Tuesday, January 18, 2011

a road less travelled

Since 2008 I have been integrating nvc into my life. Each time I return to a training I gain a new appreciation for the depth and coherence of an nvc way of living . I feel a great deal of pleasure and even awe that I am still as excited about this as I was when I first started out.

My last post was about needs and I want to continue on this theme before moving on to the mechanics of making requests. I am choosing to do this because so much of what makes the NVC way of living wonderful is tied to a different way of conceiving of and experiencing our needs.

I want to underline a few key concepts about needs:
A) The difference between strategies and needs
B) The abundance and beauty of needs
C) The present moment focus when we talk about our needs
D) The relations of power and responsibility.

Each of these themes deserves it's own space and I am only writing a brief introduction here.

The difference between strategies and needs was greatly liberating for me because it allows me to relax when things are not going the way. I remind myself that there are millions of strategies to meet every need and I  see this in my life. When Pierre left to live in Fermont for four months we both had to come up with different strategies to meet our needs because of the distance between us. A healthy relationship is one where you enjoy being together and contributing to each others well being. An unhealthy relationship is one where you force the other to adopt a strategy they are not comfortable with in order to contribute to you because you have no other ideas for how to meet your needs.  I am sure most people reading this have had the bitter experience of talking someone into doing something they were reluctant to do and then having them sulk the whole time!

The next concept is one that took me some time to experience and really appreciate. There is no way for me to convey this in words because only experience will really convince anyone of it's power. Needs connect us as human beings and there is a beauty and sacredness to needs. Taking the time to just sit and marvel at how wonderful it is that you are alive enough to want love, connection, peace, joy, playfulness, safety, mourning etc...is the essential step.  Whether in the physical world you have found the right strategy or not becomes somewhat irrelevant because the act of recognizing and giving space to the need and connecting to the sacred energy and abundance of words that have been immortalized in the poetry and art of every culture opens you up to attracting the right strategy.

In the beginning when you first realize you have needs you never paid attention to, it might feel terrible. You might even be angry! (the reason why so many people stop therapy, it's supposed to help you fell better and you feel worse) You all of a sudden have this sense of lack you've been hiding from and have no idea how to go about meeting your needs. I've seen docile, nice (aka hid their needs) people become quite aggressive and abrasive at this stage in therapy. The gut reaction is to go out and try new strategies (rest more, pay more attention to your body, have a spa day-week, exercise, say NO etc...)

The path that NVC leads to is one where you slow down and meditate on how wonderful it is that you are a human being who has the need you have uncovered, you fill yourself up with the connection that need creates with all others who have the same needs.  For me this is self evident, it is the reason that cancer survivors feel good when donating to cancer groups or the sense people have in lighting a candle to the patron saint of sufferers at the saint Joseph's oratory.  Uncovering our needs is a way to step into this realm of interconnectedness and abundance that we have learned to ignore. When you fill yourself up with this energy then there is no lack and what you are seeking will naturally come to you. Like I said you won't believe me until you've tried and experienced it for yourself.

So by all means do the spa day but before that take the time to just sit with the word rest or love or any other need that a spa day would care for and observe what happens in you're body.
The other frequent experience people have when uncovering needs for the first time is that they recognize that certain needs are severely neglected and have been for a long time. Therefore they have a strong emotional charge. (I don't want to get into it at this time but this level of emotion is often referred to as the pain body from the work of Eckhart Tolle) This is where a present moment focus is essential. Recognizing that a need is present can be painful but liberating but it can only really transform if you see that the events of the past are only stories that you keep re-telling in the present moment. You tell the stories that stimulate needs that want to be heard now in the present. Anchoring this way of understanding needs allows you to not get stuck in the powerlessness of wishing things had been otherwise in the past and getting stuck in those stories. I've mentioned it before that one of the benefits of NVC for me has been how many stories I no longer tell myself. Present moment focus has been key to this process. Whenever I am thinking about a past event I always qualify it by saying "As I am thinking about ABC... the need that is present now is..."

The last concept I want to highlight is the positions of power. There are three different ways to approach meeting our needs. Power over, power under and power with.

People who adopt a power over approach assume they are responsible for other people's needs and that their constant service and devotion will make people want to contribute to their needs in return. In other words if I give enough hopefully I will have someone care for me. They also assume that they know what others need without asking.  

Power under means that I allow other people to decide for me what my needs are and how they will be met. I am not the driver in my car because I don't have the ability to drive. I assume that I am the one at fault and that without the other I cannot survive.

Power with means that I take full responsibility for meeting my needs and recognize others right to do the same. I make requests to others to meet my needs and offer to contribute to their needs with the full understanding that we may both say no.

Responsibility for ones needs takes practice and I still struggle with this. An example of the difference this attitude brings:

I want (need) love and affection from you, give me a hug more often... (aka you don't hug me often enough)

I want (need) love and affection in my life, I plan on (seeing friends, writing love letters, giving and asking for more hugs...) would you be willing to explore different ways that we would both like to give and receive affection  in our relationship? Can you tell me what you are hearing from me?

I am feeling calm and inspired right now and want to get creative with tonights meal so until next time.

If you are reading this I would greatly appreciate having feedback about what you are reading and how you connect with what I am writing. Please post any feedback or e-mail me through facebook. This would contribute to my learning and help me to clarify where I need to focus more to transmit all the benefits this way of living can have..       

1 comment:

  1. Great philosophy which I see aligns with the teachings of Jesus. I would say that the first step in non-violent communication would be to learn how to love and respect others. And then to recognize that your own needs are not the most important needs that need to be met. Now this would be a challenging way to live. Non-violence is not to be confused with being passive as I believe that there are many different approaches a person can take to resolve an issue without resorting to aggression. Jesus was the ultimate pacifist yet he stood up for so much without ever resorting to or condoning violence as a way to bring about change.