Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim
Attuning and Communicating on the Level of the Head, Heart and Gut
It is stunning to meet high-level couples who have grown, developed and evolved to a level of being conscious and aware enough to deeply yearn to be fully seen, thoroughly heard and essentially known by their mate. What is sweeter and more touching and endearing than to be fully understood by another human being?
Robert Heinlein, author of the science fiction masterpiece Stranger in a Strange Land, coined a new verb in this book for beginner’s consciousness: to grok. Heinlein portrayed grokking as a fundamental way of knowing that is holistic, intuitive, direct and immediate. Although “grok” has no definitive meaning or definition, possibly the closest is to fully get, understand and dwell within another’s consciousness. An ancient meaning of the word “understand” gets at it-to “stand under” another’s experience and world, like a mystic or artist enters into another’s direct awareness and perception. It is a rapport felt when you are so on the same wavelength with another such that each separate one seems to fade into a shared oneness of consciousness or co-consciousness.
To completely grok another in being fully seen, heard and understood is not only the ground of being in all relationships, it may well be at the core of our heart’s desire as human beings. A fair number of people seem to agree that all there is are relationships. Being grokked is a seamless descriptive pointer or signpost not that one merely sees or hears us; it’s rather that one sees and hears who we truly are. It’s not our appearance, mask or persona that is seen and heard, rather these are seen through and beyond to who we actually are. Being completely grokked evokes a non-separate and undivided oneness. Grokking is a wholly shared co-consciousness-two or more people sharing a similar experience of awareness. Grokking is to risk everything for everything. Grokking seems more available with rising psycho-spiritual growth, maturity and awareness.
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When you are lonely, disconnected and feeling alone, dispirited, self-loathing and perceiving yourself to be an outright fraud, failure and alien merely visiting this foreign planet, no one sees, hears or knows who in the blazes you are and what makes you tick. Anyone with a heart who has experienced this despairing and desperate place of angst would empathetically and compassionately feel profound sadness, even begin to well up with tears. How can you be heard if you don’t have a voice? How can you be seen if you don’t have eyes to see? How would anyone be able to know or understand you?
This state is indeed hell, that is, in the Judeo-Christian theological tradition meaning separation from one’s body, feelings, other people, nature, the world, the universe and divinity. Is there anything bleaker, lower and more dispirited than the anger-filled powerlessness for males and the hurt-filled helplessness for females that this state of nothingness evokes? Isn’t it common to then cover it all up with frustration, animosity, violence, abuse, hatred, addiction, mean-spiritedness and ugly acting out?
So what is heaven in this context? Being completely grokked is precisely heaven, that is, the non-separation and non-divided oneness within the Judeo-Christian theological tradition. To completely grok another in being fully seen, heard and known is not only the ground of being in all relationships, it may well be at the core of our heart’s desire as human beings. A fair number of people seem to agree that all there is are relationships. Being grokked is a seamless descriptive pointer or signpost not that one merely sees or hears us; it’s rather that one sees and hears who we truly are. It’s not our appearance, mask or persona that is seen and heard, rather these are seen through and beyond to who we actually are.
When anyone freely offers mindful attention and presence, doesn’t this naturally draw you into their field of consciousness? Doesn’t this evoke feeling seen and cared about, especially when it happens to be the one we see and know ourselves to be that we don’t think anyone sees? Who doesn’t feel cared for when we are seen for who we are in the present? Being accurately heard and ever more known and understood is activated with a depth of presence in the moment-to-moment actions and interactions of life. When there is a resonance of values, common interests, chemistry and shared cultural backgrounds, it is akin to finding another kindred soul, one who is a beautiful spirit and rhymes with our being. This experience is recognizable by most everyone and it is hardly an everyday event for most anyone.
When you are fully accepted with your “crazy” (i.e., the ego or mind as a false self) and all your idiosyncrasies, then there is room to be seen, heard, and understood. We build trust organically. Then we naturally want to spend time with this person. This is equivalent to reconnecting to the best of ourselves.
Human beings can build the capacity to communicate on the levels of the head, the heart and the gut, each being its own developed intelligence. First and foremost this connects us with ourselves, and then allows us to reach out to another fellow human being who has also developed the same capacity. One can bring the willingness and capacity to grow, like developing bodily muscles, and consciously attune to head talk, heart talk and gut talk.
As anyone who has been on the planet for some time can tell you, an “intellectual understanding” just isn’t enough in life. Seemingly you can know everything on the level of head and know nothing on the level of embodied living experience. Pure head talk without corresponding actions is empty talk, although it may be priming the pump for actions later. A wonderful Zen aphorism says: “To know and not to do is not yet to fully know.” When an insight or awareness is embodied, it is obvious to all and requires nothing more.
Head talk has its place in the empirical world for conveying data and other information that makes a difference in both the public and private realms of living. Head talk comes across as powerful to the degree that the information being conveyed is timely, accurate and balanced. It is further enhanced when the person authentically inhabits the present moment and is sincere in their delivery. Head talk becomes more credible when the words match the actions of the speaker. In the field of Psychology such communication is often referred to as “verbal behavior” given that the words match a pattern of consistent actions. Terms like authentic, trustworthy, honest, sincere, dependable, solid, and having integrity describe this pattern of behavior.
Heart talk operates on another plane altogether. When one speaks on the level of the heart, there is a conscious attuning to our emotions and ability to relate in the present. It need not take any specific form, though it often is spoken more slowly, with unwavering eye contact and deep sincerity. Heart talk is largely devoid of ego, that is, the separate or fictional self, and all its shenanigans and nonsense. Someone talking from the heart does not carry grudges or past biases, non-existent in the here-and-now. Talking from the heart, you have no need to be right. Further, there is innocence in speaking from the heart that accepts knowing nothing, other than the honest truth.
On a more primal level is gut talk, coming from the center of one’s being-the gut. Some traditions call this center of our being “Hara” or “belly power,” the instinctual core of who we are. When one speaks and lives from Hara, a palpable power and presence is evident. You may think the drama of great passion, loud hysterics and upsetting tears to be most prominent with gut talk, however experience points elsewhere. More often gut talk arises when the false self or ego is so distraught humbled and at its wit’s end that it gets out of the way long enough for simple gut-level truth to arise. This is talking on the level of perceived survival, whether that is on a physical level or the survival of a relationship, an emotional connection, or security on any level.
Rather than a moment of triumph, gut talk is typically a moment of abject failure, utter hopelessness, and empty surrender. It is a moment of shedding all resistance to facing, owning and speaking the straight-up truth of what is true in this moment from the gut. Gut talk cuts through all the niceties of being politically correct, bureaucratic rules and regulations, and decorum. Such moments of gut talk are uncommon human interactions, yet can be life changing.
Head talk reflected in actions draws attention and interest, beginning to open the door of being seen, heard and understood. Heart talk is even more impactful acting like a catalyst in conveying that another human being has found us, where we genuinely live inside, and who we truly are. On the deepest levels, gut talk helps us take responsibility for our lives on the primitive levels of internal survival and security. In our weakest, most vulnerable moments, gut talk acts as a powerful catalyst for us to shed our egos. When head, heart or gut talk matches behavior, something real and honest is occurring that will long be remembered. Who you truly are can be seen, heard and understood inside this here-and-now moment. Head, heart and gut talk can be life-changing and empowering-leaving you space to be your own authority in life. All these levels of talk are forms of grokking or a sharing a oneness of consciousness. In a shared awareness of two or more separate ego-minds dissolving, we get to experience moments of communion and community, when we become more porous ingesting life.
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