Who is the CAUSE of MY Anger?

Loren Mielke
4 min readSep 22, 2017

NVC Challenge: Episode 14 (1hour6mins-1hour11mins)

Continued from Episode 13.

Important housekeeping before we begin: As I write this, on 20.09.17, I am officially on day 14 of my 30 day NVC challenge, which I created for myself. I committed to listening to 5 minutes of an NVC online training daily and then sharing what I learnt in a blog post. I envisioned this taking no more than 30 minutes a day. No matter how many ways I’ve tried to skin the challenge, it’s taking me more than double that time to complete. I need to make an amendment to honour the momentum created to see this challenge through the 30 days, and beyond (as I wouldn’t have completed the online training session by 30 days!)

My amended commitment: I will dedicate at least 30 minutes daily to listening to the training and compiling the blog, and will post as soon as completed, which will translate to a post more likely every 2–3 days.

In the last blog, we were invited to re frame four challenging emotions, and see them as ‘four friends’, who signal to us when we are disconnected from our needs. Anger, shame, depression and guilt can each be our alarms to a thinking that creates violence on our planet. When we are aware, we can then choose to transform this to a thinking that is conducive to peace.

Clockwise from top left: Anger, Guilt, Depression, Shame.

So let’s get practical!

Anger is a great feeling to teach NVC, especially when working in groups. Marshall shared an experience he had with a group of prisoners he was working with on this subject. He could sense that one of the inmates seemed particularly angry, and asked him for the STIMULUS, what someone else had done to trigger his anger?

The prisoner shared that he had made a request for job training about two weeks ago, and have not yet received any feedback.

‘And what was the CAUSE of your anger?’ Marshall enquired.

‘I just told you!’ The prisoner impatiently responded.

Marshall went on to explain, ‘It’s not what others DO that makes us angry. It’s how we choose to THINK that does, it’s what we TELL ourselves that makes us angry. What were you telling yourself?’

Core principle: People can’t MAKE us angry

Through the years, as Marshall has traveled across the globe, he has had first-hand experience of this principle, most especially to places where there has been a lot of violence. For example, when he worked with groups in Rwanda, where everyone attending had had at least one person in their family killed.

  • Some were so angry, their thinking was consumed by retaliation and all they lived for was vengeance;
  • Others, who had also endured horrible things, weren’t angry. It wasn’t that they were suppressing or denying their anger, they weren’t thinking in a way that created anger.

These experiences emphasized to Marshall that not even something like having a person in your family killed can make you angry. Another person’s action may be the STIMULUS, but it’s our thinking that CAUSES the anger.

After reflecting on Marshall’s question, ‘What are you telling yourself that is making you angry?’ the inmate responded, ‘I’m telling myself that it’s not fair, that I need the training I’ve requested, and they are ignoring me and treating me as if I’m nothing.’ He went on sharing more statements and judgements of the prison officials for their lack of responding to his request.

Walter Wink, a Christian theologian, well known for advocacy and work related to nonviolent resistance, explains in his writing that we have been educated for many years to make violence enjoyable. All that’s needed is to think that there are bad guys who deserve to suffer for what they have done, and this can make it enjoyable to create pain for them.

Although anger is a signal to an unmet need, without awareness, our thinking does not connect with that need, and instead defaults to judging the other person, the stimulus, in a way that creates the anger. It’s thinking in a language that disconnects us from our needs and makes violence enjoyable that is the CAUSE of anger.

‘The thinking that causes anger is a tragic suicidal expression of an unmet need.’

Marshall Rosenberg

To be continued Episode 15

Personal insights from Loren: It never ceases to amaze me how much value I receive from just 5 minutes a day with Marshall Rosenberg. I found today the explanation of the link between what we choose to think and tell ourselves, and the resulting emotions we experience, immensely powerful. Especially in light of the examples used, the conversation with the prisoner, reflections on Rwanda and Walter Wink’s writings. I’ve noticed I’ve been much more aware of my internal dialogue since, and when I’m experiencing challenging emotions, asking myself, ‘Loren, what are you telling yourself?’

This is the online training program I’m listening to as I journey through this challenge:

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Loren Mielke

Passionate about living consciously, connecting and contributing meaningfully