Our feelings point toward our Needs

Feelings are important because they let us know something matters to us/other. Our feelings connect us to our needs and give us information about our needs.

Feelings are carried in our body and our nervous system. Every time a feeling is named accurately the activation level in the amygdala drops. The amygdala stores the unprocessed memory of the trauma in the brain.

Feelings rather than thoughts

Expressing feelings is an opportunity to connect with what is alive in us. To do this, we need to be able to differentiate between words that genuinely express feelings from other words that may appear to do so, but do not. — Rachelle Lamb

Sometimes we confuse our feelings with our thoughts. When thoughts are mixed with blame or judgment about what we are experiencing, that tends to lead to disconnection. 

Example: Avoid I feel like ____or I feel that____because words that follow are often needs mixed with thoughts/interpretations. An example: I feel abandoned, I feel manipulated; betrayed, rejected and disrespected.

We are not really expressing what we feel. We are expressing a judgment (or thought) about the other person. Our feelings may be actually be hurt, fear, sadness, frustration or anger. 

It is important to differentiate between your feelings and your thoughts, so you can express your feelings clearly. Doing this will support clear honest communication and self responsibility. 

When we think someone has done something to us, and we are blaming another for our feelings.  We give our power away to that other person. We move into a power under stance. When we can separate out the judgments, then we can get to our pure feelings. 

Blaming: We remind ourselves that people’s actions are the trigger and not the cause of our feelings. The cause of your feelings is your thinking, history, or story, not what someone is saying or doing. They are the trigger, not the cause.

When we blame, we don’t have to feel our emotions, which is often sadness. Blaming others is one of the top things that damages relationships. What is it that I don’t know? 80% to 90% of conflict is a misunderstanding. 

Daily Pause for presence Exercise: During the day, take a long slow breath and pause for presence. Place your hand on your heart and follow the flow of your breath. Notice all your feelings and sensations. This simple self-connecting exercise can be very self soothing as you greet yourself in the present moment. 

Consider this feeling and needs exercise: If you are triggered (emotionally stimulated) take a long slow breath and allow yourself to slow down. Place your hand on your heart. Ask yourself, what are you feeling? Then ask, what is your heart longing for? What are you sensing? Are you willing to feel your feelings and approach yourself with warm curiosity and compassionate presence?  Follow your breath and be with all the sensations.This begins to open a door into more self-connection.  

As we deepen in this process, our practice creates new neural pathways in the brain. It helps us shift out of fight, flight, and freeze and moves us into more whole-brain integration. 

Emotional pain: When emotional pain is stimulated, we habitually move into self protection and into blaming/shaming/judging others because we shift into survival response (fight, flight, and freeze). We are conditioned to blame others when we have unmet needs. When we are not consciously connected to our own needs, we habitually believe that someone must be to blame. In the moment of our pain, especially if it’s a repeated trigger, it’s often too painful to self connect and be self responsible. We take it personal and blame –  it’s your fault. We point our finger as this temporarily gives us instant relief. The first feelings are often surface feelings and thinking you are wrong and I am right. When we are afraid, we disconnect. Our biological chemistry and the way we process information changes. We move from whole brain integration into black and white thinking; who is right, wrong, good and bad. 

Emotional distress is often linked to painful events from our past, triggered by a similar stimulus. This might be a facial expression, tone of voice, gesture, phrase, etc. These are traumatic imprints, which are often embedded with unconscious beliefs, behaviors, emotions, and unprocessed memories from childhood trauma. Trauma can fragment our sense of self. This stimulus is pointing toward an opportunity for more awareness, growth and healing. It is not about someone else meeting or not meeting your needs. It is about being self responsible and shifting out of the habitual pattern of blaming. 

Taking responsibility for our feelings and reactions requires acknowledging our own underlying needs rather than believing another’s behavior causes our feelings. As you connect with these precious needs, consider asking yourself, how are you not holding these needs as sacred? You may also want to ask yourself, how am I triggering myself?

Remember In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. The Four Agreements are: 
  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.  
Most of our behavioral patterns were set by the time we were seven years old. As children, many of us longed to be loved, accepted, seen and heard. This longing often continues to drive us into an endless search for looking for love, acceptance and approval outside of self. This can be exhausting, overwhelming and dis-empowering. The good news is the human brains are changeable. Empathy rewires your brain with new neural pathways and resets your nervous system to receive more care, warmth and love.

If we check in with our feelings and needs when we are not stressed or triggered, then it is easier to approach ourselves with compassionate presence when we are triggered. 

“Marshall Rosenberg’s dynamic communication techniques transform potential conflicts into peaceful dialogues.”   – John Gray, author, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

Embracing and integrating this consciousness is likely to require changes in our internal connection with ourselves and healing of past pain. 

Every time a feeling is named accurately the activation level in the amygdala drops.
The amygdala stores the unprocessed memory of a trauma.

Living with self compassion is a different speed of life ~ Robert Gonzales.

The following lists are neither exhaustive nor definitive. They are meant as a starting place to support anyone who wishes to engage in a process of deepening self-discovery and to facilitate greater understanding and connection between people.

The following are words we use when we want to express a combination of emotional states and physical sensations.

There are two parts to this list: feelings we may have when our needs are being met and feelings
we may have when our needs are not being met.

The contents of this page can be downloaded and copied by anyone so long as they credit CNVC as follows:
(c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication. Website: www.cnvc.org

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