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(May 25th, 2011)

Seven Elements of Healing
single skills for everyday life

The following is drawn from the transformation processes of
Robert Gonzales, one of the most experienced NVC trainers,
who is focusing on the inner transformational work.

For more than four years I have been coaching people successfully with resolving inner and outer conflicts; for the inner conflicts I've mainly used Robert Gonzales' transforming processes. In recent months I've gained increasing clarity about what seems to be important for resolving these inner conflicts. I see now seven "elements of healing", that need to be considered, and I want to share my insights. I'd appreciate any feedback – for, above all, I think I can learn from it.


The seven elements I think you can find in Marshall Rosenberg's "healings" (exclusively role plays), as well as in the transforming processes of Robert Gonzales and others. They seem to be essential for the support to become healing and transformative. And I found that if one or more of these elements are not addressed, the effect is remarkably reduced, not sustainable, or that people get "stuck"and come out of the process with reduced energy. The latter I have especially experienced very often in my personal healing as well as with others. This often leads to an increasing resistance against inner work, also known as "process weariness".

What are these seven elements?

The first element:

Differentiate the Stimulus from the Interpretation

This element is aimed at getting clarity about the stimulus for the emotional pain -- (often that is not easy!) -- and to separate this from the interpretations. This separation is an important contribution to getting clarity. This is the first step of NVC with the focus on the actual stimulus / on what was painful. (This is usually expressed in not more than 1-2 short sentences).

I haven't considered the importance of this element in my own inner work sufficiently until recently. The reason was, above all, that I had the tendency to skip over my "jackal thinking", i.e. skip over my interpretations and judgments related to the stimulus, which (allthough often unrecognized) are the true source of most of my uncomfortable emotions. Therefore the clear recognition of the stimulus was difficult because most of the time it is mixed with interpretations (See below: "The Jackal Show").

And because healing clarity arises from this differentiation, this element is the foundation of healing / transformation.

The second element:

Enjoy the Jackal Show

Then the thoughts want to be heard and the energy of these "inner voices" wants to be felt and sensed in the body. To feel the thoughts (more clearly: to sense their bodily impacts) is so to say an "inner being heard". This hearing of the thoughts with all the senses – with the whole being – is eventually freeing the trapped "jackal energy".

I'm still astonished to see how much until recently I myself have skipped over this step in my own inner healing work. Astonished above all since I've been guiding others for the last four years with Robert's transforming processes, in which the jackal show is an important part - i.e. I have regarded this part with others and I knew how important it is. For me this case shows clearly how unaware we are about ourselves, how we can project our own weakness onto others without recognizing it in ourselves.

This is one important reason why everybody needs others in order to develop and engage in personal healing and growth...

The third element:

Understand the Jackal Thinking by Following the Jackal Energy

This is a very important element since it is transformative. Many are anxious about their own uncomfortable feelings and sensations and don't want them, want to avoid them, which is understandable. However this is resistance against what is (because the feelings are there in that moment) - and like every resistance against what is right now, this leads directly into suffering. By the way, there is an important difference between accepting what is in this moment and giving up. Accepting what is in this moment (that is already there and thus there is no way at all to change it for this moment!) increases in fact the power for change, because we don't loose any power through any useless resistance.

With this element the understanding for "the uncomfortable" within ourselves (uncomfortable feelings and body sensations) is awakened and this enables us to learn to lovingly and compassionately embrace the uncomfortable in us. If that is successful, a door opens towards the underlying longing - and thus a door to a mourning that is resolving and freeing…

The experiences with this element help in loosing the fear of all the uncomfortable in us (thoughts, feelings, body sensations) and in reinforcing the trust: I can deal with it! And this trust reinforces in fact the trust in oneself - the self-confidence…

This element needs time and compassionate guidance and I think it's not possible to use it without guidance especially in cases of high emotional charge. It is particularly helpful with core believes (believes like "I'm not good enough!", "Life is dangerous!", “Life is a struggle!", …).

The fourth element:

Understand the Jackal Thinking by Translating it into the Needs

This is the classical element of empathy in NVC and it is being taught probably in every NVC- introduction.

I believe this is a very important element and at the same time I want to point out a pitfall that I've been falling in myself. Often I have used this in order to "transform the uncomfortable away", to want to get rid of it. This isn't a big problem if the emotional charge is not high. If it is though, the inner voices defend themselves and this shows up through tensions in the body.

Important antidotes for this are the first two elements (differentiate the stimulus from the thought and the jackal show). Especially the jackal show helps that the thoughts are being heard and felt.


The fifth element:

Loosen the Identification with the Thought

This element is important for "jackal thinking" with little "emotional charge". It helps to watch the thinking "from outside". In order for this not to lead to a further dissociation and suppression of wounded parts of us, it is important to first listen to the jackal thinking(first element: the jackal show) and to understand it(third or forth element: To understand the "Jackal thinking" by following the "jackal energy" or by translating it into needs) and thus to really own these parts first.

By the way, to reinforce the dissociation is one of the dangers of meditation or "positive thinking", if it is not accompanied with a practice in which the "shadows" / the wounded parts have their place - in which the wounded parts are being acknowledged and embraced.

This element is important for the integration of the transformation and it is mainly about cultivating the wisdom / the clarity (Eros - see below: Background).

The sixth element:

Natural Mourning and Celebration

This element is actually a part of the third and fourth and also of the seventh element. It is about allowing and also enjoying naturally arising mourning as well as naturally arising joy. Often we skip over it and don't take the time that is needed in order to mourn or even in order to celebrate - we go back to "normal" instead…

I remember what difficulties I had, to feel and sense what was in me, when i started with NVC. That meant that I did neither really feel my sadness nor my joy - I needed the "kick" (one reason that I started driving motorbikes and to fly gliders and planes) - I think "thrill seeking" is actually an expression of the difficulty to feel.

I also remember how I consciously decided to quit crying completely, age 25: I was at the air force and I broke into tears in front of my boss, because I suddenly found myself alone during group work. My boss, a Major (who left the air force a few years later and went to Siemens' HR-department),spoke about that in a disparaging way in front of the group and this was so shameful for me that I decided that this is not going to happen to me ever again…

Even when my mother died 18 years ago, I didn't cry - and only when my father died 5 years ago (I was participating in an intensive NVC-retreat, an IIT), I found my way to my mourning with the support of a story, that Marshall told us… In hindsight a new beginning…

(Maybe 10 years ago I could have been seen as having a slight alexithymia / "blindness for feelings" ;-)

To learn the natural mourning and celebration; to make space for that in life, this seems to be an important element for the integration of body, emotions and mind.

The seventh element:

Connection with the "Beauty and Fullness of the met Needs"

The seventh element is the most powerful, it cannot unfold its effect without the other elements though. The connection to the "beauty and fullness of the met needs" awakens the energy of life and thus the empowerment and the joy in living. It probably has the most transforming power and ideally it is the crowning completion of a transforming process.

If however the connection between thinking, feeling and body sensations isn't established (generally because the uncomfortable / the shadows are being suppressed), the connection with the "beauty and fullness of the met needs" are being restricted. The principle: "Who doesn't allow the sadness, can't experience the joy fully" shows up here as well…

The Background

In my opinion, it's not enough to be guided in a process every couple of weeks(unless one lives in a cave and isn't confronted with stimuli ;-). We rather need practice that is suitable for daily use, because only by this we can let go sustainably of "the uncomfortable" in us (the pain in us that is being touched by the stimuli). I.e. only by this we can resolve our inner conflicts in a sustainable way and live the "NVC-intention" and thus really contribute to non-violence in the world. I call such a practice that is suitable for life "mental hygiene", because it cleans our psyche and cares for it and keeps it healthy.The seven elements represent the elements needed in such a daily practice.

I also have discovered over the past years, that "empathy alone" (= being present and compassionate with what arises without guidance) is much better than not experiencing any compassion, yet it doesn't lead to change and growth. I want to emphasize here that compassion is a necessary precondition for development, because it helps to accept what is - empathy alone doesn't lead to growth because it hasn't a clarity and direction in itself.

Four years ago this fact has led me personally to a point, where I almost quit with NVC. I had a "favorite stimulus" then: My son was sitting "day and night" at the computer and played "World of Warcraft" - and neglected his schoolwork and other activities. It was very painful for me to watch this and I often felt helpless. I got empathy again and again and I always felt better afterward and gained confidence. But when I saw my son sitting at the computer again, the same pain arose again - the empathy didn't really help…

In addition to empathy (compassion), it needs clarity, structure and direction (wisdom), there is so to speak a "map of the inner" necessary, in order to prevent oneself from getting lost in thoughts and experiences.

Unfortunately many people have a lot of resistance against clarity, structure, direction - for good reasons: many people experienced these as suppressing in their past. The reason for this, I want to show with the help of the relationship between masculine energy (Eros) and feminine energy (Agape). This relationship Ken Wilber shows very clearly in "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality" in chapter 9 and I've written about this already in my last blog:

Eros - wisdom, clarity, mind, "seeking for the higher", "embracing the light" and
Agape - compassion, feelings, body, "embrace the lower", "embrace the shadows".

Many people have experienced Eros in the form of rules, structure, discipline, hierarchy, … more or less as suppressing, just because it was applied without the necessary balance by Agape. As Wilber shows Wisdom (Eros) without compassion (Agape) leads to Phobos, the fear of the shadows, the "lower", the body, fear of the feelings - and thus suppression of the "lower", the body, the feelings…The long term result is what so many suffer in our societies: the separation from our feelings, the numbing of our feelings…

If we have only Agape without Eros however, we fall off the horse on the other side: Agape without Eros leads to Thanatos, we loose ourselves in feelings, are "scared of the light", kept in stagnation, resignation, we regress / become children who suffer…

The necessarybalance between masculine and feminine energy:

Many people have experienced how relieving and healing it is to be guided with both wisdom / direction (Eros) as well as compassion / empathy (Agape), e.g.:

- in Marshall Rosenberg's "healing sessions".Here the wisdom is in the structure of Marshall's role plays, but also in the re-framing of what is being said.

- in the guidance of NVC trainers if they lead (Eros) - often just intuitively,

- with the dance floors Bridget Belgrave and Gina Lawrie. Here the wisdom is also within the structure (and some of it is often being missed out by the guide), and of course also in the transforming processes as those of Robert Gonzales.

In the latter the wisdom is being reflected so clearly that it is difficult for the guide to miss it out.

I want to stress here that in all of the processes above, the wisdom has to be accompanied by compassion, because otherwise again it leads to Phobos and thus to suppression (by the way, even the four steps of NVC and the key differentiations represent Eros - and "technical empathy" reflects the lack of Agape, and thus it is Phobos actually - and accordingly uncomfortable ;-)...

By the way, this balance is a very important topic of this age as Ken Wilber shows in "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality", chapter 5: The necessary differentiation of mind and body or at large: of the noosphere (human mind) and biosphere (ecological system on earth) went too far into a dissociation between mind / noosphere and body / biosphere and to the suppression of the latter (see appendix: "the necessary integration of body, emotions and mind").

All seven elements are basically skills to self-connect

And each of these skills can be developed and enforced individually as well. To name just a few possibilities:

- Focusing supports to befriend oneself with the uncomfortable in the body (Caution: risk to loose oneself in the uncomfortable).

- Meditation helps to observe the thinking "from outside": "I'm not my thinking!" (Caution: risk of suppression and dissociation of the uncomfortable).

- "Positive Thinking" can be seen as an expression of the beauty of needs (Caution: risk of suppression and dissociation of the uncomfortable).

These seven skills to self-connect are also practiced in the transforming processes e.g. of Robert Gonzales and they support us to come out of the uncomfortable within us (tensions, frustration, anger, worries, anxiety, resignation, stress, …) without resisting it, but by lovingly accepting it - and then to come to a place of relaxation, empowerment and joy in living.

As always I'd appreciate feedback :-)
With warm regards,
Volkmar Richter


The necessary Integration of Body, Emotions and Mind

A trivial example: We've learned in our development that we need to sleep, if we are tiered / exhausted. We don't have to sleep immediately though, but we can delay the sleep with our mind (and by different means). This can go too far though and even to the extreme: There are every now and then reports that people die from exhaustion (e.g. while internet gaming or doing sports)… The overdone separation between body and mind leads to dissociation and suppression; the connection between mind and body is cut and the body is being ignored. The results are the various diseases of the civilization or, as in the example, death…

(And this tendency and the related danger exist also on a large scale and shows up e.g. in global warming…)

Wilber shows that this dangerous development cannot be fixed by regressing to a child (even if we wanted, we couldn't regress our mind - exceptions are pathological cases) - this dangerous development can only be healed by integration: The more basic (and thus more vital) body has to be integrated in the more comprehensive (and thus higher) mind.
(more precisely: the body and the rational mind will be integrated in the higher vision-logical mind)

Respectively the more basic (and thus more vital) biosphere has to be integrated into the more comprehensive (and thus higher) noosphere - the biosphere is a part of the noosphere and as such it needs to be respected, because it is vital to our lives... The good message there: every human being can start with this integration with themselves - and for this integration we need both Eros and Agape, wisdom and compassion. The seven elements I described above are a help / maps for this integration and as such Eros that has to be accompanied by Agape, i.e. compassionate guidance is crucial.