I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I accomplished a lot in my life through force, “willpower,” punishments and rewards, and deadlines (emphasis on the “dead” part, which is how I often felt at the finish line of projects and degrees).
I’d been conditioned to think that coercion, from myself or others, was the only way anyone got anything done—that left to our own devices we’d squander our lives and do absolutely nothing to contribute to the world—so I dominated myself and allowed others to dominate me into doing the things I loved until I no longer remembered what it felt like to love them.
I stayed in jobs, in relationships, in places, in situations, as long as there was even a shred of enjoyment. I was praised for my “stick-to-it-tiveness”—my tenacity, loyalty, and dedication. And I was pretty chronically angry and depressed from sticking with strategies that didn’t actually touch my needs.
Nonviolent Communication offers a vision that we all share the same universal human needs, and that there are infinite strategies to meet each of those needs. Violence arises when we lock into one strategy (one approach, one person, one group of people) to meet our needs, even if that strategy overpowers other parts of ourselves, other needs we have, other people, or our environment.
What would life be like if, instead, we put all of our needs on the table and came up with a creative set of strategies that touched all those needs?
What if we took our needs more seriously than our strategies?
I’ve lived into this “infinite strategies to meet every need” way of seeing the world since 2006, and while it’s relatively simple to understand, it is not always easy to live. It asks us for presence, for creativity, for humility, for flexibility, for incredible and sometimes wrenching vulnerability.
That’s why I see it as spiritual practice. Like in meditation or prayer, I sometimes lose my focus, and whenever I notice, I do my best to gently, kindly redirect myself to the question, new in each moment: Sweetheart, what are you feeling and what are you needing?
Learning and practicing living our own organic unfolding in a culture that dominates us from our earliest experiences–even telling us when to eat and sleep to fit the needs of others–is not an easy task, especially on our own. If you’re interested in being supported in living your own aliveness, and following your aliveness wherever it takes you, let’s talk.
Much love and empathy,