Living Perfect Health
Commit to Conscious Communication
Every emotion is a fundamental mind-body experience. We have a thought in our mind and feel the sensation that corresponds to that thought in our body. We think about a project that didn’t go well at work and feel a tightness in our chest. Or we think about some unexpected good news and feel a wave of gratitude wash over our body. We call emotions "feelings" because we feel them in our bodies.
All emotions can be reduced to two primary feelings: those of comfort and those of discomfort. We feel comfort, happiness, and pleasure when we are getting our needs met. We feel discomfort, sadness, and pain when we are not. All emotions derive from needs.
Emotional wellbeing flows from the ability to clearly communicate what you want in life. This isn’t an inherent gift but a skill you can learn. If you are not currently adept at expressing your needs, it is because you learned from people who were not proficient. Now is the time to improve your skills. Make the commitment to consciously communicate your needs and hear the needs of your loved ones. This is the highest expression of personal love.
Expanding on the insightful work of psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, here is a simple process that will help you become a master of conscious communication:
1. Identify the event that triggered your emotional upset. Describe what happened, being as objective as possible. Just outline the facts as if you were an outside observer. For example, saying “My husband is never on time” is less useful than saying “He agreed to meet at the movie theater at 7 p.m. and didn’t show up until 7:30.”
2. Take responsibility for your feelings. When describing your feelings, choose words that express the sensations you are experiencing, such as sad, lonely, angry, or jealous. Avoid words that reinforce a sense of victimization, including neglected, betrayed, pressured, unsupported, rejected, manipulated, let down, unappreciated, threatened. When you take responsibility for your emotions, you are informing rather than blaming the people in your life.
3. Identify what you need that you are not receiving. As infants, we had caregivers trying to figure out what we needed because we could not identify our needs and communicate them ourselves. As adults, we subconsciously expect our loved ones to know what we need and spontaneously provide it. This rarely happens. You are much more likely to get your needs met if you can identify them yourself and communicate them clearly.
4. Ask for what you want. What specific behaviors or actions would fulfill your needs? For example, if you want more attention from your partner, do not ask him or her to just spend more time with you; ask to take a walk after dinner, or to go to a movie on Saturday night. Express your need in the form of a request rather than a demand. We all have an inherent impulse to resist demands, whereas our self-esteem is raised when we are able to fulfill requests.
Although using this process doesn’t guarantee that you will always get your needs met, it will substantially increase the likelihood that you will spend more time feeling comfortable and at ease and less time in emotional distress.
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