In my review of Nonviolent Communication, I also neglected to cover anger. And since anger is a big part of my life right now, it’s worth it to me to dig into it.
Rosenberg encourages us to express our anger fully.
I would suggest that hitting, blaming, hurting others—whether physically or emotionally—are all superficial expressions of what is going on within us when we are angry. If we are truly angry, we would want a much more powerful way to fully express ourselves.
The first step in expressing our anger is to divorce the other person from any responsibility for our anger.
(Tell this to my husband!)
We are never angry because of what others say or do.
Others can provide a stimulus for our feelings, but not the cause. And it is important to establish a clear separation between the stimulus and the cause.
This is like Greek to me. I like it!
Rosenberg says that it’s easy to equate the stimulus of anger with the cause in a culture that uses guilt as a means of controlling people.
In such cultures, it becomes important to trick people into thinking that we can make others feel a certain way.
“The cause of anger lies in our thinking—in thoughts of blame and judgment. Whenever we are angry, we are finding fault—we are judging the other person for being wrong or deserving punishment.”
This is the cause of anger.
Anger is a result of life-alienating thinking that is disconnected from needs. It indicates that we have moved up to our head to analyze and judge somebody rather than focus on which of our needs are not getting met.
When stimulated to anger, we turn off that feeling of anger by focusing on our own needs and feelings or the other person’s feelings and needs.
So isn’t anger sometimes justified?
To this Rosenberg says that rather than agreeing or disagreeing on the righteousness of anger in different situations, we serve life better by focusing attention on what we are needing.
When we judge others, we contribute to violence.
At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled. Anger can be valuable if we notice its presence as a need that isn’t being met and that we are thinking in a way that makes it unlikely for that need to be met. It’s time to connect empathically with your needs:
“I am angry because I am needing…”
And remember it’s important not to judge. If you put a label of “wrong” on anger, you are judging. It’s better to be inquisitive about anger. What are the thoughts that are fueling the anger?
Step back. What needs aren’t being met?
How do you feel? Scared?
Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment.
People trick themselves into believing that pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished.
Hmm, I’m still struggling with this. I still think those neurologists who were so callous with my husband need to be punished. I guess somewhere I’m not following. I understand how my unmet needs made me angry and the neurologists didn’t meet my needs and I’m still angry—at the neurologists.
I suppose I could find out what the unmet needs of the neurologists were, but they weren’t seeking help. They weren’t in a vulnerable situation, as was my husband.
Nope. Still angry.
I can make all kinds of justifications for them and it still comes down to they had a sacred duty and they shirked it. I don’t really care why. I don’t care about their needs. They took our money and our insurance’s money and they didn’t render the service we needed them to render.
I want my money back and I’m still angry.
I guess though, the NVC process helps me from being blinded by anger. It has a calming effect. A slowing effect.
- Steps to expressing anger:
- Stop. Breathe.
- Identify our judgmental thoughts.
- Connect with our needs.
- Express our feelings and unmet needs.
Ah, so maybe here is what I’m missing. I need to express the feelings and needs to the neurologist. I need to be heard. I need to know that they know. Ah, I need the other party to connect with what is going on in me.
But before those nasty neurologists will be able to hear me, I have to first empathize with what leads them to behave in the ways that are not meeting my needs, or the needs of their patients.
I need them to make it right.
But warning: as soon as people think that they have done something wrong, they will not be fully apprehending our pain.
People do not hear our pain when they believe they are at fault.
If we sense blame entering their mind, we may need to slow down, go back, and hear their pain for a while more.