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Loving Ourselves "Harder"…
By Dian Killian, PhD

One of the songs I perform on dulcimer is Love (Yourself) Harder. You may have heard it at retreats. The opening words go: Gonna' wrap my arms around myself - A small pine cone with burrs around the edges - Gonna sing myself sweet lullabies, Brush my own cheek with human kindness, yeah!
The idea behind this song is that we all could use more love for ourselves, even with the bumps, sharp edges, and imperfections (the burrs that we have as little "pine cones").      Keep reading this article below >>

Managing Anger
Extract from The Surprising Purpose of Anger
By Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

When it comes to managing anger, NVC shows us how to use anger as an alarm that tells us we are thinking in ways that are not likely to get our needs met, and are more likely to get us involved in interactions that are not going to be very constructive for anyone.      Keep reading this article below >>


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NVC Quote of the Month


"Anger can be a wonderful
wake up call to help you
understand what you need
and what you value."

"NVC enhances inner
communication by helping
us translate negative
internal messages into
feelings and needs."

"Translate all self-judgments into self-empathy."

"Self-empathy in NVC
means checking in with
your own feelings
and needs."


Loving Ourselves "Harder"... continued

I find this repeatedly at trainings and working with my coaching clients (and with myself): we can judge ourselves harshly—often much more harshly than we would judge others—and that this judgment actually gets in the way of our making the changes we want in life. I also find that when we are judging ourselves, we often are judging others too.

I recently came across an interesting article about this in a study focused on investing. It seems in most attempts to get people to invest, there is some form of "should" that is often fear-based (i.e., that you "should" start by a certain age, and invest X amount, etc, since if you don't start investing now, you won't have enough when you retire... ). It also seems that this approach is not very effective. It offers a kind of extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation. While many of us have "good" intentions, not all of us follow through (like other things in life! Exercising more, eating foods that support our bodies, getting more rest, creating overall more life-work balance, and communicating differently are all goals I hear regularly as a coach).

Here's what the study found: if the potential investor is show a computer-generated image of how they will look post-retirement age, they are more far more likely to invest. Seeing themselves as an older person makes it real somehow ( a kind of pre-observation, in NVC terms) and opens up a place of compassion and concern for themselves. Seeing this elderly person, that's actually him or herself 40 or 50 years from now–they are inspired to care for this "stranger" and start investing now.young-to-old-post

I find a similar approach effective in having empathy for ourselves about other challenges in life. This is a question I often ask: How would we talk to a young child that we care about? What if we imagine ourselves as a younger version of ourselves–how would we speak to that little person?

I am convinced that most of us would speak with much more care and gentleness and compassion. And often when we're triggered, it's a younger version of ourselves (who has some core needs that were unmet earlier in our lives, that still aches to be heard and held with care) that's getting activated.

Sometimes a "short" version of empathy suffices in these moments. It can be enough to simply acknowledge that something is hard—and for the "adult" (who's acting compassionately) to let this younger part know that it will be okay. While this is not "formal" or classical NVC, it's acting for ourselves out of place of compassion, what NVC consciousness is ultimately all about.images

This morning I woke up with a moment of grace: the thought crossed my mind that there is endless compassion for each of us in the universe—even with our foibles, hurt, pain, and blind spots and when we "miss the mark." But because we take things personally when things don’t go our way (out of a need, I think for some meaning and sense of control–and hope for change), we can blame ourselves—for other’s reactions or choices we make. And I invite you to imagine: what would the world be like if we each had tender compassion for ourselves—the kind of kindness we would have for a young child that we care about and love?

Inspired by caring for ourselves this way, in the coming year I'll be offering programs focused specifically on self-compassion that will integrate the practice I describe above with shifting core beliefs and finding self-connection and self-empathy through listening with our bodies. This includes evening programs in NYC offering an introduction to these practices, as well retreats in the Bahamas and also at the Omega Institute, June, 2015.

Am hoping to see you at one of these events, or another training coming up, such as the five day retreat in October at Kripalu, that I will be leading with colleague Martha Lasley.

Regardless, the next time you're triggered, I invite you to try this experiment–and dip into a place of radical self-compassion. Imagine yourself as a young child, hold yourself "gently," and love yourself a little bit harder.

(Reprinted with permission from

Dian Killian, Ph.D., is the co-author of, Connecting Across Differences, 2nd Edition, and a certified trainer with the international Center for Nonviolent Communication, founder and director of The Center for Collaborative Communication. Dian has designed and led workshops in the United States, Europe, and Asia for diverse organizations including the New York Open Center, the 92nd Street Y, the New School University, Kripalu, the Insight Meditation Society, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, New York University, and the U.N. Development Program.


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by Dian Killian, PhD
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Managing Anger... continued

Our training stresses that it is dangerous to think of anger as something to be repressed, or as something bad. When we tend to identify anger as a result of something wrong with us, then our tendency is to want to repress it and not deal with anger. That treatment of anger, to repress and deny it, often leads us to express it in ways that can be very dangerous to ourselves and others.

Think of how many times you've read in the newspapers about serial killers and how they are described by others who have known them. A rather typical way they are described is: "He was always such a nice person. I never heard him raise his voice. He never seemed to be angry at anyone."

So in NVC we are interested in using the anger in ways that help us to get at the needs that are not being fulfilled within ourselves, that are at the root of our anger.

Many of the groups I work with around the world have witnessed the consequences of teaching that anger is something to be repressed. These groups have witnessed that when we teach that anger should be avoided, it can be used to oppress people by getting them to tolerate whatever is happening to them. However, I also have reservations about how, in response to that concern, some have advocated cultivating or "venting" of anger without understanding its roots and transforming it.

Some studies have indicated that anger management programs that simply encourage participants to vent anger by, for example, beating pillows, etc., simply push the anger closer to the surface and in fact leave the participants more susceptible to express their anger later in ways that are dangerous to themselves and others.

So what we want to do as we use NVC to manage anger is to go more deeply into it, to see what is going on within us when we are angry, to be able to get at the need - which is the root of anger - and then fulfill that need.

For teaching purposes, I sometimes refer to anger as similar to the warning light on the dashboard of a car - it's giving you useful information about what the engine needs. You wouldn't want to hide or disconnect or ignore it. You'd want to slow down the car and figure out what the light's trying to tell you.

Marshall's Anger Sound Bites

  • How I choose to look at that situation will greatly affect whether I have the power to change it or make matters worse.

  • There's not a thing another person can do that can make us angry.

  • Any thinking that is in your head that involves the word should is violence provoking.

  • I don't think we get angry because our needs aren't getting met. I think we get angry because we have judgments about others.

  • Anger is a natural feeling created by unnatural thinking.

  • I'm not saying that it is wrong to judge people . . . what's important is to be conscious that it's that judgment that makes us angry.

  • Even if you don't say judgments out loud, your eyes show this kind of thinking.

  • Use the words I feel because I . . . to remind us that what we feel it is not because of what the other person did, but because of the choice I made.

  • To me the life that's going on within us can be most clearly grasped by looking at what our needs are. Ask yourself, "What are my needs in this situation?"

  • When I am connected to my needs I have strong feelings, but never anger. I see all anger as a result of life-alienated, violent, provocative thinking.

  • Killing people is too superficial. To me, any kind of killing, blaming of other people, hurting of other people, is a very superficial expression of our anger.

  • Our aim is to keep our attention, moment by moment, connected to life, the life that's going on in us. What are our needs at this moment, and what's alive in others?

  • Sadness is a feeling that mobilizes us to get our needs met. Anger is a feeling that mobilizes us to blame and punish others.

  • Fully expressing the anger means not that I just express these deep feelings behind it, but to have this person get it.

  • To fully express the anger means getting our full consciousness on the need that isn't getting met.

  • The best way I can get understanding from another person . . . is to give this person the understanding, too. If I want them to hear my needs and feelings, I first need to empathize.

  • When I give people the empathy they need, I haven't found it is that hard to get them to hear me.

  • Anger is a very valuable feeling in NVC. It's a wake-up call. It tells us that I'm thinking in ways almost guaranteed not to meet my needs. Why? Because my energy is not connected to my needs, and I'm not even aware of what my needs are when I'm angry.

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD, is the founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, Life-Enriching Education, and several booklets.

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The Surprising Purpose of Anger

The Surprising Purpose
of Anger
by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD
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