#131 | Cynthia Mini: Nonviolent Communication for Building Connection

October 25, 2021

This week's mini-side  provides a scope into dozen of emotions we can feel, especially when home with baby postpartum. Cynthia provides an explanation of Nonviolent Communication - the communication method developed by clinical psychologist Marshall Rosenberg - for better connection in our interpersonal relationships. It's about feelings, but it's ultimately about needs.

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View Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, Cynthia here, I wanted to talk with you today about emotions and your postpartum experience. As you may know, I run a Postpartum Support Group every single week of the year, which means I get the opportunity to spend time, like very quality, authentic, deep connection time with a group of postpartum women every week, and the support they give each other and the insight that we gained from each other is really valuable. Well, a couple of weeks ago, we had 11 women on the call. Some of them were regulars who've been there for a really long time, a couple of women were new, some of whom were podcast listeners, in fact. So we had 11 women from five states on our regular two hour postpartum session. And I decided to start the session by I do this every so often, I said, why don't we start today by just naming at least three emotions that we're feeling that you're feeling a lot these days, these recent weeks of your life? The reason I asked this question, and I like it so much is, first of all, naming three emotions is not something we normally do. So the first thing we want to recognize is, what are we really feeling and what's the depth of those emotions. For example, if you think you're feeling furious at your partner, you might also be feeling fragile and vulnerable. In fact, anger is described as a secondary emotion. So there is something underneath the anger whenever you're feeling it, but really, maybe you're feeling anxiety, maybe you're feeling depleted, you might think you're feeling sad, because you miss your old social life, or the connection that came with that social life. But in fact, you might also be feeling a little jealousy that your partner's life might seem pretty much the same as it was before you had a baby, or a little bit of resentment around their freedom that you don't really feel you have right now in your life. So naming our emotions is very useful. Now in order to facilitate the discussion and to help everyone figure out what they're feeling. I posted for all to see a list of dozens of emotions that are provided from nonviolent communication that is a communication method and style that's been created by a clinical psychologist named Marshall Rosenberg, and I'll explain the method in a little bit, but the first step is to identify what you're feeling. And when the women looked at those emotions, here was the list I jotted down while they each took their turns looking at the list and naming their emotions. sad, angry, grief stricken, inadequate, conflicted, anxious, worried, averse, powerless, nervous, discombobulated, nostalgic, unmotivated, guilty, antsy, overwhelmed, restless, edgy, bothered, resentful, pained, upset, Dread, jealous, regretful, exhausted, unsupported, frustrated, stressed, melancholy, lonely, numbed, frazzled, tense, apprehensive, fragile, and disquieted. Now, if you haven't had a baby yet, I want to assure you that these women are also feeling a lot of love, a lot of gratitude and a lot of connection to their babies, and in many cases, to their partners as well. They are not only feeling difficult emotions, but it's a more constructive conversation when we look at those emotions rather than, you know, sometimes guilt is associated with the need to always remind ourselves how grateful we feel that we have our babies, and it's liberating to be able to feel what we're feeling. So why are they feeling these emotions? I think the first thing that I want to say about that is those emotions are not directly linked to the baby. But it is linked to the lifestyle of having a baby. In fact, another emotion that no one named that particular day but is a very factual part of the lifestyle of having a baby is monotony because babies get into a routine and the lifestyle is very monotonous. So their emotions were not about the baby, but often it was related to their career and their emotions around what on earth they're going to do with their career return to work, in which case they're feeling a lot of emotions around what they're going to do with child care, or not returning to work, in which case they have all these concerns about finances or identity. They also were feeling these emotions around their childbirth recovery or the new body that they feel they're living in and their concern about whether they're going to get back to their the clothes that they used to wear or the activity level they used to enjoy family boundaries is a major source of these difficult emotions. Every week in our group, we have women talking about their Challenge is with the parents that they love with their siblings with their in laws. It's part of the lifestyle that they also have to re navigate the relationships, they've had to establish brand new boundaries. No one sees that coming when they're having a baby. But there's a lot of work to be done in those relationships immediately outside of the house and the home. So now that those emotions are identified, what's really valuable is understanding that there's a reason we feel those emotions. And that reason is that our needs are not being met. So I want you to really think about this. If you've identified emotions that you're feeling and struggling with, let's say you're frustrated, let's say you're feeling isolated, let's say you're feeling resentful toward your partner, or anxious. What if those emotions are only being experienced by you, because you have needs that aren't being met. That's the premise of the nonviolent communication method. So if you're feeling lonely, and disconnected, you have a need for connection, you have a need for social engagement. If you're feeling resentful toward your partner, maybe it could be linked to many various needs. But maybe, for example, the need is you need to feel seen, you need to feel appreciated, you need to feel heard, maybe it's not related to that at all. Maybe you need freedom, and you're resentful that your partner has apparent freedom when you don't. So we're going to get somewhere constructive with this, but just stick with me while I walk through it. So step one is identifying what you're feeling, getting to the root and the complexity of the various emotions you're feeling. It's difficult to get there, you sometimes have to look at this list of emotions and really pinpoint what you're feeling. But the next step is even a little more difficult. It's what needs of mine aren't being met. And because those needs aren't being satisfied, is why I'm experiencing these emotions. So now with all of that good work done in your own time, somehow figuring out what you're feeling and what needs aren't being met. Right now, there's a four step process in nonviolent communication. Step one is an observation. So this is removing all those classic use statements, right? Like, you don't even care that I'm up all night. Or you don't even notice that I do so many things. In this household. We get rid of all of that in nonviolent communication. It's just identifying something factual. For example, we had agreed that we would take turns doing the laundry on the weekends. And I noticed last weekend, you didn't get any laundry done. And you didn't mention to me that you planned on doing it. That's not something accusatory, like we had agreed on such and such. The next part is how you feel because of that situation, identifying your need and making a request. So the four steps are observation, feelings, needs request. Here is a full on example that I made up, and I posted on Instagram, that comes this kind of thing comes up a lot that perfectly demonstrates how to communicate really anything. So here's the example. When it's the weekend, and I see you binging Netflix on your phone, while the house is a mess, and I'm cooking while holding our screaming baby. That's step one, the observation. I feel invisible, resentful, and taken for granted. That was step two, naming what you're feeling. "I need cooperation and mutuality." So that was step three, expressing your needs. And the final one is the request, the whole thing is pretty useless. If you don't sum it up with a request. The last part is from now on. Can we agree that while one of us does the cooking, the other one has the baby. So when it's the weekend, and I see you binging Netflix on your phone, while the house is a mess, and I'm cooking while holding our screaming baby, I feel invisible, resentful, and taken for granted. I need cooperation and mutuality going forward. Can we agree that while one of us is doing the cooking, the other one will watch the baby. So look up nonviolent communication. It's a very simple method. Of course, it takes work in a sense, it's easier than it sounds and it's harder than it sounds. But just think back to your own childhood, how different things would be if everyone around you had communicated this way. So I hope you'll give this a try. But even if you don't I hope you can be compassionate toward yourself about your feelings. And I hope you can use that compassion to recognize maybe it's because your needs aren't being met right now.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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