In The Talmud, the guide for understanding the Jewish 613 mitzvot, there is a saying we see the world not the way it is; We see the world the way we are.
For me this is interpreted that my first reaction may be informed more intensely by my previous experiences and personal history, values and roles, than by any actual information.
In order to get to neutral and respond rather than react one needs to know one’s own frame of reference and paradigm. This is especially true when interacting with others who haven’t the same frame of reference. I’ve been writing about the importance of slowing down the unconscious habit reaction and that continues to be very important. In addition consider what you may be bringing to the situation.
Angle of vision is affected by perspective. The same is true for our perceptions.
Many miscommunications happen because people think they are talking about the same thing when indeed they are talking about different things. Part of that comes from how much inference we use when communicating.
Another important part is that words, phrases and expressions don’t actually have globally accepted meanings. Language is imbued with feeling and energy. We learn to speak and write in the context of our early childhoods. So we actually link extra meaning to words and phrases. These take on the contextual information as well as their formal definition.
An example of this that is generalized more globally, is a colloquialism. One I used to struggle with was a french one Je ne sais quoi. The meaning is: that certain something – but if you interpret literally the words in the phrase they are: I don’t know what. So the phrase has imbued extra meaning that then got generalized to the global language.
Most of us have many words and phrases that mean more than the dictionary definition, that have expression, and charge and intensity for us when we hear and use them. This is a source of Major miscommunication. Because we also presume that everyone is using the words the way we Know them. But they aren’t.
There is a lot of work on this subject from the fields of Phenomenology and Existentialism. Thought and Language by Lev Vygotsky is a discourse on how children think out loud first, that the child talks through problems and situations out loud and then it becomes an internal conversation – thinking.
My favorite two books on this subject are On the Way to Language by Martin Heidegger and Words as Eggs, Psyche in Language and Clinic by Russell A. Lockhart. These are dry but fascinating and pithy.
So it is my observation and assertion that each of us has our own language and successful relationship is the process of learning each other’s language. Individual’s in long-term relationships, children and caregivers, and close siblings (especially twins) have their own shared language . This increases the intimacy between the shared language group and excludes those outside the group. We see this in high school where small groups develop new words with personal meanings that hold them together as a group and exclude those who don’t know the language.
What words mean to us, how we see the world and communicate within it, these things are dramatically affected by our experiences and our interpretations to those experiences. That’s a frame of reference.
Knowing yourself means understanding what has meaning for you and how much of that is transferable to and/or agreed on in your relationships, work, groups and situations.
To begin to interpret meaning in your own language and that of those close to you – notice when you have/hear emotional expression with specific words. Try to follow the thread of that emotional expression back to its source. It can be revealing.
See you tomorrow.
February 6, 2010 at 3:30 am
Words allow us to communicate with each other however imperfectly. But people like mathematicians, musicians and artists often ‘think’ in images without words. Mental images allow them to ‘see’ relationships amongst things that aren’t defined by words. So sometimes it can be a little difficult for them to describe what they see in words. After all, Mother Nature and all around us exists whether you speak a word or not.
February 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm
Dave: I think about this from a right brain left brain perspective. The left brain kind of has the market on words and verbal language. Whereas the right brain sees connections and images as whole gestalt’s of things with knowing but not necessarily words connected. Makes for beautiful music. I have spent my life knowing things because I am so right brained and having to learn the language to define the thing so I could be understood by others. A satisfying skill now but painful and frustrating skill to develop. I really appreciate your comments and am so pleased that you are following the blog.Beth
February 8, 2010 at 6:17 am
I heard good things about you and came to see what was here.