Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pain of unmet needs vs. Beauty of needs

Recently a colleague of mine from the Center for Nonviolent Communication -- fellow certified trainer Glenda Mattinson from Toronto -- posted two quotes that, to me, illustrates the difference between two orientations to practicing Nonviolent Communication.

This distinction is expressed through a term that I attribute to Robert Gonzales and Susan Skye of the NVC Training Institute: "The Pain of Unmet Needs" versus the, "Beauty of Needs."

The two quotes Glenda shared were from Martin Seligman, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the books, "Learned Helplessness" and, "Learned Optimism." Seligman is one of the leaders of the "Positive Psychology" movement:

"A chilly, negative mood activates a battle-stations mode of thinking: the order of the day is to focus on what is wrong and then eliminate it. A positive mood, in contrast, buoys people into a way of thinking that is creative, tolerant, constructive, generous, undefensive and lateral. This way of thinking.probably even occurs in a different part of the brain and has a different neurochemistry from thinking under negative mood."

"When we are in a positive mood, people like us better, and friendship, love, and coalitions are more likely to cement. In contrast to the constrictions of negative emotion, our mental set is expansive, tolerant, and creative. We are open to new ideas and new experience."

I am inspired by these statements, because they remind me about where I want my attention to be: on the vision of how I would like to create a more wonderful experience of life for myself and others.

While it is true that I often become aware of my needs through their "unmetness" -- or in other words, through uncomfortable feelings in my body -- I have found that it doesn't do me much good to meditate on the "unfulfilled" state of my needs for very long at all.

Just yesterday, I had an interaction with an employee of a grocery store, and I noticed discomfort in me about our interaction. My first impulse was to judge the employee, and I evaluated him as being, "not very warm." Quickly, I realized I had made a judgment, so I tried to translate my judgment into needs.

I found that my need, obviously enough in this case, was for warmth. So I said to myself, my interaction with this man doesn't meet my need for warmth. I noticed a slight shift inside of me, but for the most part, I was still in pain, and still in judgment of this man, thinking that he, "should be more warm."


I found myself right back on the judgmental thinking loop. About 30 seconds later, I realized that I had not yet translated the pain of my unmet need into the energetic essence of the need itself (warmth). So I meditated on the need for warmth itself, and before long, I found myself wanting to reach out to others with warmth, and gravitate to those people I have experienced warmth with.

A much more positive experience, to say the least!

1 comment:

empathy angel said...

Hi Jeff...I, too, am finding my practice and my sense of wellbeing improving by bring my attention to how my by holds met needs. I have written about this quite a few times in my blog
and included a link below to an article exploring the same ideas as your post.

Needs or values underpin our reactions and these reactions give rise to our feelings.

Our body knows the next right step if we know how to ask.

It may be that we pay more attention to the reactions our bodies give us when it is uncomfortable or painful in some kind of way. However, this discomfort is merely the other side of the coin to comfort; our body telling us to realign in some kind of way; our body DOES know the way back to comfort or ease. This signal serves our life.