Feelings Point to Needs
Everything we communicate can be boiled down to a "please" or a "thank you".
Over the past couple years I have been studying the practice of Nonviolent Communication (it also goes by the names Compassionate, or Conscious Communication). This way of connecting was originally shared by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1970s. As the teachings begin to sink in more deeply for me and replace old habits of communicating, I have been humbled by the healing power of this approach, and I wanted to share some of the juicy nuggets of wisdom with you.
The core tenets focus on identifying how we are feeling, uncovering the universal human need underneath it, and then offering empathy for any unmet needs.
Come on a journey with me as we explore this.
For a few moments take nice deep breathes and connect with your body. Tune into what feelings are alive within you.
Some examples are: content, relaxed, exhausted, frustrated, sad, joyful, disappointed, lonely, intriqued, calm, happy, inspired, anxious, torn, overwhelmed, confused, scared, ashamed, impatient, numb, angry, grateful, encouraged, vulnerable, etc.
Note: If something like "I feel so taken advantage of!" comes up, this is a thought and interpretation, not a feeling. In such a case, might you be feeling angry, indignant, sad, disappointed, etc? Acknowledge the presence of the thought, and try to to redirect yourself to the feeling that is within the thought.
Have you identified at least one to three feelings that resonate for you? There may be more, and they may seem contradictory. That is okay. Write these feelings down if it is helpful for you.
In Marshall Rosenberg's work, he says that feelings that are pleasant are a sign that a universal human need is being met, whereas feelings that are unpleasant are a sign of an unmet need within us. When we communicate with others in this space our words convey either a "please": help me meet this need for _________; or a "thank you": celebrate with me, my need for _________ has been met.
Now, let's take a moment to explore what needs may be underneath the feelings you identified. These universal human needs in their essence enhance our quality of life. Here are some examples of needs: safety, acceptance, harmony, predictability, integrity, connection, equality, appreciation, love, self-expression, understanding, respect, clarity, help and support, community, trust, intimacy, meaning and purpose, security, celebration, structure, autonomy and choice, space, fun and play, to matter and belong, mourning, freedom, kindness, responsibility, etc.
Returning to our example of, "I feel so taken advantage of!" we see that there are perhaps feelings of indignation, disappointment, and vulnerability, possibly because the needs for respect, kindness, and appreciation were not met.
As you tune inward, what unmet needs might your feelings be pointing you toward? And conversely, if you are feeling well, what might needs might your feelings be indicating that are being met?
Once you have identified your needs, write them down with the feelings you have identified. Acknowledge within yourself that you are feeling _________ because you are needing _______________ (or your needs for ___________ have been met).
Now, comes the true opportunity for healing. As you hold these needs in your heart, feel or imagine what it would be like if these needs were met. What would the experience of "respect", for example, feel like in your body if you had it completely? Imagine that you can breathe that quality into your being simply by thinking it, as if all the molecules of oxygen that enter your body are infused with ________. Continue to breathe and soak the energy of this in for as long as you like.
So, how do you feel?
Share your experience in the comments or email to share with me privately.
To learn more, read Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication, or visit the Wisconsin Empathy Guild's website to connect with practice groups in the area.
Staying Within Your Center
It's hard to have healthy boundaries when you step into someone else's bubble.
I was working with a friend recently who had an important (possibly emotional) conversation that she needed to have, and she asked about ways that she could set a boundary while still keeping her heart open. She had realized that she had put up such a thick wall that, while it somewhat protected her from feeling pain, it prevented her love from flowing, and really seeing her situation and those close to her with compassion. Developing this balance of honoring yourself and your needs without blocking connection can be a delicate dance, especially if you are an empath (feel other people's emotions or pain in your body).
As we began practicing ways for her to maintain a healthy boundary in different scenarios with each other, she began feeling guilty for how she was making me feel. The thing was, I actually felt just fine. Through more exploration, we realized that she was unconsciously stepping into my energy field. Because we all interpret the world through our own filter, she was sensing something that I wasn't feeling. That is how she would have felt (past experience and wounding had clogged her filter). This had been the way she was operating in other relationships, and as a result she would often be overwhelmed by what "the other person was feeling." This tendency was also making having a healthy boundary near impossible, because you cannot have a boundary when you are the one stepping in and sharing someone else's bubble. While this realization was humbling, it also made it clear what she needed to do: step or breathe herself back into her own space. Here she could be observe what was happening around her (if she chooses to), while being connected with what was occurring within her. This posture gives greater awareness of our filter (our sore spots, joys, triggers, and areas of patience), and allows us to take full responsibility for ourselves and the lives we create.
If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by what another is feeling, or becoming highly invested in how they live their life and the choices they make, I would invite you to tune in and see if you are centered within yourself or if you have stepped outside of your energy. If you need to, simply call yourself home, like you would to a loving friend.
Reiki Master Teacher and Owner of Embrace Your Essence
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