Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a fabulous system designed by Marshall B. Rosenberg to transform the thinking, language, and moralistic judgments that prevent high quality relationships with your self and others. I will focus today on how NVC can be used to get yourself out there and running in a motivated and psychologically healthy way, borrowing from the book of that name.
So. here's the short of what you need to know about NVC:
One of its basic premises is we have needs, values, and desires that create our feelings. In order to function effectively, we must understand what we are feeling and what the needs behind it are. Once we have done this, we have created a new empathetic frame internally.
This frame clears the moralistic self judgment and inner demands we place upon ourselves. With it, we can learn to evaluate ourselves in terms of whether and how well our needs are being fulfilled. This evaluation can inspire change in the direction of where we'd like to go and out of respect and compassion for ourselves rather than out of self-hatred, guilt, or shame.
How's this connect to running? Well, have you ever listened to yourself thinking when it comes to runs? "I should exercise today." "I ought to go run or I'm going to be in this mood all day." "If I don't run far enough today, then today is a failure."
Maybe these aren't your thoughts exactly, but take a moment and audit yourself for those thoughts filled with self judgment, ultimatums, and demands (sentences with "should", "have to", "ought to"). Whoever you are, I promise you'll discover something.
But what then?
Well, this is what we're really saying with self judgment: "I myself am not behaving in harmony with my own needs." So it comes back to learning to evaluate ourselves in terms of whether and how well our needs are being fulfilled, with full awareness of the feelings causing them.
The question internally then becomes this: What unmet need of mine is being expressed through this moralistic judgment?
It takes hard work and more than a short article to fix all this, but for those interested, I can point you in the right direction.
When you are feeling anxious, frustrated, annoyed, impatient or any other feeling when it comes to running, try thinking in this format: "I feel _______ because I need (or want) ______."
For example, I might be feeling upset, and filled with thoughts of how useless and lazy I am being because I haven't run today. Here's the reframe: "I feel anxious because I am needing to run." And here there can be several layers of both feelings and needs. "I feel antsy because I need to run in order to feel myself today."
The needs can have several layers, as can the emotions. I may need to run because I can't really start that day without it, but I feel worried because I am also needing to get a lot done. So then instead of vague anxiety, guilt and worry filled with thoughts of self judgment, I now know my needs. And it brings me to a choice: is my need for a run important enough to risk getting less work done?
Perhaps it is connected to feeling bad about a past decision. It could be something small such as, "Well I've had two donuts today, so being healthy and fit for today is already ruined. No point in running."
And then it comes back to that format: "I feel upset (or disappointed or another emotion) because its important to me to live a healthy lifestyle." Eating two donuts may not have fit with that, and often this line of thought can be connected with all or nothing thinking and other cognitive distortions (a topic for another day). Here, sometimes it is necessary to let myself feel the disappointment or other emotion, and feel the positive life giving desire of a healthy lifestyle or whatever the need(s) is or are.
And through this process I am now empowered. It's my decision when it comes to what I choose to do now. Rather than being dragged forward by my own judgment, threats, demands or other challenging self thoughts, I am connected to and motivated by my own needs.
The difference between those two options is night and day. Motivation from needs is naturally life giving motivation from within, whereas motivation from other types of self talk can often unfortunately be shaming, blaming and poor motivation.
So, when in doubt: sense into your feelings and underlying needs in the moment. And discover a new world of healthier self talk around running and perhaps even life in general.
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