Book Review

by:  Diane Lemanski and Susan Neal

 


"Why am I afraid to tell

  you who I am?  I am

  afraid to tell you who I

  am, because, if I tell you

  who I am, you may not

  like who I am, and it's

  all that I have..."



John Powell

 





The theme of this book is the art of good communication. Perhaps even the importance of good and open communication. Something that we learn to do so early in life, that
connects us to one another, seems natural.
Yet, as we develop, mature and interact with other humans the “natural” is replaced by hidden innuendos and twisted versions. Why wouldn’t we provide young students (preschool/elementary) with more tools than just a dictionary? How amazing would it be if we incorporated the knowledge presented in this book as well as this course into all levels
of education.
 


Introduction





The word communication implies something made common; ideas, emotions, our innermost thoughts are shared between two people.

 

Since humans are interacting with other human beings and their environment, what defines us is always changing.

 

Every interaction affects us; changes us. Powell suggests we are always changing. If you know me today, you may not know the same person next week. 

Understanding the Human Condition

How beautiful, how grand and liberating this experience is,when people learn to help each other. It is impossible to over-emphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood." 

Dr. Paul Tournier, M. D. 

 

 

 

 





Being completely open and honest also leaves us vulnerable. As a result we sometimes get hurt. We establish defense mechanisms to protect ourselves.

 

 Powell describes how these defenses form patterns of action and reaction that are like masks or roles we play in an attempt to appease others. Honest self communication is too intense and threatening.

 

The danger is in losing who we are between the different roles we play. 

Understanding the Human Condition

How beautiful, how grand and liberating this experience is,when people learn to help each other. It is impossible to over-emphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood." 

Dr. Paul Tournier, M. D. 

 

 

 

 





An interaction between two people can be described as having a stimulator and a responder. The analysis of the interacting people shows that either participant will be acting in one of the different ego states: parent, adult, or child.

 

Parent - superior, protective; supplies for the inadequate other

 

Adult - adequate himself; relates to other adults as equal

 

Child - inadequate; needs help and support

 

Each of us is capable of functioning is all of these states and in fact we do, depending on our physical or emotional needs.

Understanding the Human Condition

I can help you to accept and open yourself moslty by accepting and revealing myself to you. 

 

 

 

 





Our choice of which ego state we function within is influenced by our individual and social programming. That internalized programming sets up patterns of action and reaction to social encounters.

 

How our parents interacted with us as we grew up may program how we act. Were they coddling or too strict? How did we react to their approach? It is likely they were consistant and that plays out in our minds over and over. That type of conditioning response comes into play in our adult interactions.

 

Our culture influenced our choice of ego state through programming as well. We were trained to react to certain situations in certain ways. This is referred to as our accurtured self. As we grow and mature, the deliberated self emerges as our own convictions replace programming.

 

 

Understanding the Human Condition

I can help you to accept and open yourself mostly by accepting and reveealing myself to you. 

 

 

 

 





Resorting to games

 

In this context, the roles or masks we put on during our encounters are part of the games played to shield or protect our true self. Unfortunately they prevent honest communication with each other.

 

It is human nature to want to win at games. To accomplish that we must practice. If we practice one of the ego states too well, we are forever trapped in that state and we condition others to respond.

 

Playing games also means there are losers. Those who cannot be honest and open, cannot bare their most private self. 

 

Self reflection of patterns of our actions and reactions is one way to develop more open self communication style.

 

Understanding the Human Condition

I can only know that much of myself which I have had the courage to confide in you.

 

 

 

 




 


Powell tells us that there must be a balance between

our interiority and exteriority in order to grow.  

 

Interiority symbolizes exploration of self and 
experiences with acceptance.  Exteriority refers to contact with the world outside of ourselves. 

Powell explains that at opposite ends of the
interiority and exteriority spectrum 
are the extreme introvert and the extreme extrovert.


The introvert is only concerned with himself while

the extrovert continually pours himself out with no time given to reflection.

 

 

 




Growing as a Person

"A growing person is self-renewing... as new as each new day...
Study his face and hands, listen to his voice...look for change...
it is certain that he has changed."




 

 
To achieve this balance for growth we must

     examine and work on both our interiority and our  
     exteriority.

 
Our interiority must be accepted as far as our physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities.

This acceptance allows us to trust our abilities and empowers us to be open to opportunities for growth without fear.  

Our exteriority extends beyond ourselves and is
open to the world around us.  This openness is achieved through meaningful contact with others
and involves listening, having empathy and giving love freely.  



 




Growing as a Person

"A growing person is self-renewing... as new as each new day...
Study his face and hands, listen to his voice...look for change...
it is certain that he has changed."




 


 The fully functioning person does not repress but
 is able to balance and integrate his emotions.

 This person is not transformed by atmospheres but  
 rather transforms them.

 This person is an actor, not a reactor and...

 

 

 


Growing as a Person

"A growing person is self-renewing... as new as each new day...
Study his face and hands, listen to his voice...look for change...
it is certain that he has changed."

 


-  does not bend to every wind that blows.

-  is not effected by the meaness, impatience
    and anger of others.

 

 - listens, but does not surrender to own emotions.

 

 

 





"A prominent psychiatrist proposed that all personal maturing (damage and regression, healing and growth) comes through our relationships with other. This is contrary to our wanting to "handle it ourselves."

 

"It is certain that a relationship will only be as good as its communication." 

 

True and authentic  communication can only occur when we totally trust each other. We need to feel that we can open ourselves to each other without the fear of judgement or rejection.

 

Can I tell you what I think?? .....

     feel, value, desire, hope for, believe in, fear,            hate, judge????

 

My exterior reflects my interior - that is the meaning of authenticity as a person.

Interpersonal Relationships

"To refuse the invitation to interpersonal  encounter is to be an isloated dot in the centre of a great circle...a small island in a vast ocean."





Powell decsribes two types of communication: subject-object relationshiop and "encounter" relationship.

 

Subject-object relationship

loves things - uses people
superficial

 

This communication is isolated rather than an experience. There is no personal meaning but rather a social politeness. Living totally in this framework leaves one unfulfilled and lonely.

 

Encounters

 

loves people - uses things
union, partnership, harmony

 

This type of communication is a special relationship where each party has a secure interest. It has been described as an 'ontological communion'; fellowship or intimacy.

Interpersonal Relationships

"To refuse the invitation to interpersonal  encounter is to be an isloated dot in the centre of a great circle...a small island in a vast ocean."

 





The five levels of communication: your willingness to go outside of yourself.

 

Cliche` conversation: Not real communication at all. There is no personal sharing as each remains behind the mask worn as protection. It is the kind of conversation at a brief meeting on the street or the coffee shop. The author related it to the words of Paul Simon  The Sound of Silence.

 

Reporting the facts about others: One offers nothing personal nor invites anything in return. It involves gossip and narrations.

 

My ideas and judgements: Cautious communication as if testing the waters. Checking for the acceptance of the listener.

 

Gut level: Feelings and emotions; what is coming from my stomach (gut) as well as my head. A true personal encounter.

 

Peak communication: Based on absolute openness and honesty especially the union of marriage. This level is unique and is never a permanent  experience.

Interpersonal Relationships

"To refuse the invitiation to interpersonal encouter is to be an isolated dot in the centre of a great circle...a small island in a vast ocean."





'Rules' for gut level communication

 

Since this is the ideal level for greatest personal growth and the revelation of our true selves, it is the level we should strive to operate under to avoid "emotional divorce."

 

Rule 1: "Gut level communication (emtional openness and honest) must never imply a judgement of the other." In other words, do not judge the intention or motivation of one another's emotions; do not try to find blame.

 

Rule 2: "Emotions are not moral (good or bad). Feelings of fear, jealousy, anger, or love are not in themselves good or bad, just a fact.

 

Rule 3: "Feelings (emotions) must be integrated with the intellect and will." Feelings of fear, jealousy, and anger, or love must first be filtered and evlauated in our mind before we decide to act on them. 

 

Rule 4: "In gut-level communication, emotions must be 'reported'." If we don't speak out (report) our feelings we may act them out. It is better to reveal them without judgement, maybe with some explanation. Kept inside they may manifest in a tantrum or some phychosomatic reaction (headaches, stomach aches, rashes).

 

Rule 5: "With rare exceptions, emotions must be reported at the time that they are being experienced."

Obviously both the transmittor and the receiver must be respectful in this situation. As the author did not have a specific example here, it can be assumed that persons on this level of communication would determine the content of the disclosure.

Interpersonal Relationships

"To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage."





 

Powell reminds us that almost all the pain and
joys in life involve emotions and that most of our
conduct in life is the result of emotional forces.

Unfortunately, most of our conflicts are the 
result of those emotions as well.  He emphasizes

that how we deal with our emotions will either

make or break our adventures in life.

 

The fully functioning human is in touch with their
own emotions.  This awareness of
emotions; however, does not imply surrendering to them.

Balance is the key!  


 

 




 

Dealing with our Emotions

"Whatever my secrets are, remember when I
entrust them to you, they are part of me." 





 
Consider the following tips that Powell gives
us to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy
reactions for increasing our understandings of our emotions in the following scenario:

A discussion between a friend or family results
in differing opinions with the result of raised

voices as well as blood pressures...

                     Healthy Scenario

1.  Be aware of your emotions

     Detach yourself from the disagreement 
     momentarily and ask yourself what you are
     feeling.
    



 


 

Dealing with our Emotions

"Whatever my secrets are, remember when I
entrust them to you, they are part of me." 





                         Healthy Scenario


        2.   Admit your emotion  
             
Take a good look and assess its power.

        3.   Investigate your emotion
              Ask yourself how did it get here and where
              did it come from?


        4.   Report your emotion
              Replay events with just the facts!

 

        5.   Integrate your emotion
              You've listened, questioned and reported it.
               At this stage it is time to decide the
               right way to proceed...



 

Dealing with our Emotions

"Whatever my secrets are, remember when I
entrust them to you, they are part of me." 





                         Unhealthy Scenario


        1.   Ignore your emotional reaction  
             
        2.   Keep denying your emotions

        3.   Continue to focus on rebuttal strategies

        4.   If you blow up and become incoherent...
              be sure to blame the other guy and for good
              measure add something about their 
              personality flaw.

        5.  Continue to deny your emotional 
             involvement.  
             It's easier that way.
              



 

Dealing with our Emotions

"Whatever my secrets are, remember when I
entrust them to you, they are part of me." 





Ego defenses are "compensations cultivated to counterbalance and comouflage something else in us which we consider a defect or handicap"

Ego defenses are used to repress things we cannot express--too uncomfortable 

 

Reaction formation -  overcompensation for an opposite inclination

Displacement -  indirect expression of impulses that cannot be shown directly (anger at a spouse redirected at kids); scapegoating

Projection – disown our short comings & blame them on others

Introjections – characterize ourselves with good qualities of others

Rationalization – justify our actions; self deceit; corrupts integrity; rationalize failures

Human Hiding Places:

Methods of Ego Defense

 

"To understand people, I must try to hear what they are not saying, what they perhaps will never be able to say."

 

 





Human Hiding Places:

Methods of Ego Defense

Here is a powerful summary from the end of this chapter.

 

It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage, to pay the price...One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.

 

Morris L. West

in The Shoes of the Fisherman





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Catalogue of Games and Roles

The book concluded by outlining some of
the games and 
roles we play to hide ourselves.
We've included a few to give you an idea of
their substance in the video below. 
 

 








Reference:

Powell, J. (1999).  Why am I afraid to tell you who
         I am? London: Fount.