I wanted to explore aspects of communication and how it impacts our connection with one another. The word communication is rife with multiple meanings and conflicting interpretations depending on context and beliefs. Ultimately, it’s those very differences which changes how we view and engage in communication. What is the difference between communicating and expressing? Can we communicate without “worrying” about how it will be received? Is there a way to communicate honestly yet still preserve the quality of connection? I hope to answer some of these below.
Communication as a Barrier
Can a mode of communication act as a barrier to forming interpersonal connections or relationships? Possibly, yes. Because while communication is of extreme importance and often discussed as being a critical component of a relationship, what is often glossed over is the difference between Communication (a dialog between two people with respect and trust inherent), and Expression (a monologue of an individual to another or a group regarding their emotional experience). What I have all too often witnessed is a trend of “dueling monologues” versus actual dialog, or to put it another way – two people are busy “Expressing Themselves” and forgoing the critical requirements in communication, that being respect and listening to the other.
It has been my experience that it is a rare person indeed that has the ability to engage in intense yet respectful communication and actually listen to the other, versus waiting for their turn to speak. It is I feel equally rare that one can explore emotions and communicate them with the same depth because it requires several critical things of both individuals:
- being Aware they are feeling a particular emotion
- probing and Understanding those emotions via tracing the “breadcrumbs” (triggers, reactions, root cause, etc)
- developing a Vocabulary to create the linkage between feelings and thoughts
- demonstrating a Willingness to communicate emotions by embracing vulnerability
Simply put, real communication about emotions requires of all involved a practiced exercise in Awareness, Understanding, Vocabulary, and Willingness.
From what I have observed (right, wrong, or otherwise), most people Feel and React; there is little probing of their emotions or even an awareness that their behavior is linked to a particular emotional trigger. Most will choose to distract or deflect the understanding of their emotions – by either bombardment of entertainment or placing blame. Probing requires accepting vulnerability, of which most are scared to death.
Furthermore, our emotions are non-verbal by nature and drives us to Act. Yet civilization has progressed far beyond our emotional wiring, often creating demands of us for which we are ill-equipped to properly manage or govern. We must rise to that challenge – invite the vulnerability of understanding and communicating by engaging the mind with our emotions and so “negotiate” an understanding with others whether through verbal or non-verbal communication.
Feeling versus Intellectualizing
Can’t one share feelings or connect emotionally without needing to be “intellectual” or “cerebral” about it? Yes – one can share and connect emotionally, and these are done without spoken word; and also No – because these are not always emotions but evidence of emotions (which have no real language).
Example, the sharing of a common experience such as the intimacy within romantic love as a couple looks into one another’s eyes. Each will share the quickening of pulse, the flush, possibly the sparks that seem to leap across the air from skin to skin… However, they experience this because it is the BODY responding to chemical reactions; an evolutionary mechanism that forces them to share a common experience and Bond them together and drive towards mating. In other words, they are not sharing the same emotions, they are sharing the same symptoms or similar experiences. This is not the same thing as sharing the same emotion – though we often pretend it is.
Whether holding hands on the beach, walking side by side in the woods, cuddling on the couch during a movie, taking care of an ill partner, morning weekday work & school rituals – these shared experiences are Unique within the individual, and yet still shared common across the spectrum. Caring for another, nurturing another, protecting another… these are choices in our expressions of love. All of these things are how we express and attempt to communicate that love.
But they are also unique in that they are experienced by the individual through their own world view and personal filters. No one truly knows their experience but them, though we try to reassure them that “we understand” because we care and do not want them to feel alone.
In our common experience we are all together, yet individually we are painfully alone.
Fear & Comfort
When we were born, we first experienced being alone; set upon the path toward rediscovering the self and another inasmuch as we can recreate the perfect acceptance and embrace before rejected from the only safety known before our birth. But we know, there’s no going back… When we die, the last moments of life ebb away and our awareness of the outside world recedes, touch is no longer felt but is a lingering recollection of love struggling to hold on, and we are left with only the dimming mind’s eye which can be shared by none other but ourselves.
Ultimately, we are born alone, and we die alone. What lies between is then a matter of choice – the choice to forge connections, the choice to be aware of one’s own emotions and to seek to understand them, the choice to develop our own language to communicate what we feel, and the choice to open ourselves to another in the act of trying to be understood – which we KNOW no one can really do.
Generally speaking, all peoples want what all children desire; to be Acknowledged, Understood, Accepted, and Loved. Yet we have been expelled by the safe warm comfort of the womb, our first experience with rejection. We then attempt to claw our way back to that whole sense of belonging by speaking, emoting, and attempting to connect with others in the world around us. However we try, we are ultimately still trapped within ourselves; knowing that no one can really understand, not live it the way we live it. Yes, there are same or similar enough situations, same struggles, same conclusions; but no one lives in your skin but you. Every reader of the same book is still an individual reader.
That is the fear behind communicating our emotions, being shown what we fear – though there are others around us who love us, we are still alone.
Perhaps we are not all on the same page, but we ARE all reading the same story – of life and the human condition. Each of us reads that story at our own pace, with our own interpretations. If you can embrace this fact of life, that we are all trapped within ourselves, you can leave that struggle behind and instead focus on the common shared experience – the story of joys, wonder, and authentic connections shared. We can then emerge from the self and the pain of being alone, and make the final choice to be vulnerable – know that in our being alone, so is everyone else. And so we have all cried our tears, we are all struggling in our own ways; and in knowing that we’re all together again.
New days, new choices, new connections and in those opportunities, moments of communication that closes the gap of our individuality and loneliness to feel another’s reality, another’s view of the world and even yourself through their eyes. That, however, is only possible once you let go of the fear and vulnerability, and see that is part of the human condition
I wonder, what choices will you make?
Copyright © 2015, Limits Unleashed