Filling Your Emotional Tank

Tips to Retain Your Self Compassion When the Daily Grind is Overwhelming

By Jessica Dancingheart, originally published in Boulder County Kids, Spring 2008

You’ve had a long day at work. You pick your children up from day care or school and they’re cranky, whiny and tired. You’re ready for some down time, to relax and the thought of having to do one more thing for someone else feels overwhelming. Your kids begin to ask things of you and don’t listen to what you have to say or what you want. Your partner is preoccupied with a project.

Like a car running out of coolant as its temperature rises and steam billows out, your frustration level goes up and up. What can you do to have more peace and connection in this moment?

There is some good news.  There are tools to help you transform your frustration and anger.  They are simple.  They help you develop a consciousness and awareness around needs.

Everyone is born with “needs consciousness,” an innate connection to our basic human needs. But through the process of acculturation to social morals and the learning of static languages, the needs consciousness goes away.

Instead of having the communication an infant has of that special whimper that says, “I’m hungry, can you give me some food?” static language leads to a judgment of a situation. Your expression of the need becomes distorted to justification, case-building, judgment, demand, diagnosis, or denial. The need for food becomes tragically distorted into something like, “You’re so selfish, can’t you see I am hungry? Get me the food!”

Just as we can translate our needs into life-alienating language, they can be translated back through a process like Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

NVC involves only four components that while simple, can be difficult to apply right away. Using them is like learning a new language. The first component involves identifying what is going on — making a clear observation of the situation you’re reacting to..

To apply this, pretend you are a camera looking in on the situation. You have arrived home and there are dishes in the sink from breakfast. There is laundry on the floor of the bedroom. The answering machine is blinking, indicating that you have

A judgment of this scene might be, “this house is a total wreck.” Yet when you connect with the actual facts — the clear and objective observation of the scene — you’re more equipped to handle the situation from a space of compassion, fairness, and connection to those around you. And, likely you’ll see the scene in a different way. You might find there are rooms that offer you the level of order you like. You might notice what you see is not as much of a wreck as you might have evaluated.

The next component of NVC is to identify how you are feeling. In the scene just described, you might be feeling overwhelmed, scattered or tired. The identification of the feeling is useful as it alerts you to what you need.

The next component is identifying what you need. You might need some help, order, rest, solitude, support, connection, and/or understanding for what you are feeling.

The final component is to make a request that is positive, doable in the present that is likely to meet your need(s). Given the facts of your objective observation, what you feel in response, and the needs you connect to, you can more easily formulate a request that would fulfill your needs.

Your request might be an action step you take on your own, or something you would like from another person. Either way the options for your request are limited only by your creativity.

In this case, if you need connection and understanding, you might ask your partner to listen to you and reflect back what he/she heard. Or you might ask yourself to take 10 minutes to sit down, relax and connect with what is going on for you.. If you need order or support, you might ask yourself, where can I go now in my home to have some order? Or who can I call for help and support? Or you might ask yourself to pick up the laundry and move it to the laundry room, and to put the dishes in the dishwasher so you can have the order you crave.

Once you have used the four components to connect to yourself, and have noticed an internal shift in where you are focusing your attention or energy, you will likely find yourself in a place of fullness. Your emotional tank gets filled.

From this place, it also becomes easier to connect to what is going on in your child, your partner, your friends, your colleagues. Nine times out of ten, the needs you have are the same as the needs presenting themselves in others around you. When you connect at the needs level, you can trust that you are seen and valued. You also realize that valuing can come from anybody. And, peace and cooperation are an inevitable outcome.

VIew a list of Feelings and Needs We All Have

Jessica Dancingheart is a mother, peace activist and communication coach. She empowers individuals and communities with tools for reaching deep understanding and transcending limiting beliefs. She especially loves to see the light bulb spark when from that place of understanding and freedom, creative energy flows that opens possibilities for people giving and being received in what gives them most excitement and gratification as they serve themselves and others from a place of fullness. For more information visit email [email protected] or call (303) 589-8420.