Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Babels of Emotional Suffering

I've come to realize in one of those rare "Eureka!" moments that the vast majority of our verbal communication is unconscious. By "unconscious" I mean a lack of awareness of the distinct emotional undercurrent within our communication. Whenever we get caught up in conceptual abstractions, ideas, opinions or views, and we are attempting to communicate these verbally, we are almost always unconscious of what we're communicating emotionally. In these widespread unconscious communications, we are communicating fundamentally the underlying current of the weight of our unique and individual suffering.

What do I mean by that? Well, each of us has a core of suffering that is unique to us; it comes from the mass of unskilful handling of all the difficulties and challenges of life. This suffering has an emotional core that is felt on our physical bodies, but only if we are quiet enough to perceive it. When we communicate unconsciously we transmit this suffering to our listeners. Most listeners are unaware of the weight of this emotional suffering in the beginning, due to a pervasive socially conditioned lack of emotional awareness. Over time, however, most listeners will feel exhausted or "drained" at having listened to any one of us for any extended period of time.

Similarly, notice how when we speak with certain very positive and upbeat individuals we feel "energized" instead of drained. In these situations these individuals are consciously or unconsciously communicating to us an undercurrent of positive emotions, such as enthusiasm, joy, friendliness and even acceptance.

The question then is: how can this unconscious and unskilful communication be transformed to become more conscious and skilful? By cultivating an acute emotional awareness. First, of one's own emotional communication and intent, and second, of the emotions and intent behind other's communication. As simple as this sounds, this is no small task given our deep and pervasive conditioning. However, the rewards are great: we will have arrived at the extremely rare condition of penetratingly clear, calm, and conscious communication; with the much rarer ability to really hear and understand what people are saying.