I neither remember what kind of exercise, nor what kind of need it was. What I remember is the sudden revelation that I can fulfil my needs not just by what others or I am doing for me – I can also choose to do something for others. By contributing to others in meeting their needs, I often meet the same needs myself.
I was one of the participants in Friare Liv’s NVC program “Year 2”. During a demonstration, I was sitting in front of the other participants. Several times I had heard the theoretical explanation of fulfilling needs by contributing to others and to myself at the same time. I had understood the concept cognitively and also realised the potential in doing this. However, this was the first time the theoretical understanding was manifested as bodily awareness. A parable could be in line with eating a new dish for the first time. You may have an imagination of how it will taste. But it is only when you take the first bite, you really experience it.
I have been thinking about the difference between the need for learning and the need for growth for a while. My personal experience described above is showing one difference. Another example is the knowledge of NVC and the four steps. I have learned how to use observations, feelings, needs and requests to create contact, both with myself and others. Theoretical understanding is an important step, but it is not enough.
Since I learned NVC, I have been in many situations where I have not been able to put my theoretical understanding into action. The words stuck on the tip of the tongue or they came out as a learned mechanical phrase. It is a completely different experience when I manage to express the words based on my intention of contact with another human being.
A simple development model
This is where growth comes in. When newly acquired knowledge and experience is not only understood cognitively but also manifested in action. When I am able to put theory into practice. When, after conscious or unconscious training, I have the ability to take new perspectives or carry out actions I wasn’t able to do previously.
Marshall Rosenberg describes a simple development model in his book “A Language of Life”. We tend to go through three stages in relation to our needs: from emotional slavery, via the obnoxious stage to emotional liberation. Or to put it another way: from dependence, via independence to interdependence.
In the first step, you rely on others to meet your needs. As you develop, you tend to become tired of being dependent on others. Now you have the capacity to take care of your own needs. You might think this is the best way of fulfilling your needs. This stage can be cold and lonely. After some time you might start to understand that you are not an isolated island. You notice that you are connected to others and what you do affects them, and vice versa. Another realisation is that you can’t meet your needs at the expense of others, because you are aware of your interconnectedness.
In the same way, Ken Wilber describes in his book “Integral Psychology” over a hundred different models of human growth and development. These are models from East and West, ancient and modern, including cognitive, psychological, moral, spiritual and more development models. All of these models point to the potential of us as individuals, groups and societies to develop through different levels of consciousness.
When I am aware that I have the potential to go through different stages of development, my relationship with others becomes easier. I understand that for some people and their development phase, it is not so interesting to create connections based on an NVC awareness. They find more fun and meaningfulness in other areas. And on the other side, I’m not that interested in immersing myself in certain things that people around me are. With this awareness, I do not need to be disappointed if others do not want to explore contact in the same way as I do.
Growth as a need
You can view the need for growth through an NVC perspective from different angles. To develop and grow physically is one angle. When we are born, we can not walk. Then, if we are not disabled, we start crawling, then walking, and finally we are able to run. Our speech is evolving and our ability to think as well. When we grow up, we can choose which areas of life we want to develop. Most of you who read this blog post have chosen to develop your ability to communicate, to empathise and to express yourself honestly. If you have been practising NVC for a while, I’m sure you can see several levels of growth in your learning.
How do you meet your need for growth?
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Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)
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On Thursday (3 February 2022 at 19:00 CET), you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Annett Zupke. We will talk about the need for growth.
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