One of the dangers of taking on a practice with a name like “Nonviolent Communication” is that we may start to run an inner soundtrack that sounds something like, “You’re supposed to be nice, Marina … all the time… to everybody…” dictators, mosquitoes, and scowling meter maids alike. ”Be nice, don’t get mad, keep it in, and everybody will be fine.” “Nonviolent” can thus be heard as an order to “shut up,” to censor, to hide.
Meanwhile, we often resent ourselves for being puny and quiet, or resent the other for being a big, bad jerk, or both, and nobody’s heart gets seen in the process, which was, of course, the idea behind learning NVC in the first place.
Alright, so how do we get back to the heart, in a way that lets us be heard, for reals, without censorship, and without harming others?
Let ourselves have the “bad” feeling more. Let it move our bodies and our voices. Let ourselves scream it, shake it, dance it, jibberish it, and in the process, come back to our hearts. And when we find it, that place of tender longing in us, that place so long ignored that just wanted to be heard, lets cherish it, adore it, fall deeply in love with it, forgiving ourselves in the process for all the times we thought we were shameful for having needs, shameful for being alive, shameful for being human, shameful for wanting to be happy, wanting to thrive.
We’re not bad. It may seem like a shock (so often it does to me), but really, NVC underscores the idea that we’re human beings – with needs! Needs to be heard, to be understood, to be loved, to feel happy, to feel joy, to rest, to nourish and be nourished. Like precious flowers, sometimes decked out in big fancy armor, we just want to reach for the sun, and open to its light.
In the spirit of breaking the cycle of self-shaming and self-censorship, I invite you to try out the following:
Marina’s Self-Empathy Chant
Step 1: Notice how you’re feeling. And yell it! (Note, yelling can be done for reals out loud – highly recommended – or inside yourself.)
Example: I feel insecure! I feel insecure! I feel insecure!
Step 2: Notice what you’re needing, connected to that feeling. Yell it! (Same instruction as above).
Example: I want acceptance! I want to belong! I want to love myself as I am!
Step 3: Let yourself love, adore, and cherish your needs, and yell it!
Example: I love acceptance! I love getting to belong! I love loving myself as I am!
Step 4: Very important, don’t forget to unabashedly add a cheer – something along the lines of:
Yey yey yey! (Note, in the event this stimulates cheerleader trauma, one “yey” will suffice. Alternatively, “hell yeah” will work, too.)
Okay, let’s put it all together, albeit with another example:
I feel exhausted! I feel exhausted! I feel exhausted!
I want to rest! I want to care for my body! I want to nourish my body!
I love getting to rest! I love caring for my body! I love nourishing my body!
One more, ‘cuz this is so dang fun.
I feel pissed! I feel so pissed! I feel so friggin’ pissed!
I want to be seen! I want to be known! I want to be loved!
I love being seen! I love being known! I love being loved!
Yey yey yey!
Try this out, will ya? And let me know how it goes! What happens in your body? And in your spirit? How does this contribute, or not, to your sense of freedom in responding to one of life’s everyday challenges? I invite you to try it out, and share with me what you notice.