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Feelings are Beautiful

Previously, we looked at How to enjoy it when you screw up. Here we’re going to look at why, according to Nonviolent Communication (NVC), feelings are beautiful. This is because they guide us to what is important to us — what we need to make our lives whole. In this issue of Funky Raw I’m going to lead you through a process to help you see the beauty of your feelings — an ‘inner dance’ of understanding and self-empathy. It’s something I regularly guide people through on my workshops, and many people have told me that it has had a profound effect on how they feel about themselves.

So, if you are willing to go with me on this inner dance, first recall a situation that you aren’t happy with – it might be a situation at work or with your partner or children. It might be something somebody says or does that annoys or upsets you.

Now, listen for your thoughts about this situation. What are you telling yourself about it? It might help to make a note of these thoughts. Look for ‘should’ statements — what the other person ‘should’ do, what you ‘should’ do. And look for labels and judgements about what’s good or bad, right or wrong.

Now, recall what was the trigger for these thoughts — what did the other person actually say or do? Try to separate out the facts (e.g. She said “I don’t like that dress”) from your evaluation of those words or actions (e.g. “She was criticizing me”.) Write down the facts as you heard or saw them, and if they are words, write them down as accurately as you remember.

Now ask yourself: “How do I feel when I recall this trigger?” Give yourself space to fully sense this feeling. Where do you feel it in your body? Is it tightness and tension, heaviness and dullness, or sadness and anger?

Whatever you’re feeling at the moment, give yourself space to explore it. I suggest putting your pen down and spending a few minutes on this. What is its energy? If you made a sound with this energy, what would it sound like? If you made a gesture or expression with this energy, what would it look like? If this feeling was a colour or an image, what would that be? You might like to get a piece of paper and draw or paint it…

When you’re satisfied that you are fully in touch with how it feels in your body, ask yourself this: “What do I really want at the moment?” What’s the need behind or underneath this feeling? What do I need to make my life whole — to make it complete, to bring it into balance? Again, give yourself space (I suggest a few minutes) to explore this question.

The answer may come slower than you expect — give yourself space. Notice how the feeling changes in your body when it does. This is a sign that you are fully in touch with your need — what you really want to make your life whole.

You might want to stop there, and just enjoy being in touch with what would make your life whole. And your might want to go on to imagining how to get this need met. If you want to do this, I suggest you go wild in imagining something you might ask yourself to do. Then things you might ask the other person in the situation to do. Then other people around you… And as you imagine each request, check: Is it doable? i.e. is it specific, measurable, achievable, within a specific time etc.

And to ground and complete this dance, this process, I suggest you choose one of your requests to act on right now – or within a specified time e.g. today or this week. Check if it’s doable and if it will take you one step towards meeting the need you are in touch with before agreeing with yourself to do it.

When you’ve done this, I suggest pausing for five seconds. How are you feeling now? And when you’re ready, let’s move on to the next article, You never listen to me!

© Shantigarbha 2005. This article first appeared in Funky Raw magazine. It has been lightly edited for context.