[Draft Version 2013/01/28]
[Practical elements of the platform listed below consist of:
- Unspokens (below)
- Jerry Jud's Skills and Principles of Loving
- Non-Violent Communication (NVC)
- The Queen's Code (book by Alison Armstrong)
Some of you know that I am currently living in a commune near Asheville NC… and that I have been living communally for about 10 years now. Living in community is challenging at best, frequently blissful, and sometimes hell – but this is now my life. Having “drunk the cool-aid” there is no turning back for me now.
Today is the first time, however, that I am able to clearly articulate why. I am calling this:
Human Super-Powers: Manifesto for a New Social Order
1. What’s important?
The inquiry starts with a simple question: what is important to human beings? What are the things that bring us the most happiness, fulfillment and joy? What really matters to us, at the end of our days and of our lives?
Friendship. Family. Sexual intimacy. Working together on important projects. Dancing. Food. Music. Parties, celebrations, nature, appreciations, love, innocence… etc. etc.
What do these things have in common? They are all free (or very low-cost) and immediately accessible. Think about it: almost all the important things in life are free.
Ergo: Let’s conduct an experiment here. Let’s start by spending as much time developing these finer things as we do fighting and complaining about our work, our children and spouses, our health, the political and economic system, the environment etc.
Let’s start by putting some energy on our greatest resource: each other. Let’s just try putting some pleasurable attention on each other – listening deeply, openly appreciating and enjoying each other, working on fun projects together, creating art and music, and taking care of each other.
Let’s start now, in this very moment, and let’s see what might come from that in terms of the larger (and necessary) structural changes.
This is not my idea by the way. It’s very much along the lines of what Jesus was thinking. IMHO.
2. The Problem of Human Relationships
So, why has this not already happened? Given the infinite opportunities for human enjoyment and progress that are available (many just one email or phone call away) – why are we, as a group, so miserable? Has it occurred to anyone besides me that the struggle, boredom and loneliness of our lives is as much a systemic as it is an individual problem?
And might we try even briefly to give up the pretense of happiness? [Might this even be the reason that Mother Theresa calls us Americans the "loneliest country in the world"?]. And even when one of us achieves that lofty goal… how happy could they really be with most people around them miserable?
Let me put the question another way: why are human relationships – which are for most of us the greatest source of joy and fulfillment available to us — so problematic?
Perhaps I am over-simplifying, but the problem occurs to me as obvious: we don’t know how to listen to each other. We are unwilling or unable to put enough positive attention on each other to get to the understanding, the love, the shared solution and the creative action.
Why? Because no one taught us, of course. Many of us are so full of unexpressed, unfulfilled or even unconscious needs that it’s like a cry in the wilderness… nobody is listening because of the noise of all the other cries.
We are, many of us, functioning at a level of emotional intelligence that is … scary.
3. The Human Super-Power
You know what the human super-power is: communication and collaboration. This is the ability to create a “whole that is greater than the parts”. We humans are actually, geniuses at it – this is a good thing. We have accomplished so much.
And yet it has not gone so well, really.
It’s time to up the game. We have to get more real. We need now, to have the difficult conversations, expose the tender parts, speak our craving to love and be loved, and hammer-out some agreements for how we can work together. These will not be perfect agreements – human relationships will never be entirely easy or painless – but they will be good enough.
And then we shall party, and the next day we shall begin again.
Who is in?
4. Gaining Emotional Intelligence: the “Unspokens” Process
[Draft Version 2013/01/28]
“Unspokens” are an important and very powerful emotional communication tool. They are derived from a similar process invented by Victor Baranco, and are also related to the Harville Hendrix “Is there more” exercise. Here is my take on it.
An “Unspoken” is any emotion or response to another person or to an event that has not yet being expressed. An Unspoken can be positive or negative, big or small, it accurate or imaginary (projection), etc. The problem is that in many (if not all) cases, unspoken emotions kill intimacy, community and the possibility of creative (and pleasurable) co-operation.
This is true for both positive and negative unspokens. We may not give the positive unspoken (appreciations) because we don’t want to be “inappropriate”, or we don’t like being vulnerable, letting people know how much we like them, etc. We don’t give the negative unspokens because, well… generally its because we are fearful that it might make the situation worse. And this is a valid fear… but there is another way, which is for two or more people to have an agreement around the benefit of a communication structure that clears unspokens.
There are two types of unspokens. The first is used towards another person when the sender (the speaker of the unspoken) can clear the emotion in one statement. I will say to them: “I have an unspoken, will you hear it”. If they know what you are talking about and agreement has been given, they will normally say “yes”. If not they might agree to visit with you later.
Once you have permission, you will deliver the unspoken. It could be positive – example (to one of my housemates): “Julia, I appreciate the attention you are putting on our bathroom”. Julia will not usually respond except with an acknowledgement “thank you”. Or the unspoken could be negative – example negative unspoken (delivered to all my housemates): “I feel like I am dragging you all kicking and screaming into greater emotional transparency”. The housemates acknowledge with a “thank you” and that ends the cycle.
Julia will usually NOT comment or respond immediately – in fact an immediate response to an unspoken is expressly forbidden. Why? Because (1) The unspoken is for me to clear something – I don’t want them to get hooked-in (reactive); and (2) I am not claiming any truth in the matter of my unspoken. It may or may not be true that I am “dragging them” into this or other. The language may be totally off, the underlying feeling may be immature (self-centered, lacking in perspective)… none of that matters. The point is to get it out and then clear it.
You can think of a unspoken as an emotion that has been attached to a judgment or belief system. I deliver my unspoken, frankly not sure either of the maturity of the emotion or the accuracy of the belief system. And this is really the benefit of the formal communication structure (agreement): you are telling them in advance that what you are about to tell them may or may not be accurate, and ideally this makes them less defended and more open to you.
The communication is essentially “I have this feeling, and these thoughts, and it’s causing me discomfort and making me feel distant from you – I am telling you now but I don’t know what it means and what the solution is, so please help me see the truth of it”.
Let me illustrate with the example. Let’s say that I do actually feel and believe that my housemates are dragging. But is it true? Well, let’s think.
I am basically telling them that I feel like I am working too hard in relating to them and that I want them to be more forthright and direct. However this could be my imagination (that I am “working too hard”). What is “too hard” really, why should I not be “working hard” here? I could also be simply suffering from our inherent human tendency to over-value my own contribution and under-value the contributions of others. It’s also possible that the reason they are dragging is that they have a ton of unspokens about me. It could be that I am a real pain-in-the-ass and that is what is blocking progress in this group. etc, etc. There could be so many more ways of looking at this situation that I am not aware of – ways that would be way more empowering for everyone.
My point is – until someone has started the conversation, the pain will continue.
In a prepared audience you can also deliver an unspoken in the midst of a conversation. Let’s say something is troubling you in the moment as you are speaking to someone, but you have not fully identified or clarified that feeling. You can say “this is in the nature of a unspoken, but I would like to say…”. They will understand immediately that you are, essentially, asking for attention around an emotional issue, and if they are wise they will give it. They might let your statement sit for a minute, savor the opening you have created and appreciating you for it, and then perhaps feeling their own pain (reaction) at what you said and give you a few of their own unspokens. And you go back and forth on this (ideally) until clarity and harmony emerges.
Which brings us full circle: unspoken are a process for sharing quality attention with others. They are so, so powerful, and so, so unused.
And the reason this kills me is because… any of us may just be one communication away from the Kingdom of Heaven. And we don’t do it. Very sad.
It is also possible that we are a million – or a billion – communications away from the Kingdom of Heaven… but who is counting when we are having fun ?
5. Activating the Super-Power
Now let’s follow this thought experiment to the end. Imagine a world where everyone understood some of the principles and practices described here and in the resource list above, and this quality of communication was a matter of course. What might happen then? What is the larger meaning of this in human culture and evolution, particularly in the progress of emotional intelligence?
It may be – just consider the possibility – that we are on the threshold of the greatest cultural revolution in human history – a revolution of love.
Imagine this. As we open up – ask for the things we want, have the important conversations, declare our love and our values, increase the quality of our attention on each other… as we follow George Fox’s advice (“walk cheerfully over the earth, answering that of God in every one”)… we may actually be compensating for each other’s developmental blind-spots (lack of wisdom, perspective, discernment, lack of emotional intelligence and patterned distress).
We may be actually participating in the creation of a kind of collective super-human… one that has all of our combined qualities and that is self-correcting of our faults.
And as this “super-human” emerges and gains in power, as each of us becomes, as it were, an ambassador for this collective super-being… as we speak to the hearts of everyone we meet, and listen back… they will follow-us. They will throw away their crutches and follow Him (this collective super-human). Margaret Mead’s “small group of committed people who are changing the world” will become a larger group, then larger still.. and will eventually include everyone on the planet.
Think about it. (Once again – I apologize for biblical references but I really cannot take credit for this idea, lol)
So – Who is in? (If you are, please comment or share!)
[See also related article: This is the true joy of life...]