Top 3 Stuck Places
From the framework of Compassionate Communication (NVC), a big part of remaining clear, adaptive, and creative in any given relationship or situation means having clarity that universal needs stand alone. This is an incredibly empowering concept. It means that as long as you don't attach a need to one particular way or strategy to meet that need, you have greater agency and flexibility.*
However, when your strategies are rigid and intermixed with layers of conscious and unconscious inner mandates to pursue something at all costs, your ability to see other options diminishes and a sense of stuckness settles in along with its associates, fear, anger, and despair.
While you can bind up any need with an attachment to a particular strategy, there are a few that seem to be popular. Let's take a look at rigid strategies that can get paired with security, intimacy, and contribution.
It may be helpful to start our reflection on security by distinguishing it from safety. Safety could be defined most simply as being free from harm whether physical, energetic, or emotional. Security more specifically refers to a sense of confidence that your needs will be met consistently over time or that you can maintain a sense of well-being. When safety and security get mixed together the strategies to meet them can become ever more rigid. The most common rigid strategies associated with the need for security are:
· Money: a certain income or certain amount in savings.
· Life partner
· Owned house
You might be saying, "Yeah but, this is how one meets needs for security." The purpose here isn't to say that these are somehow bad strategies to meet a need for security. The purpose is to notice the grasp you have on these strategies. The tighter your grasp the more anxious, desperate, and angry you become when there is the smallest sense of threat around these.
Simply naming to yourself all the other things in life that contribute to a sense of security can help to loosen your grasp; perhaps things like friendships, community, your health, friendly neighbors, knowledge, or certain skills.
Security can also be found in a committed spiritual practice. Learning to trust "Something Greater" and lean into a more subtle yet profound sense of security based on your relationship to life, can allow you to meet the more mundane matters related to security with a sense of calm spaciousness.
If you have a sense of depletion or stuckness around intimacy, there's a good chance that you are really looking for healing. For every human being there are universal fundamental experiences that one needs to have in order to grow into a sense of wholeness. When you are unconscious of these, you are likely to go in search of the "missing experience" and in the process reject other opportunities for intimacy. This search lands you in rigid strategies to meet the need for intimacy. Here are a few examples:
The idea that only one person can meet your need for intimacy can be a rigid strategy. This person may be someone you are currently with, someone in your past, someone who is inaccessible, or simply an imaginary person that you are hoping will arrive some day.
You have a set of standards with regard to how interactions should go, and when you are interacting with someone you are measuring them against these standards. That is, you won't allow any kind of connection unless the interaction is exactly right.
Intimacy has to follow a certain structure such as frequency and duration of contact, certain kinds of shared experiences, and/or occur in particular environments.
Another person has to have certain beliefs, qualities, skills, abilities, and knowledge before intimacy is possible.
Again, the important thing to remember here is that, for the most part, it is your relationship to these strategies rather than simply the strategies themselves that creates stuckness.
Meaningful contribution is incredibly important for feeling good about yourself and for creating healthy community. It's painful for everyone when contribution gets laden with guilt, resentment, obligation, and duty. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of NVC often said, "Don't do anything that isn't play." It's easy to misconstrue this as a directive to focus on seeking pleasure and comfort. Of course, that's not what he meant.
Living life from the energy of play means staying in contact with what's most important to you and how what you are doing is in service to that. For example, on any given morning you may not "feel like" going to work. Unconsciously you may let yourself slip into the mind of obligation and resentment and grumble to yourself about all that you "have to" do. Just taking a moment to interrupt the grumbling and focus on the needs you want to meet by going to work that day, can return you to the energy of play. They might include: care for family, integrity, meaning, and contribution. Holding your attention on these needs even for a few moments allows their energy to flow through you and give you resources for the day ahead.
The other most common way you can get stuck around contribution is simply to forget that contribution is the underlying need. Agreements like being a board member, holding a role in your spiritual community, serving as volunteer, can easily morph into items or obligations on your to do list. When they take on this quality they seem immovable. You want to remember that there are many ways to contribute, and if the one you initially chose isn't working out, you can renegotiate to find one that does.
If you find yourself struggling to meet a particular need, hear yourself say you are stuck, or a particular need seems to come up frequently for you, it may be helpful to name all the ways you are attempting to meet this need, and all the possibilities you are dismissing. Even brainstorming seemingly inaccessible strategies to meet needs can help you find flexibility and spaciousness in places where you otherwise might seem stuck.
PracticeTake a moment now and look for rigid strategies by noticing the symptoms of anger, desperation, and fear.
*While the focus of these articles is limited to personal relationships, I deeply honor and recognize that far too many live in oppressive circumstances and systems that outweigh even the most empowered individual.