Part of the Non-Violent Communication that Marshall Rosenberg teaches includes understanding anger. Anger, Rosenberg believes, is never the problem. The problem is that the angry person is supporting what he calls the Domination System. The Domination System consists of four parts:
- Suppression of self
- Moralistic judgments
- Amtssprache (this expression was used by Nazi officials to describe a bureaucratic language that denies choice, with words like should, have to, ought)
- The crucial concept of deserve
This system trains people to think and communicate in ways that support the system. In the Domination System there are only two types of people: nice (passive) people or bullies. When you are in a position of authority you are justified in being a bully. You don’t call yourself a bully – you call yourself an authority. In domination systems authorities are given legal power to bully through the system of deserve, in which punishment, rewards and other forms of coercion get you to do things.
Rosenberg believes that when we buy into this system we have to make people feel bad about themselves and be penitent. The whole idea is you have to make people realize they are wrong, so you need a language that does that, you need moralistic judgment that implies evil or bad, with words like: good, bad, right, wrong, abnormal, incompetent etc. Rosenberg writes, “You have to make violence enjoyable for domination systems to work.” Bullies feel great when they are bullying. Employers trying to intimidate employees with nasty letters and scare tactics feel justified in their bullying because they are supporting the domination system. They feel good when they are punishing. Employees sitting back passively doing nothing out of fear feed the system. We allow the bully to feel justified because we think we deserve whatever we get. All of this is part of the domination system.
So, what do we do? We break this cycle. Do not suppress who you are; do not judge; do not succumb to the bureaucratic language that denies your freedom; do not under any circumstances believe that you “deserve” what the domination system is telling you nor believe that someone else “deserves” what the domination system is giving them.
Now, back to anger. If you are angry then you have a need that is not being met. Instead of perpetuating the domination system by lashing out in anger, stop. Take a deep breath and figure out what you need. Use non-violent communication to express that need while still respecting the person in front of you. We can break free of anger and the domination system if we decide to focus on our true nature: compassion.