July 30th, 2007

Abundance and Scarcity in the Consciousness and Practice of NVC

In my understanding, NVC Consciousness looks at the universe as abundant. Needs may be met in an infinite number of ways, and NVC theory sees needs as never being in conflict. What interferes with our experience of abundance is attachment to strategies. The only reason I know for attaching to a strategy is that one holds internal belief in scarcity rather than abundance.

When I listen to people who have learned NVC, I often hear them express emotional upset and state that an action failed, fails, or would fail to meet a particular need, as in “That doesn’t meet my need for X”. My hunch is that, though couched in NVC-like language, this pattern always reveals a fundamental departure from NVC Consciousness. I interpret such statements as placing importance on a strategy and on lack. I suspect that when someone says “That doesn’t meet my need for X”, s/he usually really means “That prevents my need for X being satisfied”, or at least “That interferes with my need for X being satisfied”. In contrast, my understanding of NVC Consciousness implies that no action or strategy can possibly interfere with a need getting met, considering the abundance of other ways to meet the need. (For related comments, please see Distinguishing needs from vague demands.)

Going further out on a limb, I propose that (in contrast to typical NVC teaching) emotional upset is typically not caused by unmet needs, but rather by belief in scarcity and interpretation of a situation as evidence of scarcity. Consider as an alternative this quote from Thomas Edison. Someone asked him didn’t he feel bad to have failed two thousand times to make a working filament for the light bulb. He responded “I did not fail two thousand times. I merely found two thousand ways not to make a light bulb.”

It occurs to me that the word “need” for the central principle of NVC encourages scarcity thinking, in that “need” has the connotation of “don’t have”, or “lack”. My impression is that Marshall’s concept is quite the opposite meaning, as in a “fullness”, “richness”, or “blessing”.

Here is a suggestion for how to help shift from lack to fullness in your collaborative conversations. Instead of saying “that doesn’t meet my need for X”, try out one of the following.

  • “I can see how that would meet your need for X. I’d also like your help in working out how to also meet my need for Y.”
  • “I’d like to meet my need for Y by doing [name conflicting strategy]. Would you be willing to collaborate with me on finding other ways to meet your need for X?”

Please let me know what you learn from this experiment. And, as always, I’d love to hear what my post stirs up for you.


One Response to “Abundance and Scarcity in the Consciousness and Practice of NVC”

  1. dorset campbell-ross Says:

    I like this distinction. i enjoy using positive language re needs

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