In Communication with Compassion we recognize 3 stages in the process of moving from emotional slavery to emotional freedom.
Many of us start in stage 1. This it the phase in which we think we are responsible for how others are feeling. In this phase we feel “bad” (guilt, shame, anxiety) when our partner feels stressed or our daughter is not eating well for example. During this stage we are often busy worrying about our own behavior, in hopes that we won’t inadvertently hurt somebody. In doing this we often ignore our own needs and hope that others will be happier because of it.
Stage 2 begins when we start to become aware of, and mourn, the fact that we have denied ourselves our own happiness for much of our lives. In this stage, people can start to feel very sad, angry or even bitter. Fulfilling their own needs becomes very important to them at this point. So important that it may lead them to behave obnoxiously at times. This phase is often marked by a lot more conflict. You can hear people who are in this stage of development make remarks such as: “That’s your problem! I am not responsible for how you feel.”
In stage 3 we integrate both previous phases. While we start to realize that everybody can only be responsible for his or her own feelings, we are also aware of the fact that our own behavior can stimulate pain in others. We start to value everybody’s needs equally here, not just the needs of the other person OR our own.
The world seems a lot more peaceful when we realize that it is possible to value everyone’s needs. The moment this happens, we are able to take the needs of others and ourselves into consideration without taking the responsibility for what the other person is feeling. We are free and from this arises the space to remain emphatic and respectful towards ourselves and others. This is the stage where we have reached emotional liberation.
We all go through these stages while we develop more self consciousness and maturity. For me, this process started to really kick into overdrive when I came in contact with Nonviolent Communication. The more I practice myself in Communication with Compassion, the more I notice I can keep enough mental space to take care of my needs and still see the other person as an equal and whole human being. Still there are also many situations where I tend to protect my own needs. I try not to do this at the expense of others, but the reality of it is that sometimes I don’t have the space to be really emphatic towards the other person and am in need of empathy myself. I am inspired though and hopeful that these difficult moments are becoming less and less.
What stage do you think you are in now? And what do you think you might need in order to move on to the next phase? I would love to hear your response in the comment section below!