(Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also sometimes referred to as Compassionate Communication, and is based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands.)
The new apostolic reformation (NAR) movement is popping up in the news from time to time, partly due to its dramatic approach to Christianity. The spokespeople believe the world is in such dire straits that our problems can only be blamed on demons. Actual living demonic spirits that are afflicting people in the fields of politics, business, religion, education, media, and the arts–pretty much across the board. The only solution, they believe, is to make most or all people on earth candidates for heaven through belief in Christ.
According to my understanding of NVC, demons are not even a part of the equation of human life. What the NAR movement calls demons, we might see as tragic behaviors which are done unconsciously and habitually. These behaviors stem from the pain of unmet needs, from old hurts and unhealed wounds. The behaviors are often motivated by old programming from childhood, from hurt, anger or resentment, from looking after one’s own needs without equally considering the needs of others. To use judgmental terms, one could say these behaviors are selfish or greedy, crazy or dangerous.
There may be an unmet need for power, and rather than sharing power with others fairly, the person exercises power over others. There may be an unmet need for financial abundance and enjoyment, and instead of sharing the wealth, it is hoarded or controlled, even if it causes others to lose much or all of their money. There may be a deeply unmet need for self-esteem, and a gross misunderstanding of what authentic self-esteem is. The tragic, unconscious behavior that results could be seeking a political office to get a sense of self-importance, of mattering. That deep hunger for material self-worth and power can make one vulnerable to payoffs and corruption, because those vices give the illusion of importance and connection with powerful people who matter.
Instead of driving demons away or performing exorcisms, in NVC we simply refer to “jackal” mentality as a figure of speech–not as an actual entity or spirit. Whenever someone feels a painful emotion (such as anger or fear) due to unmet needs, we sometimes say their jackals are howling to call their attention to the unfulfilled needs. One can act out or speak in jackal language, which is the language of blame and judgment, diagnosing or evaluating others, insulting and name calling, pointing out what is “wrong” with others who are not meeting our needs. Or, one can act or speak out in “giraffe” terms…expressing nonviolently about one’s painfully unmet needs and feelings, making a positive action request of others to help get those needs met.
When people don’t acknowledge their own painful, “jackal” emotions consciously, they tend to act out unconsciously in a jackal way repeatedly, habitually. This kind of tragic behavior can snowball over years and grow to proportions that may appear monstrous or even demonic. It could also easily be categorized or labeled as a “mental illness.”
In NVC philosophy, we don’t make any judgments about demons, craziness or mental illness. We look at it compassionately, as the pain of unmet needs, and the tragic, unconscious acting out of that pain. By labeling or judging these people as demonized or mentally ill, their pain is likely to be intensified, and the behaviors may become even more pronounced.
They may be simply needing to be heard deeply, with empathy and compassion. They may simply need some clear understanding of their unmet needs. They may need strong, caring emotional support to help them see how their actions or strategies are not really fulfilling their deeper needs, and certainly not the needs of those around them.