Parable of the Sower: 8. Communicate in a Sacred Manner


The idea for this post came to me from the series of workshops called Sacred Communication run by Rev. Henrietta Byrd at our Unitarian Church, and which I have been going to for a little over a year.   The starting point for these workshops is the Golden Rule:   do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

If you are coming from a Western religious tradition, you do this because the other is as much of a creation of God as you are.  If you are coming from an Eastern religious tradition, you do this because the other contains as much of a divine spark of God as you do.   In either case, no matter what side of the religious and/or mythological divide you find yourself on, the ethical endpoint should be the same.

But in Rev. Byrd’s Sacred Communication class, we turned the Golden Rule inside out, meaning that you need to treat yourself in the same way as you are supposed to treat others:   with a combination of compassion or tough love, as appropriate.   One way of starting to go about doing this is to ask yourself the important question:   what is that bothers you the most?    In other words, what are your pet peeves?   This should be something more like a character trait, and not some trivial thing insisting on the correct way to pronounce the name “Goethe”, for example.

When doing this exercise, most everybody picks something about other people that they don’t like.   Rev. Byrd pointed out two things after it was done.    First of all, she didn’t say she wanted people to pick something out about other people that bothered them; she just asked for people to pick something out that bothers them period.   Usually people pick characteristics of other people, and not their own foibles.

However, here’s where things got interesting.   Most people when they analyzed what bothered them about other people found that the source of the annoyance wasn’t in the other, but in one’s self.    Often times, we don’t recognize something in ourselves for whatever reason, and we project this onto others.    This is called the “shadow”, and must be confronted if we are to have authentic communication with ourselves, which includes having communication with our unconscious.

Normally when we think of the unconscious we think of the primitive parts of the mind that come out during dreams.   This is partially true, but the unconscious can be something that is potentially within our conscious awareness that we have simply refused to consciously recognize.    This process starts early, as in the following example from the talk The Neurobiology of Shadow done by Dr. Keith Witt in the The Shrink and the Pundit segment on Jeff Salzman’s “The Daily Evolver” website.   Shame is an emotion which everyone thinks of as negative, but it actually has an evolutionary purpose.   Let’s say a toddler is in the kitchen and is about to do something dangerous, like stick a fork in a toaster or light socket.   The mother is, say, on the other side of the room.   What does she do to stop the child?   She says “NO!” in a voice which is abnormally loud and usually abnormally low in the vocal register.   This creates a negative wave of energy that hits the child and temporarily stuns it, which accomplishes the task of stopping the child from doing the deed which could be a danger.    How does the child process this?   The emotion of “shame” comes up as the child perceives itself temporarily cut off from the normal flow of the mother’s affections.    Being cutoff from this wellspring of loving attention is difficult for the child, and even frightening.  Now once the child stops the behavior, the mother may come over and reassure the child that everything’s okay, but that the child must not do that dangerous thing again.   However, let’s say the child is angry for the mother cutting off its supply of emotional nourishment, so to speak, but rather than getting angry at the mother, which may not be perceived as being “within the rulebook” of toddler behavior, the child may displace this anger, and project it on the mother.    Mother is angry at me, the child may think, rather than at the behavior it has just shown.    This shows how the “shadow” begins, because the child is unable to face up to its own anger at his or her mother, which is not allowed.

In any case, by the time one is adult, the shadow has a lot of power, and it is the job of psychoanalysis to help reduce the shadow’s power by allowing the conscious mind to recognize more and more that the shadow is really oneself, hence the psychoanalytical saying, “where it is, there I shall be”.   In the original German, what we call the ego is the “I” and what we call the Id is the “it”.   In translating the German terms to English, the Latin terms for “I” and “it” were used, causing the concept to seem more scientific and less intuitive than the original German terms are.    But the process of psychoanalysis is basically that of “redeeming the shadow” by showing what you have originally labeled to be “out there” in the third person as an “it” is really something within you, that is therefore really in the first person as an “I”.   The process in Integral Theory of recognizing one’s shadow through dream work, or by Rev. Byrd’s method, by seeing what bothers you or excites you out there in the world, is sometimes called the “3-2-1 Process”.   You recognize a simple or a person that bothers you, and you describe in the 3rd person.   Then you go to the 2nd person, and you have an imaginary conversation with that person or thing.   Then you finally go to the 1st person, and imagine that person or thing having a conversation with you, but this time you take the part of the ostensible “other”.   It is very powerful, and yields tremendous insights.

And this is part of the power of the Sacred Communication workshops, in that we learn to deal with what bothers us in ourselves.   Of course, when you recognize what bothers you, what do you do about it?   You use creative visualization to create a new reality where you are now different.   For example, last year I came to Chicago looking for a new position in my newly chosen career as a project manager.   I was looking to be hired, so I was looking for leaders or bosses to whom I could act as a helper or assistant.   Henrietta said no, you have to see yourself as the boss.   What she meant was that I had to see myself as the boss or CEO of my own life, of my own career.   I had to take charge.   With that attitude, I was to walk into meetings and do activities with the idea that, rather than following a leader, that I would be a leader that others would follow.

In the course of about six months, I found this turnaround in my psychological narrative started to bear fruit.   I had three leadership opportunities come my way:   1) at church, I was made a member of the Board of Directors, 2) at Toastmasters, I was made an Area Governor, and 3) at the Project Management Institute, I was a made a Chief Project Manager for their main professional development event called Professional Development Day, AND I was made the Director of Certification for all of their certification programs.   It showed that the way I communicated with myself had an effect on how others perceived me, and my reality changed accordingly.   This is why when you want to change the world, start by changing your way of addressing the world by seeing it as a challenge rather than a battle, but then change your way of addressing yourself.   Rather than drawing closer to others by helping them fight their battles, see yourself as a leader rather a soldier, and you will start to draw others towards you!

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