Tip #316: Nonviolent Communication #7: Three Stages to Emotional Liberation

In last week’s Tip, we posed a test of your ability to identify statements in which the speaker acknowledges responsibility for his or her feelings. The statements in bold print connect the speaker’s feelings to the speaker’s needs. The remaining statements tend to imply that the other person’s behavior is solely responsible for the speaker’s feelings. They don’t indicate the needs or thoughts that are the basis for the speaker’s feelings.

1. “You insult me when you do not introduce me to your friends.”
2. “I am jealous when you choose to spend time with her instead of me, because I need to feel important in your life.”
3. “I feel delighted when you bring me flowers.”
4. “I’m horrified that you feel that way because I was hoping that we would be able to reach an agreement.”
5. “I feel despondent because you never fulfill your promises.”
6. “I’m worried because I thought we would make good time on the road.”
7. “Certain words make me very uncomfortable.”
8. “I feel relieved that you weren’t hurt.”
9. “I feel exhilarated when they shout out my name.”
10. “I am hurt that you did not invite me to your party, because I thought that we were friends.”

Tip #316: Nonviolent Communication #7: Three Stages to Emotional Liberation

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” Jim Rohn

We all share basic human needs for autonomy, celebration, integrity, interdependence, play, spiritual communion and physical nurturance. According to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg in Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, “It has been my experience over and over again that from the moment people begin talking about what they need rather than what’s wrong with one another, the possibility of finding ways to meet everybody’s needs is greatly increased.”

There are three stages we must experience before we can learn how to take responsibility for our feelings.

Stage 1 is “emotional slavery,” in which we believe that we are responsible for other people’s feelings.

In this stage, we think it is our job to keep everyone else happy. We are likely to say, “My partner is so needy and dependent, it’s really stressing out our relationship.” However, the reality is that we are really stressed out by our own sense of obligation in the relationship.

This can be devastating to intimate relationships, because it equates love with the denial of our own needs.

Stage 2 is “the obnoxious stage,” in which we feel angry and no longer want to be responsible for others’ feelings.

In this stage, we are tired of taking care of everyone else and tend to go to the other extreme, saying, “That’s your problem! I’m not responsible for your feelings!”

We know what we are not responsible for, but do not know how to be responsible to others in a way that is not emotionally enslaving. We need to learn that emotional liberation involves more than simply asserting our own needs.

Stage 3 is “emotional liberation,” in which we take full responsibility for our intentions and actions.

In this stage, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion rather than fear, guilt or shame.

“Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we need in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled.”

In the next Tip, we will begin to discuss the fourth component of NVC, which addresses what we would like to request of others.

May your learning be sweet.

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