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Negativity Sessions

Back in the seventies, when John and I managed the Wellness Resource Center, our staff had an agreement that we could call each other day or night and request a negativity session. If the other agreed, the one who had requested it then had full permission to be totally negative, without fear of being judged, without worrying. Nothing said in this session was taken for real." It all went down the drain with a big flush! Now, over twenty-five years later, even though we are scattered all over the globe, several of us still use this process with each other (by phone, of course).

Here's how it worked:

One person is a talker (sometimes more like a "ranter") and the other person is a listener. The talker proceeds to lay it all out in no uncertain terms - complaints, fears, problems - everything. Genteelness is not the order of the day in a negativity session. It takes some practice to be able to say what you're thinking and feeling without editing, but the more you do it, the clearer you become, and the faster the negativity dissipates.

The listener's job is just to be there, without judging or evaluating what is being said. If the listener doesn't hear or understand something, she will let the talker know, but extraneous conversation is discouraged. The talker has the freedom to say anything! And it doesn't even have to make sense! The listener's responses are ones indicating that the talker has been heard and understood. The only other communications made by the listener, other than acknowledgments, are things like, "OK, what else?" or, if the talker gets into apologizing or rationalizing or philosophizing, the listener can good-naturedly say something like, "Cut the crap and get on with the negativity." The agreement is that positivity is not allowed until all the negativity is "dumped." The listener keeps things moving, gently and unobtrusively.

The session concludes when the talker either starts laughing, or says, "Enough!" The listener then says, "Good! Now tell me something beautiful about yourself, or something beautiful that has happened lately." The session is always ended on a positive note.

By using the negativity session for clearing away the unnecessary garbage of our minds, we've established a warmth and a deep trust in our relationships as a staff. The more we can realize that we are all in this together - being human - and the more compassion we cultivate for ourselves and others, the more we can get on with the miracle of living . . . well! —Bobbie D. Burdett

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