The Beauty of Our Interdependence

May 05, 2017

skid marks & vistas

We’ve been down a long 25-year road in our relationship, with many skid marks as well as breathtaking vistas along the way. For me it’s culminated to this single guiding phrase:

Your well-being is my well-being, and my well-being is your well-being.

It didn’t catch on with me for the longest time. . .  I was busy fighting for my position, my place, not really understanding why or to what end. It just felt like the most important thing for me to be doing.  It took a while for me to fully grasp the meaning of this phrase, and now it has become something more like a simple reality in my life. I can only be well, happy, fulfilled if the humans I live with are – that is how interdependent we are. I want to fully get myself and them, understand how we can contribute to each other’s lives on a regular basis. So how do we get there . . .?

The context of “needs”

I am human.

And with that comes the fact that I have many natural, universal needs (here’s a list). I strive to get as many of my needs met as possible in order to experience fulfillment (or relaxation, satisfaction, well-being).

Many of them are basic, physical needs like air, water, nutrition, shelter, warmth.

Once those are taken care of, my attention can turn to other needs, like safety, belonging, health, love, appreciation.

Having all of these needs doesn’t make me or you “needy.” There’s nothing negative about it. It is simply reality, and awareness of (and taking action on) our needs is required to live functioning, fulfilled lives. There are exceptions of course, but most humans cannot live alone. We are an interdependent species, requiring one another in order to get most of our needs met.

Fulfillment of needs

Not only am I not capable of living alone, I have chosen to interweave my life very closely with 3 other humans: my husband, son and daughter. In truth, I got terribly lucky with all three of them, and yet I also give myself credit for the constant work I’ve put into sharing my life, a home, co-parenting, and learning about communication that keeps us connected (as opposed to the more alienating approach we’ve all been trained in).

I’m also lucky enough that all my basic physical needs have been met . . . and I experience a very fair share of safety, belonging, health, love, and appreciation, mostly thanks to my little family and also very much helped by me having learned through my forties how to love and appreciate myself!

What I am now most longing for in my life is RELAXATION and TRUST and SELF-FULFILLMENT. I find it really quite challenging! I long to have these needs fulfilled on a daily basis, which required me to take a hard look at my daily interactions with the people I live with. I have needs; they have needs – how can we bring ease to each other in the fulfillment of our needs?

Growing awareness

My life started to take a serious turn for the better when I started learning all about Nonviolent Communication (NVC), founded by Marshall Rosenberg. Especially learning that there is a big difference between needs (a.k.a. longings, drivers, intentions, the “why”) and strategies (the “how”). For example, there are many ways in which I seek relaxation, most of which are coming from a subconscious place:

strategies vs. needs
This last example brought a decade’s worth of conflict in my relationship. On a weekly basis, I insisted that we make a plan for the weekend. I expected my husband to cooperate with me (it was for my well-being after all!). He consistently showed resistance, which I just couldn’t understand . . . until I realized he has needs, too! Namely spontaneity, fun, play, rest during the weekends. For so long I saw his resistance as a threat to my “need” for planning, which it turns out isn’t a need at all, but a strategy for me-time, rest, re-charging. Once I explained my needs to him, I got the cooperation I was looking for. He simply said, “Let me know when you want time for yourself, and I’ll be sure the kids and I are doing something we enjoy.” Voila, all needs met!

Learning = Practice, practice, practice

Don’t get me wrong, I still fight sometimes as a stress reaction (if I’m not fleeing or freezing), so conflict doesn’t go away. It’s that I’ve learned so many skills that help me deal with conflict in a connecting way. Something I didn’t imagine was possible before I met NVC. It was five years ago when started to learn and incorporate NVC it into my daily life and work. I’m amazed at how much practice it takes . . . in fact, I’ve come to see it as a lifetime learning process. As they say, you teach what you have to learn, which is why it’s become my passion to pass on NVC skills – to anyone eager to:

  • grow self-awareness (including about strategies/behavior, the source of most conflict)
  • learn how to “self-connect” or be aware of needs/longings
  • express honestly, including making regular requests that help fulfill needs
  • listen for understanding (not just to reply)
  • deepen connections with others (personal & professional relationships)

If you’d like to learn these kinds of skills, let’s talk about how we can work together via a free 20-minute Skype call. Next to private sessions, I’m currently offering a 5-week NVC course for couples in Amsterdam starting 25 May, 2018. For more information read about my services and contact me today!

Cara Crisler
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