Sunday, August 25, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes:Chapter Ten: Expressing Anger Fully

Anger is a tragic expression of unmet needs. Our culture trains us to react to anger with blame, but this sends us in the wrong direction. Unless we express the underlying need, even violence expresses our anger superficially. NVC does not advise us to stifle our anger, but rather to express it fully in an effective way.
"The first step to fully expressing anger in NVC is to divorce the person from any responsibility for our anger." Actions of others never cause our anger, though they may act as a stimulus. Our culture teaches us that we can make someone feel something, but if we believe this, we have been tricked. Persons sometimes use guilt to control others. "The cause of anger lies in our thinking-in thoughts of blame and judgement." 
Instead we may succeed by shining "the light of consciousness on our own feelings and needs" and connecting "to the life that is within us." "When we are connected to our need," we "may have strong feelings, but we are never angry." Anger "is disconnected from needs." 
We also may "shine the light of consciousness on the other person's feelings and needs" in order to convert anger into more productive thoughts, behaviors and feelings.
"At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled. Thus anger can be valuable if we use it [...] to realize we have a need that isn't being met." "Anger [...] co-opts our energy by directing it toward punishing people rather than meeting our needs."
This is not intuitive, and also I have trouble identifying my needs under such circumstances. Is this the sort of thing that we could evaluate only by reading it, or do we need some empirical testing?  Or is it an advanced skill we can develop only after long practice? Or is it just BS?
"Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment." Any "judgement of another person diminishes the likelihood of our needs being met." This seems plausible to me, but how would I know?
When we judge others, we put ourselves in an oppositional stance toward them, and when they feel defensive they are less likely to care about achieving win-win. We have started in win-lose mode, and each party will focus on winning rather than getting a positive outcome. We may succeed "in using such judgements to intimidate people into meeting our needs," but "we will pay for it later" in all likelihood. 
"Four steps to expressing Anger"
1) Breathe (slow down, deliberate).
2) "Identify our judgmental thoughts."
3) "Connect with our needs."
4) "Express our feelings and unmet needs."
This will work better if we empathize with the other person first. "The more we hear them, the more they will hear us." 
Blaming can cause someone to hate themselves, or to hate the blamer, but is unlikely in either case to change their behavior in a positive way.
All this is difficult and requires practice.
Many people react against this idea of avoiding judgement. It sounds like we should give a pass to violent and selfish persons. Rosenberg does not restrict this idea to particular circumstances, or illustrate extreme cases. He seems to make a general and universal case, without explaining how to replace our existing social institutions of punishment. Perhaps NVC can prevent some murders, but what sort of negotiation can we have in cases where murder was not prevented? If we take Rosenberg to the extreme, and eliminate all punishments and deterrents from our culture, what can we replace them with to achieve justice? If Rosenberg has an answer, he does not state it explicitly. I will duck the question by pointing out that this chapter is meant to address how I can deal with anger more effectively, not how members of society may choose to deter crime.

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