To mediate between two or more parts who are pulling in different directions, it helps to distinguish between needs and strategies.

In Nonviolent Communication (NVC), they define needs as the universal qualities necessary for fulfillment and wholeness. Needs are why we do what we do, the reasons we engage in activities.

In contrast, strategies are actions we take to meet our needs. For example, you need physical movement, and your preferred strategies might be yoga, climbing, or tennis.

Most of our parts cling to their favored strategies, which is why I first learned to call them strategy children. For example, a People Pleaser part might need belonging and connection and cling to the strategy of saying yes to other people in an attempt to meet these needs.

Instead of trying to convince a part of yourself to relinquish its preferred strategy, it is far more helpful to turn toward this part with love and kindness and ask what it needs. For example, when we acknowledge the People Pleaser’s need for belonging and connection, it becomes easier to find ways to meet these needs that align with our current commitments, such as cultivating new relationships with allies or learning to make requests that might feel scary but ultimately deepen intimacy.

By discerning your underlying needs, it becomes easier to stop clinging to old strategies and choose a new strategy that both meets your needs and supports you to honor your current commitments.

Let’s imagine that you decide to start reaching out to let people know you’re looking for a new job, but instead of sending out emails, you find yourself engaged in a huge cleaning project. When you turn toward the cleaning part (let’s call them the Distractor) and lovingly ask what they need, they tell you that it needs stability. They’re afraid that if your current boss finds out that you’re looking for new jobs, they will fire you or make your life a living hell. So, this part grabs the wheel and cleans your house, distracting you from sending emails.

By lovingly acknowledging the Distractor’s need for stability, you can more effectively choose how to meet this need. You might choose to be more selective about who you reach out to, talk with your boss so that they don’t find out about your plans through the grapevine, or go ahead and send out the emails as planned but offer more love and kindness to the part who is scared.

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