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“When we speak a language that denies us choice, we forget the life in ourselves for a robotlike mentality that disconnects us from our own core.” —Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Two lives may look like one another, but one may indeed be fulfilling, while the other a life of disdain and pain.
Choosing to live as we do versus living a life out of an expectation, obligation, avoidance of guilt, approval, to avoid shame, or to gain money is to choose a life of integrity according to Marshall Rosenberg. When we choose a life of integrity, we discover the ability to tap into our essential and most sincere self, and enable ourselves to share with the world the gift and talent only we can give.
While sharing a list of actions to refrain from taking as to avoid the latter of the two options mentioned above would certainly simplify how to choose to live, there is no such universal list. Rather, the list of what we choose to do versus what we do out of a feeling of “have-to” will be unique to each of us.
How can we discern the difference? Rosenberg’s determinating factor is if the sole motivating force for our actions comes from a place to “simply make life wonderful for others and ourselves” then we are choosing the life we are living. And the latter – making life wonderful for ourselves – is perhaps the most important. We must pay attention to our needs. Rosenberg writes “we cultivate self-compassion by consciously choosing in daily life to act only in service to our own needs and values rather than out of duty, for extrinsic rewards or to avoid guilt, shame and punishment”.
Understanding fully and completely what our needs are is the homework we each must tend to in order to live a life everyday that we enjoy living. I highly recommend reading Rosenberg’s book as he delineates clearly and in great detail the common societal pushback to his assertion about choosing how you live versus adhering to a life out of anything but choosing it.
The result of any action made void of choice is a deprivation of joy at the very least and resentment, detestation, misery, anger, and a loss of self and a denial to the world of the uniquenesss only we can share at the very worst.
We have been taught falsely and ironically selfishly by outside institutions of many sorts to believe choosing and valuing our needs is hedonistic, wrong and, self-absorbed. Primarily we have accepted such a purported claim because their “marketing department” is skilled in the ways of psychology as they tap into our perceived need to be accepted – approved. However, the needs Rosenberg writes about are fundamental to valuing ourselves, and thus living a life of integrity.
“In fact, when we do things solely in the spirit of enhancing life [for others AND ourselves], we will find others appreciating us. Their appreciation, however, is only a feedback mechanism confirming that our efforts had the intended effect. The recognition that we have chosen to use our power to serve life and have done so successfully brings us the genuine joy of celebrating ourselves in a way that approval from others can never offer.”
When we seek to live a life of choice, we contribute positively to the world, and that means contributing positively to others’ lives, and the cycle continues forward as others choose to tap into their unique gifts and talents that contribute positively without expectations, simply out of joy of living the life we have the opportunity to live each day.
At the core, we are seeking joy, thus contentment, and both can only be found within.
To live a life out of obligation, guilt, to avoid pain, to avoid shame, may be seen as a survival mechanism, but don’t we want to thrive? When we permit ourselves the freedom to fully seek joy in living – to fulfill our unique needs, it becomes far easier to stop the judgment, comparison, blame, criticism, insults, put-down, and labels. Why? Because we recognize each of these negative and unhelpful behaviors are reactions to living a life void of choice.
When we take responsibility for our lives, we take on a weighty task of exploration of our feelings and needs. For so long and in so many cultures, current and past, American and endless others, feelings have been equated to weakness. But human beings have feelings and when we acknowledge them in ourselves, it is far easier to observe them and communicate healthily and helpfully with others to deepen understanding and to discover empathy.
Rosenberg shares it is empathy that is often the missing ingredient in frayed relationships – not only an empathy to acknowledge fully and entirely what others are feeling, but to refrain from being empathetic to ourselves. What do we each need? Why do we feel pained after a conversation with a loved one we are “supposed” to have a relationship with? Why do we feel hurt and disconnected when we go about tasks we thought we chose of our own free-will? Everyone around us applauded when we made said decision, but why doesn’t it feel right within ourselves? Each of these and many more feelings are what each of us needs to explore to determine how to live a life we love living. Choice is at the heart of living with true contentment, not obligation, not duty, not to avoid guilt, not to avoid punishment. Choose you and let others choose for themselves as well. The journey forward of both individuals will be unknown, but when lived by choosing the path will be fulfilling and full of respect and true love for ourselves and for those we have set free to be who they truly have always been.
~Read Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
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