Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Four: Feelings

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

The theme for this issue is FEELINGS: In NVC we use feelings as the "road" leading to the universal needs that are alive within us.

a blooming bud of a maple tree



Feelings: The Golden Road

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

In our first Nonviolent Communication workshop we are encouraged to embrace our feelings as valuable information. Whether the feelings I am experiencing are pleasant or unpleasant, they are the "road" pointing me to the universal needs that are alive within me.

To use my feelings as the roadway to my treasured needs, I want to be careful of two detours that take me down the blame and judgment journey instead of the self-connecting journey of needs-based consciousness.

highway detour signOne detour is confusing thoughts and feelings. Feelings are an energy that exists in my body. Sometimes I have names for my feelings – anger, fatigue, hopelessness, frustration, joy, happiness, delight, playfulness – other times I experience the energy that is present as a sensation. I might feel the energy of constriction somewhere, a tightening of muscles, a sensation of bubbles in my chest, or a vague sensation in my leg reminiscent of smoke.

Learning to quiet the mind and open awareness to this moment-to-moment energy flow can be challenging for many of us who experienced in childhood that expressing feelings could generate unpleasant reactions. We were affected not only by our family but by a culture with gender and social norms about feelings as well.

We don’t want to be judged as right/wrong or good/bad. One way we try to protect ourselves from judgment is by labeling our thoughts as feelings. This habit may have arisen to protect us from judgments. Now this common sentence pattern inhibits our ability to use feelings as sign posts directing us to find what needs are expressing themselves.

I have found that one useful practice for distinguishing thoughts from feelings is to self-monitor my sentence patterns with an awareness question: Am I using any of the following sentence frames?

If any of these phrases is used to precede what we hope is a feeling word, it is unlikely that an actual feeling will follow. Instead, using these sentence patterns disguises thoughts as feelings.

If I can use the word "think" instead of the word "feel" in any sentence and it still makes sense, then I am confident I’m expressing a thought. I make it a habit to restate my sentence to contribute to clarity for myself and others.


  • accepted/rejected
  • appreciated/unappreciated
  • attacked
  • betrayed
  • bullied
  • criticized
  • disliked
  • distrusted/trusted
  • harassed
  • ignored
  • intimidated
  • left out
  • manipulated
  • misunderstood
  • neglected
  • overpowered
  • pressured
  • put down
  • stupid
  • tricked
  • unwanted
  • more examples here (pdf)

Ideas for Practice

  1. Take several weeks to monitor yourself for these sentence frames:
    • "I feel that . ."
    • "I feel like . ."
    • "I feel you/I/she/he/they . ."
    When you find yourself thinking or saying any of these, rephrase the sentence with the word "think" in place of the word "feel."

  2. If you find yourself using one of the false-feeling words in your thoughts or speech, commit to spending a few minutes of self-exploration time. Use the exercise outlined in the feature article to connect to the experiential feeling(s) alive in you at the moment. Use this 3 page list of faux-feelings to practice translating false-feeling words into experiential feeling words.

  3. Use the feelings and needs cards several times a week to help connect feelings to needs from a variety of daily experiences.

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highway detour signThe second detour that keeps me from authentically experiencing my feelings is taken when I use words that assign judgments of myself or someone else and then call the judgment a feeling. This group of judging words is sometimes called "false-feelings" or "faux- feelings."

This group includes words such as: manipulated, abused, over-powered, rejected, ignored, misunderstood, taken-for-granted, stupid. (see more examples at left)

These are important labels because they signal that I am having a strong and unpleasant reaction. Recognizing this is one step toward my connection to an experiential feeling.

To promote needs-based consciousness, I want to uncover the vulnerable experience underneath these judgments. I do this most effectively by inviting myself to explore this question:

"Peggy, when you tell yourself that you are (insert false feeling word), how do you feel?

I ask this question of myself with a gentle, kind inquiring mind. If I ask myself with a stern "teacher" attitude, my inner experience will usually hide even deeper and become less available to me.

For example, let’s imagine I find myself thinking, "In this friendship I feel taken for granted."

My internal monitor alerts me I am using a judgment and calling it a feeling. So I invite myself to sit quietly. I take a few quiet breaths to calm myself. I make an intention to be open to whatever awareness comes out of my inquiry.

Then I ask myself with a kind loving tone, "Peggy, when you tell yourself you are taken for granted, how do you feel?"

My attention is focused on my body. I scan for sensations. When I become aware of whatever is happening (one sensation or several) I continue to sit quietly for a few moments, letting the sensations happen. I am not trying to soothe the sensation; I want to experience it fully. Then I ask the sensation, "If you had words, what would you call yourself?" I might answer myself, "sad and frightened."

Sometimes I find I substitute a different false-feeling word for the original one. In this example, I might tell myself "I am feeling ignored." When that happens, I keep accompanying myself by asking the same question with the new word in it. I keep asking until I find the experiential feeling underneath.

Being present to our authentic feelings is what Marshall Rosenberg calls sweet pain. While it is painful to touch sadness and fear within me, I also experience a release because I am experiencing myself authentically without judgment. Finding the authentic feeling is the key to reading the roadmap to my needs.

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principle trainer with Open Communication

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an image of a still lake


Danna Faulds

It’s always here, the silent
Underpinning, the foundation
Beneath the foundation. When
I reach deep enough into darkness.
Inside fear, self-doubt, aversion or
Despair, there’s something so intact
I almost miss it in my focus on
Brokenness. It’s always here, this
Ground of being. Like the water in
Which fish swim, it’s easy to overlook
The eloquence of truth. It’s here, this
Guiding presence, this calm, abiding
Stillness. It’s here when I don’t try
To make life any more or less than
What it is, when I stop trying to be
Right. It’s here when I unclench my
Fists and breathe, when I let go of the
Demand to make life smooth or easy.
It’s here, the oneness underlying
Multiplicity, the exquisite "is-ness"
of everything. I could shout it from
The rooftops, but it’s true no matter
What I say, and I know you’ll find
It in your own time, your own way.
That precious moment when you
Choose to meet life exactly as it is.

from One Soul: More Poems From the Heart of Yoga

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Book Review:
The Surprising Purpose of Anger
Beyond Anger Management
Finding the Gift

by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

reviewed by Kristi Kirkham

If you read this short thought provoking book, I predict that your paradigm about anger both in your life and in the world will shift. So often in my life anger is an emotion to stifle or be numb about. But occasionally, usually in the kitchen with my husband, I feel the spontaneous combustion that clouds my judgment and makes me want to maim or kill him. I usually go no further than a quick surreptitious gesture with my middle finger or cursing under my breath like the truck driver I once was.

The last incident I can remember was as follows:

Me: Should I put these vegetables in this pan where your meat is warming up for dinner?
Him: (In a loud, angry tone of voice.) Of course that’s where the vegetables should go. Where else would you put them?
Me: (Furious) (to myself) How can we live together if I can’t even ask such a simple question? What a jerk he is!

This is about as far as I got after including the above-mentioned gesture and under -the-breath cursing. According to Marshall, I had just launched myself down a path that is highly unlikely to be constructive. So what would Marshall do? He would recommend going through 3 steps before getting to standard OFNR.

  1. I need to state what my husband did without mixing in any evaluation. Hmmm. Well, I guess I would have to say that he answered my questions by saying, "Yes, that is where they should go. Where else would you put them?"
  2. I need to become conscious that what he said is not the cause of my anger, it is my evaluation of what has been done that is the cause of my anger. Marshall recommends Using the phrase, "I am telling myself. . . " In this case I was telling myself, my husband is a jerk who over reacts angrily when I try to ask him a simple question.
  3. Realizing that the above thought is a diversion, I must come down from my head and look into my heart for the needs that have been stimulated in me when he answered me in that way. I find that I was feeling sad and disappointed because of my beautiful needs for consideration and to be seen for my true intentions.

The above three steps are done internally to prepare me for my honest expression. Let’s try it.

Observation: Honey, last month in the kitchen when we were warming up leftovers for supper, I asked you if I should put your vegetables in with your meat and you said yes, that’s where the vegetables should go, Where else would you put them?
Feelings: I felt confused and disappointed
Need: because of the need for consideration and to be seen for my true intentions.
Request: Would you be willing to tell me back what you heard me say?

Phew, that is a step in the right direction, but I could increase my chances for building connection even further…… by offering empathy to him before I make my expression.

So this is one thing I learned from this deceptively small book. Another insight I gained was, for me, akin to learning that there is no Santa Claus. Marshall stated that almost everyone he works with is attempting to establish this flow of communication with someone who is not ever likely to come to workshops. He has designed NVC to work in exactly these situations. For some reason this hit me like a ton of bricks. You mean I can’t just wait until my husband and everyone else that I interact with gets an NVC clue so that everything in the world will be better? Wow! This is really big.

The Surprising Purpose of Anger is a short book packed with many examples and participants’ questions. Marshall is very honest about his own violent judgments and his struggles to translate them. He does use the language of needs met and unmet, which many of us have been replacing with the phrase the beautiful needs stimulated in me. See Newsletter 2 for more about this differentiation.

Rosenberg makes a number of controversial and intriguing statements in this book.
For example:

  • There is nothing another person can do to us to make us angry.
  • Killing people is superficial.
  • Anger tells me I’m thinking in ways almost always guaranteed not to get my needs met.

Check out this simple straightforward book to find out his reasoning behind these statements and to consider the possibility of your anger as a gift that can be transformed to bring connection and understanding to your life.

If you would like to purchase The Surprising Purpose of Anger, please consider supporting your local bookstore, or you can order it online here


Have a question about how to apply NVC in your own life?

Ask the Giraffe

Crossword Puzzle

This is a fully interactive online puzzle; we will have a new one each month which relates to the issue's theme.

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April 20-21, Falmouth ME
Learning through Conflict:
An Introduction to Restorative Circles

with Gina Cenciose, close colleague and student of Dominic Barter, founder of Restorative Circles

In this 2 day workshop you will be introduced to Restorative Circles and have an opportunity to experience and practice its unique dialogue process.Learn the five steps to setting up an effective Restorative System and begin exploring the application of this new resource in your family, work, school, community, etc.

details and registration

2010 Maine NVC Integration Program
Beginning April 23-25

Seventeen days of direct NVC instruction over nine months. If you yearn to bring NVC into your way of being, this is the experience for you. details (pdf)

April 23-25, Winslow, ME
The Power of Empathy

This is an intermediate level NVC workshop, during which we interactively explore that deep healing space within every person, which in NVC we call Empathy. Empathy is a space within which you connect with your own wholeness, and from which you are able to extend outward open-heartedly toward others - joining, embracing and celebrating life.
Led by Gina Cenciose (certified trainer and CNVC certification assessor)
and Peggy Smith (certified trainer)
details (pdf)

April 30 - May 2
South Tamworth, NH
NVC Level 1

Learn the basics of NVC, empathy and the dialogue process with Peggy Smith.
details (pdf)

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May 22, Belfast, ME
1-Day Intro: This event is a fundraiser for WERU radio, all profits go to the station.
pdf icon details and registration

June 5-6, Augusta, ME
Level 2: Deepening Our Open Communication Resiliency details

July 7 thru August 4
UM Hutchinson Center, Belfast, ME
PAX 495: Sustainable Communication:
Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication

This is a 3 credit course, equivalent to a combined Level 1 & Level 2 workshop; a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, social workers, health care professionals and other professionals who require credits for re-certification to experience the power and delight of shifting our thinking to needs-based consciousness. This course will also be helpful to parents or business professionals who want to explore how needs-based consciousness will enhance connection and expand creativity. Course taught by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer
details (pdf)

Looking for workshops throughout New England?

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Celebration Corner

Not long ago, I wanted Cliff to do something. In an attempt to be light-hearted and funny, I made my request in what I thought was a joking manner. The expression on his face prompted me to ask if he was feeling uncomfortable about what I had said. I learned that he found my words not only unfunny, but actually insulting. Fortunately his feedback gave me the opportunity to redo that communication, using the NVC formula for requests: "I would really like…. Would you be willing to…?" Reflecting on this exchange, I realized that my attempts to be funny were really an effort to avoid being vulnerable by stating clearly what I wanted. What a difference it made when I got honest. Even though he was not able to grant my request at that time, NVC allowed us to experience connection rather than conflict.
-Jane P. Ives

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June 5-6, Augusta, ME
Deepening Our Open Communication Resiliency: Nonviolent Communication Level 2

With Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer

This weekend will deepen connection to NVC consciousness for those who have taken a Level 1 or its equivalent. This experiential workshop will guide us toward

Location: Mediation & Facilitation Resources, 11 King St., Augusta, ME 04330

pdf icon Register early to ensure a space.

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