Patriarchal and anti-patriarchal needs?
Non Violent Communication explains human behaviour through needs-based thinking. It believes that all human actions come from either met or unmet needs. For this needs-based understanding we sometimes use and share lists of needs and feelings to help bring this focus and awareness of needs to people. I have been going through these lists from an anti-patriarchal view. I consider patriarchy to be both the initial separation from our compassionate nature and the structures of society that create this separation through our institutions and norms and thoughts, values and beliefs.
It is hard to look at what is a norm from inside the norm as we are all living in a patriarchal world but I have been interested to try and do this as much as I am able. So this post is about me trying to use the needs-words in a way that are not aligned with patriarchy but with the partnership model. I invite others to rethink these needs-words too. I also appreciate feedback and dialogue around this subject. I feel it's an ongoing exploration that I've only just begun.
Power of words
The lists given to people wanting to learn NVC have a lot of power as all words have. We are influenced greatly by what we think and since most people think through words, words can transform our thinking. So there is huge power in these lists. We are directing peoples thoughts and attitudes towards the world and also possibly the way they talk and experience the world by giving them a list that has these examples of what needs they might possibly have.
This way we are using our power as a trainer to influence others whether we acknowledge it or not. I prefer to make most of this power explicit, as much as I can. I have used lists from the Cnvc site and Baynvc websites. Some needs that I refer to and have removed are not in either of these but I have heard some people use them occasionally in the NVC community.
The cnvc needs list can be found here: https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/needs-inventory
And the baynvc needs list here: https://baynvc.org/list-of-needs/
Bodyfulness and Mystery
Mainly because I feel patriarchy divides our thinking to dualistic categories such as mind/body and human/nature or spirit/matter it would be vital that we use wordings that bring us more to our bodies and to the present moment and the sensuous relationship with the planet. So instead of using "wellbeing of the body" I have used a term made by Christine Caldwell called bodyfulness.
When we look at our "body" as something that we "have" instead of something that we are, we use terms like "listen to your body" or "wellbeing of the body". Even as this might sometimes be helpful, from a linguistic point I feel this perpetuates the idea that the experiencing "me" is only in the head and not in the whole body including the head. It implies the body is somehow separate from us. So I've added lots of words that are in the concrete sensuous surrounding that bring us to an embodied way of being, instead of staying merely in the "abstract" realm, that is thought to be in the "head".
My understanding of NVC is that it is a state of being, with compassion and honesty and bodyfulness in the present moment. So anything that encourages this shift is crucial. This is why I have for example differentiated the needs for light and sunlight. I can have a need for light, any light, for a practical reason like needing to see while I read. And I also have a very existent need for sunlight and I believe we all have. The need for sunset is as existent for us as it is for plants, and also the need for the wind and the rain. I also added moonlight as a need and a friend of mine questioned my choice by asking: "is that a universal need?" For me it is an existent need, I follow the mooncycles together with my own mooncycle and I even have the mooncycles tattooed in my wrist. :) But I do understand that the need for moonlight and moon in general might not be as pressing for everyone.
I question the idea of thinking that all the needs are and can be universal. There is a danger that when we think that, we will impose our (possibly privileged) worldview on cultures that might experience the world in a different way.
Also I've added needs like the need for myth or the need for mystery and the unknown, and dreaming and for me the need for creativity and the need for creating/creation are very separate needs. I've added very existent needs for me like darkness, solitude and silence, which I'm sure reflect my culture, being Finnish and having a distinct relationship to darkness and light through our seasons. But also through the space we live in in our surroundings, there is plenty of space in the forest and that in itself contributes to my need for solitude. It very concretely is a need to be alone in the forest or on the ice. I believe our surroundings partly create and/or influence our needs. I have also added the term active hope, which is a term by Joanna Macy. Hope in itself seems abstract to me-it is somewhere outside us. Where as active hope is inside us and we can be active and part of the hope.
The other aspect was to try and get rid of concepts that are creations of the separation/patriarchal thinking such as achievement, efficiency, order or independence, which is a paradox as there is only interdependence as I see and even thinking that there can be independence is patriarchal. Instead i prefer autonomy. Autonomy refers to what can be- I can exist autonomously of you but I can never be truly independent as my nature is to be interdependent to all life.
Also I strongly doubt there can be true objectivity, only more intersubjectivity, which is term coined by Edward Husserl. Understanding that we perceive and experience through our flesh and bones and that we can never be completely out of this planet. I believe "true objectivity" is a patriarchal construct.
The term financial security literally gives me the creeps, as it doesn't take into account the way our financial system creates scarcity and is based on scarcity, so even though I acknowledge that people might have a need for money, I believe reflecting that as a universal need instead of acknowledging money as an agreement, and a system we (patriarchy) have created can help perpetuate the patriarchal system instead of changing it.
Some words I struggle with and more questions than answers
I struggle with some words that I find hard to place. The first one is equality. It is a word I use a lot- and at the same time I feel it is a patriarchal construct. Equality seems to refer to exchange- where I give you something and you give me the "equal amount". Where as the partnership model would be more in the gift realm or gift economy. I give you, from the joy of giving you without the need of receiving anything. Instead I receive as I give and so do you give as you receive. And you or someone else will again give to me. There is no equality in a need-based system. The focus is on needs, not on equal amounts. However, as we do live in this patriarchal world the need for equality is pressing and existent. There is a need to acknowledge this inequality and create change. So this need is contradictory to me. In the other hand we do need it, but on the other hand would we need it in a need-based system?
Similar problems I have with the word freedom. I don't understand it- we have a need for freedom, because we have created slavery and oppression. But in a need-based world, would we need the word freedom? I also dislike the idea how freedom is often thought of "freedom of responsibility" the idea that you can be "financially free" but also so you don't have to take care of anyone else. The way we use the word freedom- seems like a patriarchal construct to me. Can we ever be released from our interdependent nature? Even in death we will feed other creatures and be a part of the cycles of life. And lastly I struggle with security, for very much the same reasons. Patriarchal system is based on control, and a perpetual need for safety. If we lived in a world where we knew our needs matter and that we matter could we trust life? Could we live without the constant need of security? And at the same time, since our system is unequal, and created on the scarcity idea that "there isn't enough for everyone", our financial model makes it true, there really isn't enough for everyone, although it needn't be that way.
I do understand not all my ideas and thoughts of the patriarchy are explained explicitly in this writing and I hope to write more to explain myself sometime in the future. But for now this list is here to open the dialogue, to inspire, to question, to spread the horizon and include the world of sensuous bodyfulness and wonder to overcome patriarchy. I would also like to add that even though I have been contemplating this list on my own, I am very much influenced by many people that I read such as Christine Caldwell, Philip Shepherd, Miki and Arnina Kashtan just to name a few. I don't think any ideas are ever just "our own". Even that is a patriarchal idea, that we could ever come up with anything without endless reciprocity and relationship. And I would not have shared this if my friend Ido Sternberg hadn't encouraged me. So we are all forever in this together. So in this spirit I would love to hear feedback on what you think of this needs list and what, if anything it moves in you?
NEEDS LIST REVISITED/RETHOUGHT THROUGH ANTI-PATRIARCHAL EFFORT BODYFULNESS Water Light Food Darkness Shelter Breath Safety Sunlight Warmth Moonlight Coolness Shadow (of trees) Embodiment Pleasure Nature connection (ie. selfconnection) Sexual giving Comfort Sexual receiving Discomfort Sexual expression Energy Orgasm Rest Surrender Sleep Gentleness Speech Care Healing/Being healed Sensuality Opening (of body) Opening (of the flesh) Solitude Touch/Being touched Silence Hug Death Skintouch Touch of rain Movement Touch of earth Dance Touch of wind Music/Sound Movement Rhythm
Communication (with non-humans) MEANING Enriching life Living according to one's values Challenge Creating Gratitude Clarity Celebrating life Mourning/Tears Self-expression Courage Growth Sharing Creativity Active hope (as opposed to hope) Meaningfulness Understanding Meaning Passion Spirituality Exploration/Discovery To matter Contribution Learning Participation Inclusion ONENESS/UNITY Authenticity Integrity Presence Honesty Togetherness Wholeness Bodyfullness Grace PLAY Joy Mystery/Unknown Fun Flow Humor Magic Adventure Dreaming(of dreams) Being Imagination Wonder Myth/Story Amazement
AUTONOMY Spontaneity Choice Knowledge, Information Power Space Responsibility Change Freedom Transformation Limitation Variety Security Choice BALANCE Peace Harmony Ease Structure Beauty Truth Certainty Stability (a paradox?) Equality Continuity Diversity Abundance CONNECTION Love/ Self-love Meeting of realities Empathy/ Friendship Compassion/Selfcompassion Caring Intimacy Being Community Consideration Co-operation Acceptance Belonging Respect Understanding, Being understood Trust Communication Reciprocity Seeing other, Being seen Support Hearing other, Being heard Inclusion Partnership REMOVED NEEDS: Needs that I consider constructs of our patriarchal thinking (for different reasons) Achievement Competence Efficiency
Efficacy Importance Recognition Stimulation? Insurance Objectivity Consistency Order Fairness Independence Equality? Financial security Emotional security