Your Heart is a Symphony Orchestra of Feelings and Needs

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a Language of Life

· NVC,Conscious Living

Feelings and needs are closely associated; two words that highlight different aspects of our life experience. Feelings tell us the character and level of intensity of the satisfaction of our needs — i.e. a level of life being wonderful or not — and there are lots of levels in between the extremes.

Feelings are like the music coming from our internal orchestra — sometimes it’s harmonious, and sometimes discordant. Our needs are like the instruments creating the music — some are playing, some are silent. In the practice of self-empathy, the intensity of the harmony or discord is more important than getting clear with the feeling word. Identifying the musical instruments is the place to focus our attention.

Needs are the doorway to what’s causing our feelings. Given what we know about what is happening to us (through observation), and an awareness of the intensity of harmony or discord of feeling, we can invite our imagination to help us get closer to our needs. In the search and discovery phase of self-empathy, as we begin to shine a light on our needs — our life energy seeking fulfillment — we feel a lightness, a satisfaction in the resonance of acknowledging what is true for us. A problem arises if we don’t know where to look, what we’re looking for, or when we see something, what we’re looking at — and what to call it.

If there were indeed an internal symphony orchestra, we could just look for the instruments making the sound (through triangulation of hearing). It would also help if the instruments were always in the same location, grouped with other instruments that are similar — for example, each of the string instruments sit together, the wind, the percussion, and so on. And the orchestra was organized in a way that is best for the conductor to assess and appreciate the music created by the orchestra. Having a map of the layout of the orchestra would help us to know where to look given a sound, and if it’s detailed enough what we call the instrument and who’s playing it.

This was the intention behind the Earth-Rooted Needs Flower, which uses a flower as a framing metaphor for needs; it isn’t an exact map, just my best intuition for organizing needs by orchestral section. The physical needs are located near the bottom where the Earth and roots of the flower are shown, such as air, water, shelter. Personal needs, such as autonomy, honesty are on the left. Interconnected needs, such as community, empathy are on the right. Transcendent needs, such as meaning, beauty are on the top. Being familiar with a map, helps in identifying and finding the trail — be sure to actually go on the hike or wander on the land, having these conversations of life while fully expressing your feelings and needs!

ps. Some people have reported that they prefer using lists like this one by Maggie Reed — find what works for you!

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Orchestra photo by Manuel Nageli on unsplash


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