Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Four, Issue Four:
Self-connection Through SHAME

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.

This month’s theme continues to explore Liv Larsson's book, Anger, Guilt & Shame: Reclaiming Power and Choice, by Liv Larsson, this time focusing on working with shame. The feature describes how a personal experience that stirred shame was transformed by using the tools of the book to connect with the beautiful needs at the author's core – a journey of inner freedom and liberation.


Self-connection Through SHAME

by Peggy Smith>, CNVC certified NVC trainer

"YOU are an irresponsible dog owner. If you ever walk your dog on my road again I will ban ALL dog walkers from the road. This is a private road, you know. And besides, this is how your dog should behave . . . And this is how you should train your dog . . . After all, that’s how I do it."

Lucky for me I wasn’t home when this call came, so I received it on my voicemail. Lucky, because then I had space to react without increasing the level of disharmony between myself and my "neighbor" (who lives about a mile from me, on my favorite walking route). Double lucky because I was in the middle of writing this article about using shame to reach greater self-connection. Triple lucky because of the insights and exercises within Liv Larsson’s NVC based book, Anger, Guilt & Shame: Reclaiming Power and Choice.

This book helps us explore three assumptions:

Here’s what helped me work through the shame that came up within me receiving the voicemail message. For several hours I "entertained" myself with the habitual thought patterns that have in the past filled my mind when a shocking message is received. Then I remembered Liv’s book and a part of me decided to use this experience to practice her suggestions.

The book investigates how we respond to shame by describing four habitual strategies that many of us use to protect ourselves from actually feeling shame. This Ms. Larsson calls the Compass of Needs.

The following description of these common strategies is adapted from pages 149-150 of the book.

  1. Withdrawal: We submit, withdraw, become quiet and avoid expressing what we feel, need and want. This can easily lead to depression, despair and apathy. Thoughts which are signals of this submissive strategy may include:
    • Nobody wants me anyway.
    • I need nothing. I can manage on my own.
    • I will not show that . . .
    • I might as well give up; it will not turn out as I hope anyway.

  2. Self-criticize: We engage in relationships but criticize ourselves as soon as we get close to something that stimulates shame. Our inner critic has free reign to attack and judge us. We show that we are victims, losers, not to be counted on, and we apologize and show that we are ashamed that we are so insufficient. Shame often turns to guilt. Thoughts that signal the self-critical strategy may include:
    • If I could just learn to not be so . . .
    • I’m not enough . . .
    • I am such a . . .
    • Why do I always . . .

  3. Rebellion: We rebel against what we perceive as demands or threats to our freedom or lack of respect. In rebellion, we avoid feeling shame by showing that we are independent and free to do as we want. The consequences are that we can easily be perceived as cold and mute. We stop giving attention to the needs of others and thus we find it more difficult to satisfy our own needs of care, community, nurturance and love. Thoughts that signal the rebellion strategy may include:
    • I have come further than that – I do not care . . .
    • I have no problems! If nothing happens soon I will leave.
    • Look at me and I’ll show you how things should go!
    • We are not afraid of anything! More people should be like us and the world will look different.

  4. Attacking: We threaten, attack, condemn, criticize and blame others. Others are to blame when we are angry because they should act differently. We demand, use sarcasm, irony, and/or argument to justify ourselves. This frequently leads to anger. Thoughts that signal the attack strategy may include:
    • It is your own fault, you must start taking responsibility.
    • They are cowards and too weak to be able to do this.
    • She/he/they/you are too . . .
    • She/he/they/you are not enough . . .

As I worked with the voicemail message I found that my thoughts ranged between several of these four strategies. I became interested in observing my thoughts to figure out which strategies were being manifested to avoid directly experiencing shame.

About 48 hours into the process I was able to relax into, "Look at the ways I am avoiding shame. A different strategy could be to let myself settle into feeling the shame, and then connect that feeling to the precious needs that are trying to be heard."



Breathe again

Gently, with care, I took a Needs Card deck, and slowly went through laying out the needs that seemed to be speaking through the shame.

Care, nurturance, community, ease, connection to nature, recognition, to matter, physical movement, joy, fun, play. What a symphony of needs.

I realized I wanted these for me. . . and my dog. . . and my neighbor. . . Well, for everyone!

Slowly inner harmony has been restored through being with the shame instead of masking it. I have glimmers of the power that surges within me to be an instrument of peace. I smile. Love is deeply nurtured. A gentle celebration dances within.

What gratitude I have now for my neighbor. She gave me something alive to practice on so that my article could be real – and perhaps more meaningful as a result.

If you have been practicing NVC for a while, if your practice group has gone through the basic book enough times that you yearn for some new ways to practice together, I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is filled with exercises that are a rich treasure trove of exploration – ways to unpack the hidden ways that shame lives in us – ways to travel through our shame to the beautiful needs of self-awareness and love that live at our core. Shame is no longer something to be feared and avoided at all costs. It is one more way to self-connect to our loving essence. With the skillful road map provided by this book, we can experience this as a wonderful journey.

Suggestions for Practice

  1. Read Anger, Guilt & Shame: Reclaiming Power and Choice, by Liv Larrson, along with at least one other person or an NVC practice group. Take time to reflect on each section of the book with the others. Support each other in doing the various exercises.. Order a copy here.
  2. Try the following exercise, adapted from page 128 of the book:
    A Day Of Shame
    Select a day when you specifically explore what it could mean by not doing anything to avoid feeling shame. During this day carry a notebook in order to capture the insights you get from this. As you go through the day, try to follow these steps:
    • Step 1:
      When you discover that you are about to do something to avoid feeling shame, or to get rid of shame, don’t do it! It’s not about trying to feel more shame (there is usually quite a sufficient amount as long as we attend to it). Only discover when you feel it and how it affects you.
    • Step 2:
      Then be aware of what your needs behind the shame are. And what you feel when you connect with the needs.
    • Step 3:
      Be clear about what needs you want to nurture by avoiding shame, and also what needs are not being nurtured by avoiding something. For example, you may avoid bringing up some subject that feels uncomfortable with a friend with the intention of protecting the relationship and experiencing harmony. The needs not being met may be honesty, integrity and trust.
    • Step 4:
      After completing the day, write a summary, then take some time to reflect on what you learned about yourself, your needs, and about shame.

Peggy Smith is a certified NVC trainer living in Lincolnville, ME. A co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and principle trainer with Open Communication, Peggy loves living, teaching and coaching NVC.

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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non–certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

April 20, Peaks Island, ME
Open Communication: a day to explore how NVC builds stronger relationships

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


June 8-9, Concord, NH
Level 1: Speak Peace In A World of Conflict

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


July 29 – August 2, Belfast, ME
Sustainable Communication: Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Communication

This 3 credit university course can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Learn NVC while earning university credit. Great for re-certification too.
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


Sept 2013 – June 2014 Maine NVC Integration Program
Opening My Heart – Opening Communication

An Intermediate NVC Experience
Now open for enrollment!
Led by Peggy Smith (Certified NVC Trainer) & Leah Boyd (NVC Mediation Program graduate)
pdf icon details and registration
Feedback from participants in the 2012-13 Integration Program:
"This is FAR more than I imagined."
"This is just what I was hoping for and more so!"
"The practices are so accessible and I am getting so many insights already."
"I am so grateful and looking forward to the home practice."


Oct. 4–6, Bar Harbor, ME
Awakening Our Passion, Living in Compassion:
The Embodied Spirituality of Nonviolent Communication

with Robert Gonzales pdf icon details and registration



Invitation to
Empathy Circles

WEEKLY: Mondays 10-11:30 am, Belfast
FMI contact Marshall or Carolyn:
Phone 338-0842

MONTHLY: First Friday of each month, 10am-1pm
at The Start Center, 37 Start Rd, Camden
You are welcome to come when you can. If this is your first time coming, please contact Linda beforehand:
Phone 322-2122 / email



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Join the Maine NVC Network
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The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.


Call for Volunteers

The health of the Network depends on the joyful efforts of all who yearn to bring nonviolent consciousness to our region.
To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.

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Special Announcement of
Book Study Group Forming

Organized by Heather Halsey of Washington, ME

I would like the opportunity to explore, with a small group of thoughtful new friends, how NVC can be utilized to support increased clarity, honesty, and satisfaction at work. I would like to create a book discussion group (limited to 10), read The Empathy Factor, by Marie Miyashiro, and meet at my home for a potluck meal and detailed discussion of each part of the book.

In the first meeting we will introduce ourselves and discuss the first section of the book: Part 1: Understanding Empathy and Needs-Based Awareness. In the second meeting we will discuss Part 2: Making Empathy Actionable. In the third meeting we will discuss Part 3: Transforming our Workplaces. In signing up for this group, please commit to ordering the book and reading each section fully prior to the discussion. Discussions will be held at my farm/home in Washington, Maine.

During the first two sessions we will be joined by certified NVC trainer Peggy Smith, who is currently working directly with Marie.

Discussion 1: 5:30-7:30 on Friday, May 24

Discussion 2: 5:30-7:30 on Thursday, June 13

Discussion 3: 5:30-7:30 on Friday, July 12

To pre-register, contact Heather: email / phone: 207-230-2582


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