How Learning and Applying NVC Can Help You Achieve Physical Wellness
Learning and experiencing NVC improves physical heath in a number of ways. One thing that happens when you begin to work with a NVC practitioner is that you get empathy for the emotional wounds you have been carrying around all your life. When you are accurately heard for your experience and its effect on you in the present day, you begin to release it. As you release the wound your shoulders relax, your jaw unclenches or perhaps the knot in your stomach dissolves. Where ever you have been storing your pain is now free to let go. As you find the root of your pain and develop self compassion and compassion for others, habitual reactions also change. The following example written by a NVC student will help illustrate how healing on this level happens.
Before I found out about NVC I was in a lot of physical distress. Every time my buttons got pushed (which was often) my heart rate would accelerate and I would have heart arrhythmias. I went to a traditional therapist and talked about my reactions but since I didn’t know how to own and transform my pain, the arrhythmias continued. My medial doctor wanted to put me on heart medication to control the symptoms. I didn’t want to just control the symptoms; I wanted to heal the underlying cause. When I found a NVC practitioner to work with, I felt a great deal of relief after only one session. I discovered that what I needed when I was experiencing emotional pain was empathy. I thought that I knew what empathy was but I found out that I was mistaken. My traditional therapist had done some active listing and had given me some advice. This is not empathy and did not help me. Empathy allowed me the non-judgmental space to explore the roots of my reactions. I noticed that once I found the root of my reaction, a shift occurred in my body and I felt calm. My body relaxed, my heart calmed down, the arrhythmias went away. Then I learned new tools for dealing with situations that pushed my buttons. That gave me confidence in my ability to cope with life and helped me change habitual patterns of reacting and responding to others.
According to Christiane Northrup, MD every emotion we experience is a biochemical reality in the body. When we have life affirming beliefs and heal our emotional issues our physical health improves. When we carry negative beliefs and emotional pain, our health is negatively affected. When we perpetuate negative behavior patterns, we adversely affect our own health and that of others. Christiane says in order to prevent heart disease we must be willing to enter the unhealed places in our hearts. When we have opened ourselves to our own pain and suffering then we can be open to others. We can live with open hearts. If we refuse to be with our own pain but repress it, it will make itself known on a physical level. We either become conscious of our emotional pain and work to heal it or it will express itself indirectly through our bodies.
Alice Miller in her book, The Body Never Lies, tells the story about a woman who had uterine cancer. Once the woman owned and healed the feelings that she had been afraid to face, the cancer went away. This woman had been lying to herself all her life because her true feelings went against maintaining cultural myths. Being honest and facing feelings that may be socially unacceptable could save your life.
When learning Nonviolent Communication we become aware of how we were conditioned. We learn what conditioning is and what conditioning is not inside of ourselves which brings us face to face with our essential self. Illusions we may have had about ourselves and others dissolve and we learn to interact with reality instead of with our illusions of reality. We learn to listen to our gut or our instincts. We become connected with our feelings and needs and with the sensations that are happening in our bodies. By listening to ourselves on this level we find out how to better nurture our selves physically, spiritually, emotionally and on all other levels. This promotes wellness through improved self care. Strategies to take care of ourselves expand and we are no longer trapped in the same unconscious patterns that we have utilized in the past in an attempt to get unconscious needs met. Some of these strategies include using food, alcohol, sex and drugs to avoid dealing with our feelings. Other strategies that people use that are ineffective in addressing the underlying needs are harming other people, harming ourselves or destroying property. As we learn new ways of nurturing ourselves and others, we feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.
The process of NVC clarifies what are feelings and needs. It gives us a language for expressing our internal world and tools to use that help us get our needs met. Learning to communicate decreases stress. Stress creates illness. As we become more competent in communicating and getting our needs met we feel happier. Happiness breeds health and well being.
Natural Language vs. Habitual or Normal Language
Our natural language is the expression of feelings and needs. Babies cry when they are hungry or tired or uncomfortable. They express their feelings in order to get their needs met. If they were not born with this mechanism in place they would not be cared for optimally. Through this mechanism they learn how to control the environment; how to get their needs met for love, attention, comfort, nutrition, safety.
As babies develop, the natural language of feelings and needs becomes distorted. The growing child observes how other people communicate and they begin to be conditioned out of their natural language and into the ‘normal’ language of their society. Their expression of feelings and needs begins to change to conform to the language around them. They learn that it’s not okay to express feelings directly least they are labeled a ‘cry baby’ or stimulate irritation in others. When they ask for what they want directly, they may be called ‘selfish’. The developing child may be told, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” They learn to stifle their negative feelings and can develop shame for having them. Some people disconnect from their feelings as a self protection mechanism (If it is shameful to have certain feelings, then it is better not to know that they are happening.) Instead of owning their feelings and taking responsibility for them, they learn to project them on others in the form of blame, judgment, analysis, labels and diagnosis. Soon this pattern of self expression overrides the natural expression of feelings and needs and becomes habitual.
Expressing ourselves using habitual language becomes a recipe for disaster. When we express what we want by blaming or judging others, we either won’t get it (because when people hear blame or judgment their natural desire to give shuts off) or if we do get what we want through blaming, shaming, ‘guilting’ others there will be a price to pay. When people give to us out of fear, guilt, shame, or obligation they feel resentful. Resentment contaminates a relationship. Since we are all socialized to get our needs met in unconscious ways our relationships can be dysfunctional, painful and confusing. We lack tools to resolve conflicts and to clear the negative energy between others and ourselves. Instead of communicating in such a way that creates opening between people, we withdraw, or sulk, or seek revenge.
If we continue using this habitual language, we become angry, depressed and frustrated because our needs are not getting met. Nonviolent Communication is about becoming aware of our destructive communication patterns and remembering our natural language. We learn how to get our needs met in ways that considers other’s needs. When we begin to get our needs met in compassionate ways, patterns of anger and depression change. Instead of spending time being frustrated, life flows and we have more time to spend meeting other needs such as the need for meaning and contribution.