Communication as Communal-Creation

by Mental Health, Philosophy, Resilience

Communication at its core, as the root word notes, is about communion, or the interchange of thoughts/emotions. Communion can be seen as the union of community, or any group beyond an individual. In other words, when you engage in any form of communication you create a world together, a product of each person’s interaction with information, the history of individual experiences, how all of that is recalled for each person, and the internalized perception of the other person’s actions. There is no way to communicate in such a way as to remove all doubt or potential for error. We exist in others’ minds as internalized projections of our own narratives, reshaped and molded through the lens of the worldview and assumptions of the other person. We simply do not exist for others the way we do for ourselves. Issues of miscommunication, where what is said is not what is heard, can be addressed in part by a principle I’ve taken to calling “gap-filling.” (Mentioned in entries “Absence of Knowledge Is Not Presence of Truth” and “Filling in the Gaps: Communication Failure in Relationships”) Working to change ignorance to knowing, methods of rationality and dialogue are seen as inadequate, leading to the person simply filling in the ignorance with their own narrative. In practice, something has been said that doesn’t match an assumption and one’s internal vision of what is true provides a quicker feeling of security than introspection, reflection, and speculative inquiry. 

The practice of “gap-filling” often occurs in relationships when one’s insecurity triggers have been flipped. Seeking safety and attempting to avoid suffering, people gravitate towards what is previously known, which most easily fits with their core vision of relational reality. Examples are numerous and most easily noticed when on the outside looking in, noting how often someone comes to an understanding that you, being on the outside of the relationship, had seen already, whether it be that someone has been cheating or had fallen in love. Since all of us at one time or another, is on the inside of those connections we see of others, rueful humility should direct us to acknowledge that we too have done the same.

Communication or communal-creation is a beautiful and powerful facet of human existence. There is no greater feeling than that engendered by manifesting new worlds when bonding with another. That feeling can blind us to the true complexity of what is happening each and every time we seek to continue building that bond, from chats over coffee to group gatherings to family dinners, romantic dates, and sex. The effortlessness with which these actions contribute to the building of the worlds will come skidding to a stop when the accumulation of filled-in gaps becomes overwhelming.

Communication is not two separate and context-free individual entities lobbing words at each other, it is an interplay of energy and information within a context-full reality. Have you ever looked at a couple and marveled at the way they finish their sentences or simply seem to “get” one another and yet others don’t grasp the exchange? This is why. Recognizing the inevitable creation involved in communication will help in all connections, in whatever form they take.

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