There might be an annoying amount of “in my opinion”, “from
my point of view”, “from where I stand”, “as I see it” and similar disclaimers in
this text. That is because I speak only for myself, from my story. And I stand here:
In my belief system, the collective stories of our
surroundings drown out the stories of individuals, and that is the main cause of mental health problems. Problems. Not illnesses. Some people, the so-called
normal ones, are able to adapt to the collective stories, and the so-called
mentally ill ones are incapable of it, for many different reasons. And “mental
illness” is in itself a powerful story of alienation, isolation, bullshit,
disempowerment and hopelessness.
and only workshop in Non-Violent Communication, we were assigned one person to write a note to. The trainer drew me, and I am
translating her note by way of establishing my … credentials?
grateful, because I love new input, to be challenged intellectually and
spiritually. That is nourishment to me. Important nourishment. Thank you for
warmth and see so much inner goodness and abundance, I want to disappear into
your embrace and be enveloped, because I take pleasure in your warm
motherliness, and I take pleasure in the wholeness of a person with insight,
intellect, soul and emotional depth.”
validation of my need to both think and feel, mean a lot to me. And I did not
renew my NVC membership because I could not find room in that community for my
need to think and question, no room for the need of my warm, motherly side to protect the vulnerable – in
myself and in others.
the workshop, during a correspondence on needs with a NVC member, I wrote:
because I differentiate between having unmet needs and being harmed.
have a need to walk safely outdoors at night. If someone rapes or stabs me,
this need for safety is obviously not met, and in addition someone has harmed
read Alice Miller?)
late term effects of childhood harm, and of a mental health system that has
efficient tools for solving problems caused by this kind of harm. And I use the
word ‘solve’ instead of ‘heal’ because, in my opinion, the process requires both
thought and action – with the help of
needs you might have. Do you think that
could be helpful?
childhood can be huge and painful. And I think we can solve it by seeing that
those who exposed us to pain had needs that they tried to meet in ways that
became painful to others.
offer and said that I had been connected with my pain for many years, as can be seen in blog posts like “To a stalker priest”. And I had seen the needs of people who harmed me even as a child. She did not believe me, and things got so tangly that we never did find common ground.
Nonviolent Communication describes in this article:
From “Speak Peace in a World of Conflict”by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D
1: WHEN I READ Marshall Rosenberg’s article …
2: I FEEL angry …
3: BECAUSE I AM NEEDING to protect the vulnerable and powerless wounded-child-within myself and other adults.
4: AND I WOULD LIKE YOU TO take off your giraffe ears and 1) read “The child who refuses to die” with open, human mind and heart, and 2) consider my critique with open, human mind and heart. Are you willing to to look for grains of truth in what I have written, instead of judging if it is right or wrong? I do mean “grain” literally, like one grain of sand on a beach, and I ask you to tell me if you find any.
CRITIQUE OF THE NVC HEALING METHOD:
What NVC calls healing seems to create an automatic switch that derails anger and accusation into a side track of unmet needs.
This can probably be constructive in a mediation situation where there is locked and festering hate between more or less equally strong individuals or groups.
And in his article Rosenberg is using the technique on a person who is carrying deep wounds that her father dealt her when she was a child.
From my point of view, he has overlooked three crucial factors in that situation:
- The extreme disparity between an all-powerful adult and a totally powerless child.
- The default defenses of the child-in-the-adult who has been harmed. Some people have anger and aggression as a default defense, and Marshall Rosenberg’s method might help them. My default defense as a child was empathy and compassion. Trying to heal me the NVC way would be like giving speed to a junkie.
- The need of adults with a wounded-child-within for constructive tools that help them protect and liberate this child.
“Those who cannot remember the past
“Forgiving the Past
Forgiving is not
relevant in this context. As I see it, forgiveness-pushing is caused by society’s need to protect the powerful from accusations of the powerless.
In my opinion, “forgive”, like “trust”, is not something I can choose to do, forgiveness and trust are a result of the actions of people who deserve forgiveness and trust. The options I have is to look past my assumptions at actual actions … or not.
This I learned before I was six years old, from the example of Soldier and his friends, WW2 veterans who befriended my family.
I refuse to be nicer than Jesus. On the cross he did not say “I forgive you”
to his tormentors. He did not see that they had unmet needs. He asked his father to forgive them, “for they know not what they do”.
longer religious, and there is no everlasting torment in my belief system, so my version is: “I know that they did
what they did because they have been harmed. AND they did what they did and own what they did, just
as I do what I do and own what I do.”
forgiveness that Catholic nuns taught me in the 50s. Therefore, forgiving
someone is only relevant when they …
- · Realize what they have done
- · Take responsibility for it
- · Resolve not to do it again
- · And show what they are doing to prevent repetition
of healing work goes on in our trainings. Realize first of all that this takes
place in front of as many as eighty or ninety people, so you might say there
are many witnesses to the efficacy of our approach.
that? Before I can see what happens as healing, I would need to know
the entity’s situation after one year, five years, ten years. And that goes for NVC, LP, CBT, and the host of other quickfixes that are available.
The person who offered to connect with my pain had been healed the NVC way, and was imprisoned, as I see it, in the collective NVC story of unmet needs.
So … 90 witnesses to the efficacy of what?
regularly tell me they get more out of thirty or forty minutes of what I’ve
done than they received from six or seven years of traditional psychotherapy.
as “traditional psychotherapy” seems to be firmly rooted in myths and
mystifications that deny an unending chain of harm that has been passed on since the dawn of humanity … from adults to children who then become adults who pass it on to new children.
Individuals can liberate themselves from this chain, and not pass on harm to the next generation, but only when they know that the chain is there. 
we talk very little about what happened in the past. I’ve found that talking
about what happened in the past not only doesn’t help healing; it often
perpetuates and increases pain. This goes very much against what I was taught
in my training in psychoanalysis.
What methods did Rosenberg learn and use on his patients?
fit into the collective story that the therapist has learned can perpetuate and increase pain. Here I agree with Marshall
Getting stuck in the past is just as one-legged as only focusing on the present, and fear of pain seems to be a driving force in many different kinds of mental help and healing.
helpers can only help others as far as they have helped themselves, so I suggest that anyone who is in pain and needs help asks Oriah’s question:
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
Just like physical pain, mental pain is a beacon that can show us where the problems are. Here is my approach to liberation from childhood harm, an approach with four different modes: TELLING, FEELING, THINKING and NEEDING:
From where I stand, being with pain is part of the liberation process, and much of “traditional
psychotherapy” consists of forcing, manipulating or lovingly nudging people from
one mode to another to fill the therapists’ unconscious need to hide or fade or fix pain in areas where
they have not helped themselves.
That is also what I see Marshall Rosenberg doing in this article, within the NVC story of unmet needs.
current pain is stimulated by the past, and we don’t deny how the past is
affecting the present.
Here is this huge word “heal” again.
But I’ve learned over the years that you heal by talking about what’s going on in the moment, in the now.
From my POV, the now is one leg, the past is another, and I need both.
one, have not healed by talking about the moment. I am in a constant process of liberating myself from collective stories by telling, feeling, thinking and becoming aware of what I need – and I hope to continue doing so as long as I live.
Marshall Rosenberg writes:
How do I do this?
In workshops, I often play the role of the person who stimulated most of the
other person’s pain in the past. Not infrequently this is a parent. I might be
playing the role of a father who beat or sexually molested this person as a
At the word “stimulate” in connection with childhood harm, I call bullshit: “A statement presented as truth in order to strengthen a story”.
I accept this as part of the collective NVC story, and state that it is not a universal truth, and it does not belong in my personal story.
Has Marshall Rosenberg
ever been with a child who says “Daddy sticks his peepee in my bottom”? I was
looking at a photo album with one, and we came to a picture of the child at 18
months, wrapped in a towel, recently recovered from hard crying, and the child suddenly realized something: “That’s
when it started. When he was changing my diapers.”
in a situation like this, begin to play the role of the person who “stimulated”
pain by raping a baby anally? 
“stimulate” pain is a very strong filter, a denial of what actually happened.
People who beat children, who use children sexually, who mentally torture children
… those people do not stimulate pain, they cause the pain of the children.
And people who harm others own their actions.
mean that they are beaters, rapists, torturers. They are people, fellow human beings who have themselves been harmed.
liberate myself from the past.
sitting with this person who’s been in pain for years, and I play the role of
the person who is the stimulus for the pain as though that individual knows
Nonviolent Communication. I begin with empathy and say, “What’s still alive in
you as a result of what I have done?”
going into the past and talking about what I did, but about what’s alive in you
now that’s still there from what happened in the past.
And I do not understand the “still there from what happened in the past”. Explanations would be very welcome.
The translator in me does get a whiff of bullshit whenever something that can be stated simply and transparently is jargonized, but I’ll let that lie.
doesn’t know NVC, so they don’t know how to tell me what’s alive in them except
through diagnosis: “How could you do it? You know, you were cruel. How could a
father beat a child that way?”
those three sentences as “diagnosis”. I see two questions and one accusation:
need to accuse powerful people who have harmed them, and they need answers to their questions.
that all these diagnoses are just tragic expressions of what a person is
feeling and needing at this moment.
do not know this. I see Marshall Rosenberg nudging someone out of their individual story:
father, I empathically connect with her pain, even if she isn’t expressing it
in a very clear way.
My inner klaxons and warning flags go berserk when Marshall Rosenberg, role-playing the father, imagines
that he connects with her pain.
Marshall Rosenberg states elsewhere that “Intellectual understanding blocks empathy”. I do not agree. I have learned through painful experience that I need to reality check what I feel before I believe it is empathy and act on it. So to me, feeling is one leg of empathy, thinking is the other.
Without intellectual understanding, there is the illusion that “This is Truth because I feel it”, and I call that “mirror empathy” – responding to a reflection of our own emotions. The word “projection” is so loaded that I prefer not to use it. Is Rosenberg in mirror-empathy mode? He knows nothing about the woman, nothing about the person who harmed her, and yet he knows without intellectual understanding that he is connecting with her pain and healing her. In front of 90 spectators.
I’ve been googling, and “been fully understood” and “receive understanding” seems to mean “they feel that I have understood them”. I would greatly appreciate it if someone explains why this has been jargonized, and I ask to be corrected if I have misunderstood it in this context:
they have been fully understood about what’s alive in them now that’s still so
they have received all the understanding they need, I mourn – still in the role
of the father. Not apologize, but mourn.
The story Marshall
Rosenberg has told so far, looks to me like a story of avoidance of
whom adults have harmed need to hear this:
harmed cannot or will not say this, they need to hear it from others:
Marshall Rosenberg avoids apology, and in this I agree with him.
big difference between mourning and apology. Apology is basically part of our
violent language. It implies wrongness — that you should be blamed, that you
should be penitent, that you’re a terrible person for what you did. And when
you agree that you are a horrible person and when you have become sufficiently
penitent, you can be forgiven. Sorry is part of that game, you see. If you hate
yourself enough, you can be forgiven.
Another tool is “allow”: To respectfully and lovingly allow the vulnerable in us to connect with us, in safe surroundings, as described in my “story of shame”. And I do not see how that can be done without responsibility.
There are some grains of truth in the NVC unmet needs thing. And something very important is missing in Rosenberg’s reasoning:
We are who we are, and we do what we do.
We are human beings with an inalienable right to dignity. And there is no dignity in being treated like children who need to be protected from the consequences of our actions. We do not honour people by excusing them, we honour them by giving them what they do, be it constructive or destructive.
I have written more about this in “Honouring my strong and broken mother”.
And as I see it, we can
only truly own the harm we do to ourselves and to others when we have given back to the powerful
what they did to us when we were powerless.  That has absolutely nothing to do
with apology or agreeing that anyone is horrible.
Moralistic judgments are irrelevant, actions and responsibility are important:
What did X do?
What did I do?
What does X own?
What do I own?”
And when you are in touch with that, you feel a different kind of suffering. You feel a natural suffering, a kind of suffering that leads to learning and healing, not to hatred of oneself, not to guilt.
I see some grains of truth here in the NVC context of unmet needs, and I can use similar sentences to describe the pain of giving and taking responsibility for actions, which I see as a part of the process of liberation.
So, in the role
of the father, having empathized with my daughter, I then mourn. I might say
something like, “I feel terribly sad to see that my way of handling my pain at
the time could result stimulate so much pain for you. And my needs were not met
by that. My needs were just the opposite, to contribute to your well-being.”
When responsibility is taken from adults who have harmed children, it imprisons their victims in the Blame, Shame, Burden and Guilt of their childhood.
In Marshall Rosenberg’s description I see a story that manipulates a child who has been harmed into feeling sorry for the person who harmed her. Something many children are much too good at doing anyway.
I do not know if Rosenberg is repeating his own past in this reenactment, but I will assert that he shows a very clear avoidance of responsibility.
How can you ask for understanding when you won’t say what you did?
– Andy Conner, “Remanded in Custody”
From my point of view, Rosenberg is describing an act of violence: An invasion of a woman’s individual story, dignity and integrity.
mourning, the next step is for the father to explain to the daughter what was
alive in him when he did those horrible things in the past. We do go into the
past at this point, not to talk about what happened but to help the daughter
see what was alive in the father at the time he did this.
father might sound like this: “I was in such pain in so many parts of my life —
my work wasn’t going well, I was feeling like a failure. So when I would see
you and your brother screaming, I didn’t know what else to do to handle my pain
except in the brutal way that I did.”
Of course persons who have grievously harmed others have a right to tell their story, and I wish for all of them that they meet someone who can understand them and be with them in their stories and their pain “without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it” – and also allow them the dignity of responsibility.
And persons who have harmed have absolutely no right to tell these stories to their victims without owning what they have done! And not even then if the victims don’t want to hear it!
And no one, ever, has a right to tell a powerless victim their subjective version of an all-powerful perpetrator’s story with no mention of responsibility, as Rosenberg does!
So … why does a room full of people see “much healing”?
can honestly express what was alive in him, and the daughter can empathize with
that, and can see that, it’s amazing how much healing can take place. What’s
surprising for some people is that all of this can happen in an hour — and in
front a room full of people.
the, albeit one-legged, insights that Marshall Rosenberg imparts during this process: the unmet needs, his avoidance of apology and perpetrator blame, shame, burden and guilt. His conviction, which I
share, that people who harm children are not evil, even if he and I see the “why”
the workshop, NVC methods can help people get in touch with frozen emotions and vulnerability that has been blocked by anger, fear and shame …
that can also be seen as healing.
Rosenberg communicates many constructive thoughts in this article, I do realize that, even if there is not room for all of me in NVC. And, as I see it, these thoughts and methods belong in mediation between equals.
In a context of liberation from childhood harm, these thoughts belong in a Power Point presentation, in my opinion, and certainly
not as one-on-one-roleplaying in front of an audience, where a powerless childhood victim of harm is manipulated into empathizing with the all-powerful person who harmed.
And I cannot ever sanction the winkling out of emotion and vulnerability in front of an audience! I have met too many people who have been doubly wounded by methods like this.
The essence of trauma is powerlessness + bullshit + isolation, and from my POV the bullshitting of a powerless, traumatized child-in-an-adult who is isolated in front of an audience is an act of retraumatization, no matter how excellent the intentions behind these actions are.
Rosenberg, Ph.D. is the author of the internationally acclaimed Nonviolent
Communication: A Language of Life, Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, and
several other books and booklets.
If you know that you have been healed in the way Rosenberg describes here, I accept that as your story. This healing method might be constructive for some people, even for many. But not for all. And I have written this for people like me, who do not fit into the collective story of NVC.
Many years ago, I was at a summer camp arranged by a Support Centre Against Incest. The collective story was similar to the one in the introduction, and the children who were there knew that story. One day they spontaneously arranged a parade – marching around, banging cans and pots and shouting rhythmically:
WE SHALL NO LONGER BE SILENT!IT WASN’T OUR FAULT!
Yelling and can-banging is also a part of the healing process … which I prefer to see as liberation, in this case from the prison of Blame, Shame, Burden and Guilt.
I hope these children got the help they needed, and I fear that some of them did not, because similar doubts and criticisms to those I have mentioned here can be expressed about many different kinds of help, both within the health system and in the jungle of alternative teachings.
“Medical model of mental illness”, anyone? Or “The Work” by Byron Katie, where people heal by transforming “he raped me” into “I raped him”?
I’m not going there now. But I welcome feedback on what I have written. Disagreement, agreement, the pointing out of … points … that I have missed, all will be accepted with open mind and heart.
I promise to look for grains of truth in everything, and I leave you with Theodore Sturgeon’s greeting to the vulnerable in us, from a “Saucer of loneliness”:
There is in certain living souls
a quality of loneliness unspeakable,
so great it must be shared
as company is shared by lesser
Such a loneliness is mine; so know
that in immensity there is one
lonelier than you.
(…) And even to loneliness there
is an end,
for those who are lonely enough,
I do not share the word “lesser,” though. I prefer “different”. Some people have a basic need to connect with this loneliness, others do not. And if you do not, that’s OK with me.
“I rejoice in our differences.” And I wish you well.
 But I am skeptical, again because of the disparity in power. Anger and hate are defenses, and IMO it is best to let them fade naturally because they are no longer needed. (I’ll be writing more about this in a later post on Voice Dialogue) In his role-playing, Rosenberg is mostly addressing an adult who has harmed children, and it seems to me that his approach is best suited to people like this. With the added element of responsibility.
 I have no idea if this is true or not. It is a story that enables me to see the harm I and others do and judge actions, not persons, without hate. So it works for me.
 The child’s father was acquitted by a jury that found it easier to believe that “man-hating feminists” like me had brainwashed the child into telling lies about a loving father. I’m not going into the false memories discussion here – if you want to bring it up, please do so in the comments. My default attitude is to first accept what people say as their stories. If fact-checking is necessary, that can be done later.
Something strange happened during this trial: Once, when the father walked past me outside the courtroom with his father, he hissed: “Away from me, Satan!” A psychologist who overheard this said that he might feel tempted to tell me his story because I was one of the few there who could see what he had done and not judge him because I could also see what had been done to him.
 And I do not believe in the healing power of confrontation. To me, “giving back” is first something to be done privately, to liberate the brainwashed and shameful and guilt-laden parts of us. Confrontation is for later, if we want and need it.
“ON NORMLIGHT …” is written. But I haven’t gotten around to “THE LIGHT IN THE DARK” yet