Honoring "Subjectivity": "This flower is beautiful TO ME"
We tend to use pseudo- objectivity, pseudo-factualism, pseudo-logic to assert our view of the world over others, to "win" arguments: "Mine is the only, the right, the correct way of seeing. The way I see it is 'the facts.'" This way of communicating either crushes The Other or makes them defensive. It does not encourage person-to-person communication and problem resolution.
Rollo May, a founder of the existentialist tradition in psychology and philosophy (May, R., Angel, E., and Ellenberger, H.F., Eds., Existence, p.63) states:
"Suzuki has remarked that in Eastern languages, such as Japanese, adjectives always include the implication of 'for-me-ness.' That is to say, 'this flower is beautiful' means 'for me this flower is beautiful.'"
Self-Reflection Instead of Reaction: "Owning" Instead of "Blaming"
"You are a f_____b_____!" (to me)
"It's not fair!" (from my point of view)
"You are hurting me!" (Something in me says "You are hurting me!")
"I want to tear your eyes out!" (Something in me wants to tear your eyes out!)
"I am deeply offended by what you have done" (Being the kind of person I am, I am deeply offended by what you have done)
Just these little steps of self-ownership begin to locate our reactions to other people inside of ourselves, to turn them into "felt senses," "intuitive feels" that we can work with in a Focusing way: "What is all of this TO ME?" "What is the feel of this interaction from the inside?" "How is it that this grabs me?" We can begin to become self-reflective rather than purely reactive, completely "controlled" by the other person and our situations.
Similarly , as a Reflective Listener in an Interpersonal Focusing process, we can help the Focuser, the Speaker to "disidentify" from their projections upon The Other and to turn their attention, in a Focusing way, toward the "feel of this interaction FOR ME," the "felt sense" of how this situation is FOR ME.
The Focuser, the Speaker says "He did it on purpose. He is trying to control me!" The Listening Facilitator can reflect, "Something in you is saying, 'He did it on purpose. He is trying to control me!' Can you sense how that feels inside?" Or "Just say 'Hello' to that part of yourself." Or "So the way you see it, he is doing it on purpose --- Can you stop and sense into how that is for you?"
"Dis-identifying" From Our Reaction To The Other
Ann Weiser Cornell has eloquently defined the importance of "dis-identifying" ourselves from the many different "parts" or "aspects" of our felt-experiencing. In her model, as we stand in a neutral position of Presence, not identified with any of the warring inner "parties," we are able to acknowledge, to say "Hello" to, to make space for each of these. And, as we do, we can become aware of the "intuitive feel," the "bodily-felt sense," The Creative Edge of deeper meaning called forth by each.
Similarly, we can use "dis-identification" in separating ourselves from our reactions to other people, finding the "felt sense" within ourselves of an interpersonal situation.
Self-Empowerment and Hope For Communication
This step from reactivity to self-reflection empowers us. Instead of being "hooked," a puppet on the strings of our triggers, we regain the power to change our interpersonal situations: "What is this all about FOR ME?"
Does this mean other people can't hurt you, can't be doing something to hurt you or make you angry? No it does not. It is possible for people to hurt each other, for someone to act in such a way as to hurt or humiliate another person. However, even if this is somewhat the case, screaming with blame "You are_____! You did____!" is not going to reach the other person, allow you to communicate. Even if you are sure you are "in the right," the best way to communicate with the other is from the position of "owning": "Because of the kind of person I am, I saw you as trying to control me --- I'd like to explore that feeling in me and share with you in that way."
A favorite image: Two cats, their hackles up, caught on the brink of attack, each totally "hooked in" to reactivity toward the other. Instead of attacking, one lies down on its back, bares its throat to the other, a posture of peace-making. The other is then allowed to relax, and confrontation is avoided.
So, by beginning to look inside of ourselves for the wider "felt sensing," the "intuitive feel" of our interactions with others, we become equipped with a tool that is not just self-empowering but has the capacity for peacemaking.
Throughout the month, we will explore a variety of methods for finding the "felt sense" in the midst of interpersonal situations and using it effectively, for self-empowering "felt shifts" as well as conflict-resolving communication.