Kelowna, BC – We often believe an event causes feelings, but feelings can only be triggered by an event. The cause of a feeling is what we bring to it: our needs and values, what’s important to us.
Every decision we make is motivated by our needs, and we all have strategies to have our needs met. When our needs are met, we experience feelings of happiness, contentment, joy and excitement; when our needs are not met, however, we experience feelings of anger, disappointment, hurt and even fear. We literally “flip our lid,” disconnecting from our rational mind.
According to counselor Mary Ellen McNaughton, it’s the strategy that’s the problem, not the need.
“If I can figure out what need a person was trying to meet, regardless of how ineffective or even tragic the strategy was to meet it, I can usually come to a place of compassion for them,” says McNaughton.
McNaughton is the founder of Words as Windows and an expert on the philosophy of “Nonviolent Communication,” which states human beings only resort to violence when they don't recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs. Since her introduction to the philosophy in 1999, McNaughton has incorporated the frame of NVC into her practice to help people better identify their emotional triggers.
“I find with my clients that the question, 'What am I telling myself?' is a good reminder that what we are dealing with is our perception of reality and not reality itself,” says McNaughton. “I use Nonviolent Communication as a tool for people to find clarity and understand what’s motivating their decisions and what’s meaningful to them.
“We often trivialize how we feel,” says McNaughton. “This gives you permission to feel, but we always have a choice how we respond."
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