Stages of Emotional Liberation


We all go through stages of emotional experience. In Nonviolent Communication we identify three primary stages of emotional maturity, the last of which is emotional liberation.

Many of us start at Stage 1, which is thinking that we are responsible for other people's feelings. At this stage, we feel bad if our partners are distressed and we worry about hurting other people's feelings. We often deny our own happiness so that others will be happy. We also believe that others are responsible for our feelings. Ad we feel bad when we think they have done something that causes our unhappiness.

Stage 2 is when we start to notice and grieve how much of our life has been spent denying our own happiness Very often, people at this stage feel angry and resentful, and meeting their own needs becomes urgent. At this stage, people tend to say things like, "That's your problem; I'm not responsible for your feelings." This can look like entering into a conversation or negotiation onlyconcerned with getting our own needs met.

In Stage 3, we integrate the first two stages. We come to realize that everyone is responsible for their own feelings, and we also recognize our role if we do something that stimulates pain in another person. We also start to value the needs of everyone, not just the other person's needs or our own. The world seems more abundant as we realize that it is possible to value everyone's needs equally. As this happens, we become able to consider everyone's feelings and needs without taking responsibility for them. We are free to be compassionate and loving to many people, even ourselves. Indeed, we have reached emotional liberation.

It seems that once have an experience of stage 3, we still have moments of each stage depending on what is occurring in our lives. As you become more practiced in NVC consciousness (stage 3), you can actively direct your responses from that understanding. I use the word practice quite purposefully here. Being able to direct your attention to your needs and the other person's needs, and distinguish these from your ideas of what has gone wrong (especially when you are feeling upset) is emotional liberation. And most often will lead to productive and often intimate, or at least enjoyable conversations and relationships. And doing this take practice.

Parts of this post are based on an excerpt from Peaceful Living: Daily Meditations for Living with Love, Healing, and Compassion by Mary Mackenzie.