Collaborative Empathic Discovery

Jaime L. Prieto, Jr.

· NVC,Carl Jung

In the previous post, I fused Carl Jung’s Cognitive Functions (CF) with Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) components (NC) into a “Wheel of Knowing,” supporting an emergent practice of cultivating wholeness - emergent because it works directly with what’s alive in the moment. The result is shown in the diagram below:

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Most of Jung’s work is focused on the state and development of the Self. While cultivating wholeness within the Self is useful and essential, people often need help from others, they want to connect — or perhaps have some business to attend to with other beings. Humans are social animals that evolved and survived through collaboration -- highlighting our interdependence. We are so dependent on each other that we’d soon die without the contributions from other people and the more-than-human world [1].

This post explores how a relational model using both Jung’s CFs and Rosenberg’s NVC [2] support the emergence of knowing of a higher dimensionality than is possible when considering the Self alone.

I propose shifting the perspective of focus for the Wheel of Knowing beyond the Self to include other beings resulting in a conversation of Collaborative Empathic Discovery (CED). Through CED, we learn new things about each others’ experiences of life as we engage in a conversation of connection with the goal of getting to a “symphony of mutual understanding [3].” Once we are connected to each other, we are connected to life, and we may find new harmonious strategies that are effective for everyone [4].

In pondering the usefulness of Jung’s Cognitive Functions, Eligio Stephen Gallegos writes: “I kept seeing [the CFs] more and more as windows through which we know the universe, and which allow us to interact with it [5].”

Thus, Gallegos’ “Windows of Knowing,” which gives us knowledge about the universe from the perspective of one’s Self, can be extended by considering other perspectives beyond the Self. The "Wheel of Knowing" is the collection of "Windows of Knowing" in the sequence: Sensing/Observation, Feeling/Feeling, Imagination/Needs, Thinking/Requests for CFs and NCs respectively.

Some skill in the practice of CED may lead to various flavors of intuition of the “interrelated functioning of all modes of knowing” – i.e. intuition can flourish at the level of the Self, it can be facilitated through empathy, and through a “symphony of mutual understanding” (aka. connection).

By leveraging the relational practice of NVC, we can shift perspectives of focus for the Wheel of Knowing through the different NVC modalities of Self-Empathy, Empathy for others, Honest Self-Expression, as shown by the NVC Tree of Life [6] below. A focusing on the wheel of knowing does not dictate a formula for speaking, but only informs the Self to relevant knowledge. Rather, the speaker decides what to say, what is natural, relevant such that it flows in conversation.

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When considering the roots of the NVC Tree of Life, we start from the perspective of the Self through the practice of NVC Self-Empathy, inquiring into the four NCs and by extension the four CFs.

Example: “I’m watching the news again. As I look inside of myself, I notice some tension in my belly, my breathing is heavy and my heart is beating stronger and faster than usual (Observation). Hmmm. I’m feeling anxious (Feeling) around my need for safety (Need) not being met. And some sadness (Feeling) is welling up around my desire to live fully (Need) while in harmony with my community (Need). Would I be willing to give myself another round of empathy (Request)?”

The practice of NVC Self-Empathy may lead to Jung’s and Gallegos’ “intuition,” emanating from the clarity of looking through the various Windows of Knowing.

As we go up the tree to the leftmost branch, we get to NVC Empathy, where our perspective of focus is on another being. We get curious about the four NCs of another, sometimes using words to express our curiosity in the form of respectful inquiry into our hypothesis. Empathy works best when offered with supportive curiosity and the intention to connect through a shared understanding.

Example: “When you said that you ‘felt abandoned [7]’ (Observation), are you sad (Feeling) because you're wanting more connection (Need) in your life?” The implied request, which is usually not voiced [8], is something like “would you be willing to look inside to see how that resonates with you (Request)?”

We hope our empathic hypothesis will contribute to a deeper self-understanding for the recipient, perhaps encouraging a deeper exploration of their inner state of being. Empathy may lead to another form of Jung’s intuition that is facilitated (made easy) by another person – which might be called “facilitated intuition.”

Thus, several rotations around the Wheel of Knowing between one or more beings can activate or release emergent depths of knowing — new intuitions, especially as the focus of perspective goes beyond the Self, to another, back to oneself, back to another until a new level of knowing emerges with the potential of facilitating the formulation of new strategies to serve life — i.e., in serving the village and the more-than-human world.

The following table shows how various NVC practices may be leveraged for Collaborative Empathic Discovery (CED), which is an invitation to shift the perspective of focus of the Wheel of Knowing between the Self and another person [9]. Someone practiced in CED often follows the sequence shown in the table below, starting at the Roots of Self-Empathy, followed by the Left Branch of Empathic Listening, before proceeding to the Right Branch of Honest Self-Expression. Someone less practiced in CED might start in the Right Branch of Self-Expression, requesting empathy from someone else before connecting to their Roots of Self-Empathy -- sometimes we need help from our friends to understand our inner landscape.

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The Roots and Branches of the NVC Tree of Life are repeated until everyone’s needs are known to everyone involved – i.e., until there’s mutual understanding. As we take on a given perspective of focus, we are also enabling our attention to shift around the elements of the Wheel of Knowing – through the sequence of NCs: Observation, Feeling, Need, and Request (OFNR) or more generally, the CF’s: Sensing, Feeling, Imagination, Thinking.
Stage #Wheel of Knowing Perspective of Focus

The following diagram highlights the Wheel of Knowing perspective of focus for CED for the first four tree parts. The columns labeled ANOTHER and SELF represent two people in a CED conversation. In the row for Roots, the SELF practices NVC Self-Empathy, so the Wheel of Knowing is shown with an empathic listening arrow pointing to itself under the column of the SELF. Therefore, the SELF is listening to itself, getting clear on each of it's elements: Sensing/Observation, Feeling/Feeling, Imagination/Needs, Thinking/Requests (S/O, F/F, I/N, T/R).

In considering the Left Branch, ANOTHER is speaking, while the SELF is listening with empathy. The SELF is focused on the perspective of ANOTHER, so the Wheel of Knowing is shown under ANOTHER as a frame of reference; thus the SELF is focused on the sequence of each element of ANOTHER: (S/O, F/F, I/N, T/R).

When considering the Right Branch, it's time for the SELF to express itself compassionately to ANOTHER through honest self-expression; the SELF expresses the relevant elements discovered in the Roots. It often happens that ANOTHER will experience new feelings based on the SELF's honest expression, necesitating a return to the Left Branch.

Once there's enough of a shared understanding of needs, the Crown of the Tree can be considered, where both participants enter into a phase of mourning of needs not met, and a celebration of the beauty of the needs themselves, as life energy in us seeking fulfilment.

In a typical interaction, one might also return to the Roots for self-empathy often, especially if anything in the Wheel of Knowing changes. Also, one is likely to return to the Left Branch often, as new feelings are expressed by ANOTHER, leading to a natural flow to the Right Branch.

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The post proposes a process of Collaborative Empathic Discovery, where the Wheel of Knowing is applied to the Self, and is extended beyond the Self to consider other beings in conversation using the modes of NVC: Self-Empathy, Empathy and Honest Self-Expression. Each use of the Wheel of Knowing has the potential to release various forms of intuition, including Jung and Gallegos’ intuition emanating from the Self, a facilitated intuition through Empathy, and a collective intuition resulting from mutual understanding.

Future Work

Each of these perspectives of focus will be expanded through future blog posts. Intuition will be elaborated in the post on Self-Empathy. A facilitated intuition will be elaborated in the Empathy and Honest Self-Expression posts as something that emerges from connection.

Another extension of this work involves groups of people practicing CED, such as partnerships, teams, organizations, communities, societies, and cultures.

Endnotes and References

  1. David Abram in his book “The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World” highlights the importance of considering perspectives beyond what humanity most often concerns itself with the term “more-than-human world.”
  2. NVC is a way of focusing our attention in ways to facilitate compassionate giving and receiving.
  3. Jaime L. Prieto, Jr., The Joy of Compassionate Connecting - The Way of Christ Through Nonviolent Communication, Compassionate Connecting, Aliso Viejo, CA, Oct 2010, p. 178
  4. Helping us to avoid our many existential crises, or at the very least minimize their effect.
  5. Eligio Stephen Gallegos, “Animals of the Four Windows: Integrating Thinking, Sensing, Feeling and Imagery,” (Moon Bear Press), May 2020, p. 25
  6. The NVC Tree of Life was created by NVC Trainer Inbal Kashtan
  7. The word “abandoned” is considered an evaluation, and not a feeling in NVC.
  8. It seems that humans naturally look inside for a resonance when asked empathically in the form shown.
  9. The stages may be extended to include conversations between more than two beings.


Special thanks to Taylor Johnson and Ember Lichtenberg for editing help and insight.

© 2023 Jaime L. Prieto, Jr.,, All Rights Reserved.