Have you noticed the gauntlet a need has to pass through before it can be internally acknowledged, much less spoken aloud? We often require our needs to be:
- Reasonably sized
- Approved by “Them”, also known as the internal committee
- Bearable – some needs trigger old pain
- Consistent with other needs and beliefs
- Justified – maybe it’s just a want, not really a need
- Worth the possible drama when spoken
What restrictions and filters do you notice on your own needs?
For example, while receiving a massage, I found myself irritated by the music playing. I needed quiet, but told myself I could tolerate the music. I tried to tune it out. Finally, I mentioned it to the massage therapist, and she immediately turned it off. Ah, I could relax.
It takes a lot of energy to subconsciously evaluate needs and keep the unacceptable ones hidden away.
Take the pressure off
One way to take the pressure off is to declare a Needs Amnesty Day. Turn off your filters and allow your needs to make themselves known without penalty. Invite them all, from the confident, sleek ones you fulfill every day, to the strung out, malnourished ones you would usually cross the street to avoid.
You are offering space for them to breathe, time for them to speak, and the soft light of acknowledgement.
You don’t have to figure out how to fulfill the needs, or even approve of them. Simply acknowledge that, in this moment, they exist. Are there any other limits you’d like to set, to make it more comfortable for you to hold this event?
Send out invitations
You know best how to reach your needs and invite them to your Amnesty Day. Perhaps you want to set a timer for 10 minutes and write “I need…” over and over, completing the sentences without stopping. Perhaps you want to speak out loud, or in the privacy of your mind.
Perhaps you want to announce your event a week in advance to let the word get around, and watch your guests arrive quietly one or two at a time.
Behind your judgments
Looking for more guests? Some of your needs may be hiding behind your irritations, considerations, and judgments about your current life and environment. Again, set the timer for 10 minutes, and let your opinions flow onto the page without stopping your pen. You have permission to be negative!
Once you’re done, read over your opinionated statements, and reverse them to see if there are needs behind them, the way my need for quiet was hiding behind my irritation with the massage music.
Talking with your guests
On the day itself, take some time to greet each guest. Ask for their names, their ages, and anything else they want to share. What do you notice about them? Are there any you haven’t met before? Have some changed since the last time you saw them? They won’t be offended if you take notes.
Notice how you react to each one. What happens in your body? Are any emotions stirred up, such as longing or anger? Which of your filters might have kept this need away, if it weren’t Needs Amnesty Day?
Possible and exciting
As your Amnesty Day comes to an end, take a few minutes of stillness to simply notice what arises for you. You may feel exhausted, energized, or somewhere in between.
Is there anything you want to do differently as you interact with your needs in the future? Would you hold another Needs Amnesty Day? What feels possible and exciting for you?
We often use filters to suppress our needs because we see them as problems we have to solve. When we can allow our needs to exist separate from our struggle to fulfill them, they can bring us vivid clarity about ourselves and our environment.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) by Marshall Rosenberg is based on communicating feelings, needs, and requests. The Center for NVC website includes a list of needs which may help you connect with your own needs.