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Between Needs and Strategies

While it is true, in the NVC paradigm, that all behavior is an attempt to meet a positive life giving need, it is also true that choosing one behavior over another may be affected by some not so positive thoughts and beliefs.

Let's look at having an affair as an example. (I recognize that having an affair is a series of behaviors and choices, but for the sake of this discussion I will refer to it as a single choice).   The most obvious needs that might be behind this strategy include:  intimacy, love, affection, discovery, acceptance, and aliveness.  Of course, there are needs at cost with this strategy such as: honesty, trust, consideration, integrity, harmony, respect, and caring.

Having an affair is obviously a high cost strategy.  As such, you don't choose such a behavior in a rational conscious way.  There are unconscious and irrational beliefs and assumptions influencing such a decision.

Here are some beliefs that could influence the decision to have an affair.  You might believe:

  • Your partner doesn't like or respect you.
  • Your partner will never be able to hear you the way you want to be heard.
  • You have to have the safety of the relationship at all costs.
  • The relationship isn't strong enough to contain the expression of your unmet needs and there is no way to change this.
  • Your partner will fall apart if you leave and there is no other support for them.
  • You have a right to not consider them because there are so many times they didn't consider you.
  • You are not good enough or worth anything unless someone is sexually attracted to you.

I am guessing you could add to this list.  Knowing limiting beliefs are present, in itself,  doesn't change anything.  Noticing how they are expressed in myriad and subtle ways in both thoughts and behavior begins to create a platform for change.  For example, if you carry the belief that your partner can't hear you and catch yourself noticing in a single instance that you are holding back from expressing your feelings and needs, you create a moment of choice.  In this moment you can choose to act from your belief or consider another possible reality.  Acting from a new belief might sound like this, "I want to share something and I am feeling nervous.  I need some reassurance. Could you reassure me that you won't express judgment of me or my choices?"

Part of living and communicating in a compassionate way means watching yourself very closely and becoming aware of your thoughts and beliefs and how they influence your choices.

This week, choose one time when you react to something with irritation, anger, or defensiveness.  Take a few moments to reflect on what you were telling yourself in that moment.  What belief were you acting from?  Is there another truth to connect to in this situation, that helps you find your way back to your heart.

*click here for a list of feelings and universal needs and an empathy guide.  http://www.wiseheartpdx.org/resources.php

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