Monday, November 7, 2011

Realizing we always want to do everything we do: a helpful exercise (NVC advice i found from the CNVC)

i have realized that we are often stressed by the idea that we do not want to do the things we are doing. Most of us often have thoughts like, "I don't want to go to work," or "I don't want to pay my bills," etc., but this is actually never true. In fact, you are incapable of doing something you don't want to do. Realizing this and learning how to think about healthily, i have found, can be a big stress reliever and even a source of new joy and relaxation.

There are, of course, involuntary actions in our bodies. You must breathe whether you want to or not, your heart must beat, your synapses must fire. But you cannot so much as lift your hand or turn your head unless you decide that you want to. So clearly we cannot do the actions required to go to work or pay our bills or any other apparently unpleastant task unless we decide that we want to.

It might seem there may be an exception for physical coercion. ie, you may lift your hand or turn your head, or stay in a jail cell or jump of a cliff, even if you don't want to IF someone physicall lifts your hand, turns your head, locks you in the cell or pushes you off the cliff. But to me it is clear that in these cases it is not you that is doing the doing. So you aren't actually doing anything you don't want when physically forced. (A more interesting and difficult question would be one about inebriation or drugged-states. Are we actually doing, and fully responsible for what we do if we are in an altered state, such as under alcohol or happy pills? But that is a whole other topic (..though i do still tend to think yes.)

i have learned a wonderful and useful exercise to help shift your understanding of why you do what you do. It comes from a book called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., and i found that at a seminar put on by The Center for Non Violent Communication.

My paraphrasing of the exercise would go like this: make a list of all the things "you have to" but "don't want to." Anything in your life that is not fun, playful or lighthearted.

For me i wrote down things like: wash the dishes, take the city bus, get up early for work, etc.

Now make a new list of the same things but written as, "I choose to ________ because..........." We aren't capable of doing something we don't want to, so i think that you too will find an interesting feeling when you write this - it was like a lightening, certainly a relief of stress.

i found that, "i choose to wash the dishes because i don't want to have a dirty mess in my kitchen and i want to have the dishes available to use again later." "i choose to take the city bus, even if it is crowded and obnoxious and smelly, because it is still sometimes easier or faster than other means that are available to me."  And, "i choose to get up early for work because it means more work which means more pay which means more fun spending." Etc. Try it out, i think it will work in your life situations too. 

Let me know what you think:-)

And, for even better added step, try adding a bit of gratitude to the mix too. "i choose to get up early for work because i get to earn more, and i am grateful that i have the job to get up for!" :-) Actually write these things down, it makes a difference and it will feel good:-)


  1. i will actually give this a go and keep you informed of my discoveries! good stuff, i can already think of a few list items (i choose to workout out so that i can gorge on brioche and ice-cream because i am a works! haha)

  2. Awesome Patrice. Check out that book too, you can order it online cheap from amazon and it is super helpful and practical, it's got lots of little, easy exercises in it that can have hugely helpful effects, it's one of my favorites ever:-)


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