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"Communication is the solvent of all problems and is
the foundation for personal development."
~Peter Shepherd

Communication (expression and listening) leads to understanding... leads to empathy... leads to compassion. Compromise and agreements become possible, the way ahead shared.


The most basic action, in being alive, is to reach and withdraw; it is the basic survival dynamic, to reach out for food or to withdraw from danger. It is also the basis of communication. If sufficient intention is used and another is paying attention and duplicates that which is being put across, then communication is taking place. The basis of communication and interaction, then, is: reach - withdraw; speak - listen; give - receive. If viewpoints are shared through a process of two-way communication, affection and empathy may be built up, resulting in mutual understanding.

In practice of course, people have different objectives and viewpoints in life and these can conflict. "Reach toward" becomes "fight against". Conflict may be between one's self (or any part of one's self or environment that is being identified with, such as parental "shoulds", child insecurities, family, friend, boss, lover, teacher, footballer, politician, pop star, possession, or fixed attitude, belief, idea or feeling) opposing any element of the outside world that is felt to counter the intention of self.

This conflict only becomes a problem if one can't confront (face up to with equanimity) or experience comfortably, the confusion it creates; otherwise it could be handled and the situation viewed (realistically) as part and parcel of the "game" of life. Possible responses to a conflict situation include:

  • Reach TOWARD - when rational it is communication with affinity; when neurotic it is dependence.
  • PACIVITY - when rational it is acceptance of reality, when neurotic it is resistance to the truth.
  • Fight AGAINST - when rational it is to negotiate needed changes, when neurotic it is aggression.
  • Withdraw AWAY - when rational it is to simply give space, when neurotic it is avoidance or flight.
  • Two-way COMMUNICATION - when rational it is to interact, when neurotic it becomes an obsession.

To the extent that these movements are flexible and spontaneous, the individual is free. When they are inflexible and rigid, he has become entrapped. The neurotic behaviors are based on fear.

If one direction has become compulsive, e.g. "towards" may be compulsive between lovers, then the other flows are likely to be repressed, e.g. between the lovers, repressed "against" may include anger, and repressed "away" may include the desire to be with other people. These repressed factors may suddenly and seemingly inexplicably erupt.

If "against" has become stuck, as in an irresolvable problem, this will tend to hang up in time, floating in a no-time rather than in a location on the time continuum of experiences, and cause a mental compaction or ridge of opposing energy flows - a feeling of heaviness and tension around the head.

Creative causation becomes reduced to a fixated compulsion as a safe solution, or defense, to unfaced pain, fear, anxiety, confusion, change or guilt. A solution may involve dominating others, pleasing them or attracting sympathy. It is internally rationalized as being "right" or "ideal" behavior, with other points of view being "wrong". The solution becomes a fixed pattern and the rationalization is a self idealization; these connected ideas are held unconsciously alongside the traumatic experience which originally necessitated them.

When the unconfrontable circumstances reappear, or similar ones, the pattern is replaid automatically, and the person does not realize he is dramatizing reactively or that his true self is "asleep". His views become unrealistic, mystifying and idealizing how the world is or should be.

Early character molding, where parents imposed a set of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts", causes a child to derive a picture of what he should be like to be secure, to get over the basic anxiety of being "not OK". This is later reinforced by other dominant personalities among friends, teachers and so on.

idealizations, and the claims on others that result, conform to this internal "should be" image, e.g. that "people should do things my way because naturally my way is right", or "this shouldn't happen to me because I'm special". Frequently claims contain the expectation that things will come to you without having to make any effort. Indignation when such claims are frustrated may cause self-pity or victim feelings or be repressed and surface as psychosomatic symptoms.

Internal demands on self (e.g. "I should be independent"), result in external demands on others ("leave me alone to do it"), using pride as a defense against self-hate, which is the result of constant unrealistic internal demands that cannot be fulfilled.

False-pride and self-hate are two sides of the same coin: the compulsion to be right, and this is the cause of so much misery and suffering.

When a person is operating on basic anxiety and uncertainty about his real capability and worth, failure to live up to his idealizations leads to unconscious self destructive impulses and actions, symptoms of self-hate. Such things as recklessness and drug abuse, as well as self-contempt ("No-one could possibly love me"), still further demands on the Self ("I shouldn't get upset"), self-accusations ("I'm just a fraud"). Morbid dependency or "acting victim", are means to get reassurance by refusing all responsibility.

Detachment may be seen as a solution to this conflict - anything to cut off sensitive feelings, "leave me alone"; not giving a damn about anybody else; or "Don't try to change me".

The self hate may be projected against other people, ideas, institutions or life itself, with generalizations used to protect the untruth from scrutiny, e.g. "politicians are stupid", or "there's no justice in life".

Or in an effort to "be right" idealizations may be identified with, a false pride, resulting in a never ending search for glory - being perfectionist, ruthless, arrogant, devious, etc. - to prove the ideals are truth. Because they are not founded on reality, however, life is likely to be disappointing and self-hate reappears.

On the other hand when a person operates with a confidence based on realistic self-knowledge, he will not mind making mistakes and will be willing to learn from them. Integrity, wholeness of self, is based on respect for self and others.

The basis of communication in a relationship between two persons or more is these factors, which work together:

Communication + Understanding + Empathy

If you communicate well to another, you obtain good understanding and empathy in the other person for yourself and your message. If you comprehend clearly, and have empathy for the other's viewpoint, then you are listening well and are in good communication. If you use empathy in your communications, you will obtain better mutual understanding. So if you make one of these factors better, the other two improve too.

Communication, Understanding and Empathy add up to a sharing of reality - the picture or map of the other has been received exactly as it was intended.

Communication is a flow of energy, that reaches and withdraws between two or more people, as they share their individual viewpoints and agree upon a shared reality. The source of this flow of energy is the originator of the communication; it reaches out to the receiver and then withdraws, as the receiver then responds with his or her own communication. The quality of the communication is demonstrated by the understanding and empathy obtained between the parties.

Empathy does not depend on liking what another has to say, nor agreeing with it; instead it is an acceptance of the other person's viewpoint. Commonly, if a person disagrees with another's opinion, or dislikes their views or behavior, then a breakdown in the relationship will occur, an upset and maybe a parting of ways; at the least a sense of frustration may occur. But none of this is necessary if you adopt a more spiritual viewpoint, that of empathy with the other, in which you are tolerant of the other person's views and can understand them - even if you do not much like nor agree with them, nor wish to share them.

The essence of relationships is communication; and yet, even between people who care deeply for each other, communication sometimes becomes blocked. In the enthusiasm of the initial courtship, a person who generally has a poor ability to listen may be motivated to change this in order to attract the partner, but later on returns to his or her habitual ways. So at the start of a relationship it may not be recognized that important communication skills, such as the willingness and ability to ask appropriate questions and to listen effectively, are not part of the person’s normal behavior. Eventually, there will be a price to pay...

A satisfying relationship with another person requires good communication, mutual understanding and empathy. If there is a significant drop in one of these factors, e.g. we disagree and have an argument, then an upset ensues. An upset occurs when there is a sudden departure from what is wanted or expected. Such upsets inevitably have emotional consequences: ranging from less enthusiasm, through boredom and hostility, to fear and eventually to apathy. So the effect of upsets is cumulative; a small upset may be easily forgotten but many such instances, or a particularly painful experience, will likely never be forgiven - unless the upset is resolved in the present time by new and effective two-way communication.

Misunderstandings between people are very often due to poor communication skills. When a couple are unable to effectively discuss their feelings and ideas together, their relationship may eventually break down. Issues such as financial arrangements, family visits, pressures at work and contribution to home maintenance are common ‘hot spots’ in which failure to disclose feelings, or when those feelings are not genuinely listened to and understood, can lead to tension or serious upsets. Perhaps the ‘hottest’ issue is sexual response, since sex is such an integral aspect of a loving relationship.

For the body-mind's natural sexual response to function correctly, a relaxed state is necessary. If there is emotional tension between a couple, or if there is internal fear and anxiety about sexual performance, then the nervous system cannot switch into the parasympathetic mode required for sexual arousal. The solution in this situation is better and more open communication between the couple, to let each other know how they are feeling and to have a mutual acceptance of the other without blame or recrimination. After all, that is what a loving relationship is about, and sex as an expression of love is far more exciting.

Another factor is that many men have little clue about their partner's sexual response. This isn't taught in school nor in the movies. Women can become resentful and eventually give up on the matter of receiving sexual pleasure. Sex becomes a cold ritual or is abandoned completely, as the man (who doesn't understand) is simply not in proper communication with his partner on this issue.

As men get older, often the ability to respond sexually is no longer like it was in the teenage years. The man may feel guilt and anxiety about his sexual performance, and even avoid sexual relations as a consequence. To help overcome this barrier, many have turned to Viagra supplements to boost their arousal. But these are expensive and unnatural pharmaceuticals. I would recommend primarily to begin to develop more intimate communication within the couple - this in itself can be a "turn on."

OK, that's enough theory - let's now begin with some practical exercises, done with your partner...

Return to Contents

Continue to the next page, Exercise 1

Also see: Top 10 Studies that Show the Importance of Communication Skills


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