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Happiness & Self-Empathy

It's easy when you are first learning NVC (Compassionate Communication) to think that it's about getting your needs met and feeling happy.  You start to, not only, honor your needs, but also get them met.  This can be pretty exciting.

As you continue with NVC and deepen a sense of honor for your feelings and needs, a spaciousness is created around them.  You then begin to experience the more subtle levels of this practice.  Rather than working so hard to meet needs and feel happy feelings, you settle into the practice of meeting what's alive in you without judgment, be it happy or sad.  Meeting what's alive in you without judgment is a form of self-empathy.  Living at this level of authenticity, a sense of lightness and joy naturally arises.

Here is an example of self-empathy.  You take your hour break in the middle of your work day and notice you feel tired and shaky.  Self-critical habit energy suddenly springs into action.  First, you are called into the courtroom.  One critical voice acts as an attorney and begins analyzing whether it is valid for you to be tired or not.  "How many hours had you been working?  How much sleep did you have last night?  How much have you worked in the last week?"   Before this attorney voice can present the whole case, a doubting voice appears on the scene:  "Maybe something is wrong with you?  You are weaker than others.  You're too sensitive."

You feel the familiar dark sinking sensation as these voices go unchecked for three or four minutes (it doesn't take much).  You wake up from being entranced by these voices and move your attention from listening to them to just feeling the shakiness and the dark feelings the critical voices had stimulated.  Then you find your caring parent voice:  "I'm just tired.  It's okay to be tired.  I don't need to know the reasons or the history.  Just to feel it and connect with the needs it is pointing to, (rest, food, support) that's enough."

Meeting yourself in this way a lightness replaces the heaviness and you can enjoy the remainder of your day in the midst of the tiredness.

After resting, eating, and receiving a little support, you might decide to offer empathy to the critical voices that had popped up earlier:  "Hello critical voices, when I feel that tired in the middle of the day, I am guessing you feel scared because you want to know that I am meeting needs for competency, contribution, and health.  I am guessing you are also stirred up by old beliefs that my worth depends on how much I achieve.  You forget that I am of a divine whole.  Let's look together at what's actually happening.  Let's notice if competency, contribution, and health are being met or are threatened by my difficult day today."  At this point you mindfully discern if those needs are being met or if they actually do require some sort of action.  If action is required, you choose some small action that you can take immediately to begin to meet those needs.

As you engage this practice you will find that the aliveness that comes from meeting every experience with acceptance and a willingness to feel it fully, answers your heart's longing more than any passing happy feeling.

Take a moment now to reflect.  Are there particular feelings and needs that you have difficulty meeting with acceptance?  What are the little and big ways you move away from them?  Do you move toward distraction with food, television, or computer?  Do you shame yourself or argue yourself out of difficult feelings?  Do you crumple in heap feeling hopeless about having particularly painful feelings?  Invoke the part of you that can just witness the experience of feelings and needs in your being.  Get curious about all the sensations and how they rise and fall.

click here for a list of feelings and universal needs

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1 Response

  1. Sep 25, 2014
    Karen Cox

    Thank you LaShelle for this simple reminder of the whole process. I am definitely printing this one to keep handy. I continue to feel gratitude for the benefits I have received from your unique presentation of the spiritual practice of NVC. Karen

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