Self-empathy

In many ways this is the core of the NVC/NbC process. It’s the time when we stop and connect with ourselves, hopefully before we open our mouths or fire off that e-mail, and certainly afterwards, whether to mourn our mistakes or celebrate our successes!

In terms of the 4-step model: in self-empathy we don’t necessarily have to locate an Observation if we are already aware of the Feelings which are alive in us, but it can still be useful to notice what has stimulated those feelings, especially if it’s a repeated pattern. The next step, in any case, is to connect with the Needs related to the feelings. Finally we may consider what we want to do about it, choosing an Action that will help to meet any unmet needs.  One type of Action is to make a Request of another person, perhaps for support to meet a need; other actions which could meet the same deeper need for self-care could include calling an empathy buddy, having a hot bath, booking a massage, doing some journalling, etc etc.

In the bigger picture, self-empathy means simply accepting ourselves wherever we are, without judging, blaming or criticising ourselves. By analogy with regular empathy, we ‘stand beside’ ourselves, neither keeping a distance from what’s alive in us nor getting lost in our emotions or thoughts. To do this, we place our consciousness slightly outside the point of self-identification and deliberately observe ourselves – our breathing, our bodily sensations, our feelings and needs, and also our stories – what we are telling ourselves. It may help to loosen the habit of talking as if we are a coherent ‘I’ and accept that we have many parts and many voices. “Ah, I notice there’s a lot of sadness in me now, and I notice a part of me is saying I should get over it and another part of me just says everything is hopeless and I might as well give up”, for example. That way, we start to strengthen the voice of a conscious observer within us. From there, we can go on to enquire “What does that part of me need – some reassurance maybe, or is it courage?”. There are many levels of self-empathy, from simple self-observation to complete inner presence – some hints of how deep even the first levels can be are given in this article by Gurdjieff student Dennis Lewis.

Go back to the NVC model