Why practice NVC Self-Empathy?
After creating an Nonviolent Communication (NVC) self-empathy practice that you can readily access without notes (i.e. you’ve developed the skill of self-empathy), you will experience the following benefits:
- clarity of mind
- natural curiosity and compassion toward everything around you (other people, and nature if surrounded by it)
- greater capacity for empathy
- ease in finding effective strategies for meeting everyone’s needs
- faster recovery times from triggered emotional states
- resilience, sense of empowerment and safety
- more connection to life, easier access to celebratory feelings as more needs are met
- openness to requesting resources to meet needs
What is NVC Self-Empathy?
NVC Self-Empathy is a practice of compassionate introspection; you look inside yourself to acknowledge thoughts through observation, listen to your body for any emotions and resulting feelings with imagination toward the associated needs that are present. Do this with curiosity, acceptance and openness to your authentic experience. If you are new to NVC, and find self-empathy difficult, get help from someone experienced giving verbal NVC empathy. Receiving empathy from someone else will help you get clear with your feelings and needs, and additionally meet your needs for support and companionship.
How to do NVC Self-Empathy?
Here are the four components of NVC Self-Empathy:
As if you were experiencing the world through a video camera, become aware of what is happening in the environment through your senses — developing your capacity to describe what is captured by the camera without introducing interpretations. Imagine turning that camera inside, as you observe the thoughts that arise. Pay special attention to evaluations and judgments, separating them from your observations.
Example: I noticed that I don’t have a clear definition of “self-empathy” on my website.
Tune into your body, noting any tension, discomfort, pleasure and emotion that arise, paying special attention to the intensity and character of the resulting feelings. When learning to identify feelings, it is helpful to study a list.
Example: I’m feeling concerned because…
As you tune into your feelings, notice if you’re celebrating or mourning -- this gives information about the level of life satisfaction of your needs. Each feeling is telling you something about a need or set of needs that are alive. Use your imagination to identify needs — the life-energy seeking fulfillment, independently of your strategies. Strategies are what you use to meet your needs, and are associated with a Person, Location, Action, Time or Object (PLATO). When learning to identify needs, it is also helpful to study a list.
Example: …because I want to communicate clearly, and to make information easily accessible for my readers.
Often, when you get in touch with the life energy of needs, a strategy for meeting them will emerge. Capture the strategy in the form of a request of yourself: “Would I be willing to _________ ?” — (I use it often enough in my journal that I now replace it with the acronym WIBW). The willingness to consider the strategy is sufficient to create a task, to be prioritized along other things in a “to do” list.
Example: Would I be willing to write a short blog post on self-empathy by tomorrow at noon?
On Selecting Feeling/Need Words
“Words are pointers — it’s pointless to argue about them.” — Eckhart Tolle
"Don’t confuse the map with the territory"— Alfred Korzybski.
Marshall Rosenberg used these quotes in the context of the map being the words within the NVC framework, and the territory is our life experience. This is especially true when speaking about matters of the heart. Feelings and needs words are like trailheads on a map. They are a good place for your mind to start a journey — a conversation about your life experience. The conversation that ensues, either internally during self-empathy, or externally when talking to another person is more important than using the “right” words (if there is such a thing). Conversations of the heart are more productive and satisfying when speaking with someone experienced in NVC, or who naturally has the consciousness.
Identifying feelings and needs is like panning for gold in a river. Most of the time, you find dirt, rocks and sand (thoughts, evaluations and judgments) — all of which is part of the search, and you learn something from it.
So, the search is far from getting the word “right” or “wrong”. The gold of the heart is usually found around “feelings” and “needs.” It helps to guide your conversations toward the hidden truth that is waiting to be seen, acknowledged and expressed — often setting you free of the obstacles to your truth. If you are lucky to release some of this emotional energy through catharsis, linger a bit — stay present in the moment, savoring its beauty. Something sacred has happened; stay with it as long as possible.
Once you notice that your feelings shift, write about your experience in a journal. Like in a dream, if you write it down, you are more likely to remember the experience and grow from it.
Creating a Self-Empathy Practice
I recommend creating a daily 15-30 minute self-empathy journaling practice at least for the first month for anyone beginning to learn NVC. Use your life and personal experiences as material for your practice, entering in your journal what happened (observation), the judgments/evaluations you are making about what happened, the feelings that arise, and the needs that you imagine are alive for you — each feeling has one or more needs associated with it. Use your favorite list of feelings and needs as a guide to identifying them.
* I’ve found that having a consistent, persistent and organized map of feelings and needs makes learning and identifying them easier. I created the “Heart-Canvas” which organizes feelings by intensity, and maps needs to a Earth-Rooted Flower as a framing metaphor (highlighting our intrinsic belonging to the natural world). Click here for a free PDF download.
* If you have special challenges with reacting in stressful situations, I recommend the 10-week series “Free Yourself from Reactivity” which will deepen your self-empathy practice and allow you to leverage a focused community of practice with other participants.
© 2023 Jaime L. Prieto, Jr., CompassionateConnecting.com, All Rights Reserved.