her comfort level. I have carefully avoided telling her what she should do or making judgments. Gradually our calls have lengthened and now she seems relaxed and I've been surprised to discover that she is often quite interesting to talk with. We generally talk about what she enjoys and about what we are both comfortable discussing – novels, current events, Star Trek, gardening, animals. Very occasionally something from our family history comes up spontaneously, but we have not discussed any of the difficult times. My impression is that she enjoys the calls, as I usually do.

A couple of months ago she mentioned some dental problems and that she is reluctant to get treatment. I listened to her and did not say, "You should just go to the dentist; you have to get that fixed." After a couple of empathetic guesses like, "Gosh, it sounds like you're uncomfortable and concerned," I said, "You know, I now really appreciate how you always got me dental care when I was growing up." 

To my surprise, she said, "I'm really happy to hear you say that. I never wanted you to have the kind of dental problems I've had." Wow! a gratitude expressed and heard!

More recently, she expressed her concern that I'm "doing too much," such as occasionally sending her books, movies, cute animal photos, and newspaper articles. After a brief pause to consider, I said,  "Well, you took care of me for a lot of years and now it's my turn to do some things for you." I still can't believe I said that.

And her response was, "I always enjoyed taking care of my babies." 

I am still stunned by that statement. I can't recall ever hearing her say she enjoyed or was proud of her children. What I recall are comments about how we disappointed her and didn't come up to her expectations.

I am grateful to NVC for teaching me how to be a more empathetic listener and to accept what is slowly unfolding. I'm very happy about the friendship Mother and I have developed over the past year and I have no urgency and very little interest about bringing up painful history. I usually enjoy our present communication level and I'm curious about what might arise without my having a specific agenda. At times I pause to remind myself that this is a connection, even if I'm not interested in or feel a little impatient with the the content at the moment. I've also realized that I'm not sure if I want to connect with her more deeply, and I feel the old fears and anxieties bubbling up sometimes. So for now I'm comfortable and happy to talk to Mother about flowers, kitties, Star Trek, politics, whatever. And to enjoy that connection.

- Alexis S.

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