NVC – Self Empathy Exercise

by Milla — she=he

For all the fans of this blog, reading and having a problem with taking in the message (meaning: reading the blog feels like taking poison..) Today's special, just for you: A Detoxifying Self Empathy Exercise 🙂

I met with a friend today. We talked for hours. Sat on the rocky windy slopes by the sea until sunset, working on a self-empathy exercise i found on the internet. I got one step further today with how to practice NVC – Nonviolent communication. I noticed there’s less pain in empathizing with a painful blaming message (or: detoxifying the message with empathic understanding) than to defend myself against it. Big change. And I keep on learning 🙂

Here’s the empathy exercise:

SELF EMPATHY — Detoxify your life 🙂

Transforming the Pain of Unmet Needs

Transforming our relationships often involves transforming ourselves at the same time. When 2 (or more) people are in pain because their needs aren’t being met it may seems like a stale mate; no one has enough empathy to get the ball rolling. In this situation self empathy is a tool to begin with. This practice can be done as many times as needed to soften the hard defenses and open the heart. It may take a minute, a day or two, sometimes more. You may chose to make it a daily practice which would be optimal.

1. Take Time & Space: When you are in pain take some time, create a space alone and undisturbed where you can write (or type) freely.

2. The Jackal Show: Just start writing. Don’t watch your words or try to “be nice”. Just
let it flow. This is called the Jackal Show. You can write all about what ‘they’ have
done to you, what they have created, what they’ve destroyed. You can express all your
pain and anguish, your fears and outrage, your judgments, thoughts, analysis of the
situation and whatever else comes to mind. Do this until you have nothing left to say.

3. List the Feelings: Go back over what you’ve written. What are the feelings behind all this? Make a list. List all of the feelings but don’t use the jackal words that imply blame such as; bullied, ignored, cheated, betrayed, abandoned, victimized… Use only honest descriptive feeling words that describe what is going on in your body now such as; sad, frightened, angry, worried, confused, anxious, resentful, overwhelmed, bitter, jealous, etc… Use the Feelings List and pick out all the words that describe the way you really feel.

4. List the Needs: Next, create another list for all the unmet needs behind all these
feelings such as; respect, appreciation, intimacy, recognition, cooperation, support…
Use the Needs List to pick out all the needs you have that are not being met.

5. Mourning: Allow yourself to mourn the fact that these needs are not presently being
met. Be with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel the pain of not having these
needs met. It is painful. If you still feel the anger and resentment go back to writing
more of the Jackal Show. Often once we have completed the first step a shift will take
place and suddenly we are may not be so angry but now we are feeling disheartened,
sad, hopeless… List the new feelings. List the needs behind those feelings. And allow
yourself to mourn your loss again.

6. Empathy: When you feel complete with the above exercises allow yourself to sit back. The word “Empathy” implies an empty presence – an awareness of what is alive in you. Bring your awareness into your body. Every thought and emotion we have is
manifesting in the body somewhere. Scan your body with all your senses gently and
locate the places where you’re holding your pain. Don’t try to change anything. Just be
empathic. Is your brow furrowed? Your shoulders tight? Your throat constricted? Your
abdomen tight? Is your breathing shallow? When you find a place that is holding your
pain just be present with it. If your shoulders suddenly relax, let them go. If your face
muscles soften let it be. If your abdomen softens, breathe. If not that’s ok too.

The Jackal

The Jackal, The Giraffe, The Message

The NVC Process in 4 Basic Steps


5 Responses

  1. Hi Milla,

    I don’t know if this


    was the particular self-empathy exercise you found (it doesn’t sound like it), but if you (or others) want to practise self-empathy, I recommend it as another resource. It’s pretty self-explanatory and easy to follow, and gets straight down to business ( very practical) though more basic I think than the process you describe above.

  2. The bee continuously batters itself against the unyielding glass

    Maddened and confused, why it’s not working

    Until it finds the opening in the window

    then floats aloft on the breeze to freedom

  3. […] work on myself as usual. Reading up on racism. Learning NVC-nonviolent communication. I posted a self-empathy exercise that I was doing with a friend. We didn’t work through the whole thing though. So I decided […]

  4. […] is the second part of a self-empathy exercise. To read the first part: Click here. I recommend reading the comments as […]

  5. […] the third part of an NVC (Nonviolent Communication) self-empathy exercise. The trick is to look at all the thoughts causing pain – thoughts of anger, blame and […]

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