This essay focuses on some of the factors controlling the clarity of our communication with others. The idea is that there are different ways of learning and that personal agendas shape what is said and how it is understand. Five speaker-listener characteristics are described in detail and their implications are addressed. The focus is on mediumship and how these ways of learning influence lucidity.
What our audience hears us say is too often different from what we intend. Probably all of us have had the experience of explaining something, say giving instructions about how to do something, and then seeing the person do it wrong. “Why?” you might ask of the person. “I thought you said to.…” is likely the answer.
The ability to communicate an abstract concept is essential for anyone wishing to share ideas about the paranormal. And as it happens, virtually every idea about the paranormal is abstract, and lacking a common vocabulary, the words we use are often laden with unintended meaning. What does spirit mean? Is spiritual healing just putting a hand on someone’s forehead and praying out loud to God? Are dead people demons if they talk to you? Is that person crazy for hearing dead people or just a witch?
How we answer questions like these depend on our listener’s upbringing. A person who has spent most of a lifetime cloistered in a very orthodox religious family will likely hear words like spirit differently than a person raised in a Spiritualist household. A technical metaphysician will answer differently than a causal seeker. On the other hand, a casual seeker will likely be confused by a metaphysician’s answer.
While I am no expert in communicating abstract ideas, I do have experience in communicating complex ones. From my experience, the “art of communication” is all about understanding that:
- People have a style of learning.
- What people read or are told is different from what they understand and understanding is always based on their worldview.
- People pay attention to or ignore ideas, depending on how the information is delivered, their interest and learning style.
- A mismatch of agenda impairs communication.
- Worldview changes in small increments; learning hardly ever occurs in great leaps.
The message I would like you to take away from this essay is that sharing information means understanding your audience and perception requires attention. It is especially important for mediums, healers and society leaders to be mindful of how their words are received. For instance, mental mediums speak under the cloak of authority as holy people speaking in the name of the dead which is unconsciously attributed to them by the general public. The result is that mediums have extraordinary responsibility to manage their communication so as to avoid unintended implications and exaggerated expectations.
Here, it is important to picture yourself outside of the paranormalist community. We all know what you mean because most of us have direct experience. We are insiders, but people in mainstream society do not know what you mean. Consider them literalists who will hold you to the literal meaning and implication of every word.
1. People Have a Style of Learning.
Just as people are born left or right-handed, people are born with basic personality traits that tend to influence their behavior. Using the avatar model for a person, our entangled personality brings a personality style via prior understanding and inherited urges, but the human body also influences our decision-making because of the more dominant human instincts.
Personality styles are cataloged and studied in psychology as a means of understanding human behavior, and have been adapted to teach sales people how to relate to customers. A useful categorization is shown in the Personality Styles diagram below. 1 They are:
Analytical: Thinking, thorough, disciplined; always a student of the subject
Amiable: Supportive, patient, diplomatic; healer and caregiver
Driver: Independent, decisive, determined; always thinking about the next step
Expressive: Good communicator, enthusiastic, imaginative; often the opinion setter
Each basic style is typically further divided so that a person might be seen as a Driver-Analytical or a Drive-Expressive. The point of these styles is that people likely begin dealing with a situation from the perspective of one of these styles. Styles are probably associated with your intelligent core (I Am This).
Astrology is based on the assumption that behavior is influenced by the astrological conditions at the time of the human’s birth. Astrological influences are probably associated with your human body (I Think I Am This).
Astrology and styles are not being recommended here, and are used to demonstrate that we do tend to display personality characteristics that are evident at a very young age and which tend to shape our lives … and how we relate to others on the Internet.
Of course, the “secret wisdom” of the diagram is that, practicing the middle way, we can move toward specific behaviors as appropriate, but return to balance without attachment to the outcome of our actions.
A Driver, for example, tends to be impatient with people who do not get to the point. While they are important to have around if you want to get things done, they tend to scare Amiables. Expressives help to keep Drivers on track and Analyticals help to keep Drivers on the right track.
For a second example, Amiables connect a community with its purpose as its feeling, sensing aspect; however, that influence must be balanced by the other three aspects for the community to thrive.
The Internet brings people together according to their interests, but there is usually no way to separate people by learning styles. As such, it is common to see all four styles represented in any one thread, often to the dismay of the person who started it. This diversity is important, but can be damaging if communicators do not act accordingly.
2. What people read or are told is different from what they understand and understanding is always based on their worldview.
To keep this one simple, I will make my point and ask you to follow a recommended link for an essay that explains the details. Here, I will say that it is becoming increasingly evident to psychologists that we unconsciously process what we sense and only become aware of the results of that processing. The translation from what is heard, felt or seen is based on our worldview. Worldview represents personal reality. It is like a database that is filled by our parents, teachers, local culture and the media. 2
A hint as to the rules for this unconscious processing of information—what I refer to as the Perceptual Loop—can be seen in a person’s personal style, as described above. The Perceptual Loop is an unconscious process that compares a possible understanding of incoming information with what is in worldview. As modeled, the result of this iterative, streaming process is: “accept” which is presented to conscious self in a form worldview understands; “reject” which results in the information being ignored; or, “conditional acceptance” which changes worldview and presents new understanding to conscious self.
If our listener is accustomed to hearing about our subject from the perspective of, say a strong religious upbringing, then a statement such as “I heard from my loved one last night” my well be heard more in terms of possession. The person may hear the words correctly, but they will likely be understood from the person’s personal point of view (worldview).
The founder of a system of thought I was once involved in was a technical metaphysician and his way of explaining things agreed with my way of learning. He made his transition and the man who took his place spoke about the same ideas in more “feeling” terms. One phrase I remember from the new leader is “The golden heart.” Well, okay, I have no idea what that means. That was the beginning of the end for my time with that group.
In the “Golden heart” example, I literally have nothing in my worldview to help me visualize what that means. My personal style leans toward Analytical with emphasis on Expressive and all I am sure of is that “Golden heart” does not register with me.
The point here is that we unconsciously color what we experience to make the experience more familiar. Sometimes this may result in our listeners understanding the message in a very different way than what was intended or maybe even not registering the information at all.
3. People pay attention to or ignore ideas, depending on how the information is delivered, their interest and learning style.
This is a consequence of Item 2 and is referred to as “Switching” by the author of First Sight Theory. 3 Perception is modeled as an unconscious streaming process in that it produces a flow of impressions to the conscious mind (awareness) as information is received.
It is important to note the incremental nature of how awareness comes to us. A continuing process such as someone talking or information from reading a sentence, emerges into the conscious mind as a gradual “coming to understand.” If the reader is a Driver and the information is written by an Amiable, the Driver’s attention will likely switch between trying to absorb the message and wondering why the person didn’t get to the point faster.
For instance, it is difficult for a Driver-Analytical to sit through a video to access information. For them, video presentations just take too much time to get to the point. In fact, a five-minute video seldom conveys more information than can be written in a few paragraphs, so unless some animated or reality segment is required, an Analytical and certainly a Driver will probably not sit through a video. There is also the danger that some people will resent the perceived waste of time.
The same can be said for explanatory articles. Magazines intended for popular consumption such as “Scientific American,” typically begin articles with a too long “It was a sunny day and I admired the person’s home as I drove up…” kinds of dialogue. If an article is a reasonably technical discussion about immunology, for instance, why would the reader be interested in where the immunology expert lives or if the sun was shining?
Your audience will listen to you with rapt attention, but take a close look at their eyes. Are they glazed over? Be aware of your purpose and get to the point. In technical writing, a good introduction, or better, a good abstract may be your only chance to communicate your point. Video may be easier for you, but a few written paragraphs might result in better communication.
Also, think about what you want from your communication. Do you expect your target audience to refer back to parts of your presentation? Would you like your work to be cited as a reference in an essay?
A second implication of switching is that we are conditional about what we focus on and therefor what we experience. During conversations, we likely, rapidly move our attention from what we are supposed to be experiencing to whatever we are working on … maybe lunch. It is important to be mindful of this because it has a lot to do with our ability to learn.
Remember that this is an unconscious process and simply deciding to focus on the conversation seldom helps. Controlling the unconscious processes is a way of life, as our perceptual processes are moderated by habit.
If you are developing mediumship skills, for instance, the ability to suppress switching will greatly enhance your lucidity. While switching is an unconscious process, it is driven by worldview and that can be changed over time as you would change a habit. (See item 5) Intention is a function of your conscious self. As you intend to focus your attention, you signal to your unconscious, perceptual processes what is important to you, but it takes time to develop that habit.
4. A mismatch of agenda impairs communication.
This is all about point of view. An example is what I have experience when trying to explain to a skeptic editor why the Rupert Sheldrake article in Wikipedia is biased. The skeptic’s agenda was to make Sheldrake look like a fool, and saying he is a biologist would indicate he is qualified to discuss morphogenesis. My objective was to have the article describe the man in a balanced manner. No matter what was actually said, the outcome was already determined by the skeptic’s agenda and the overwhelming number of skeptics backing him.
Remember Thomas Harris who told us in his book,”I’m OK-You’re OK,” that real communication between two people could only occur if both are in an “OK” place in life.4 This is also true of agendas. What are the two parties trying to get out of the exchange?
Mismatch of agendas tend to produce the phenomena of skepticism. The less what we say agrees with what our listener is expecting from us, the more likely our listener is to reject our words. The result is a skeptical response that emerges into our listener’s conscious awareness. Everyone is potentially a skeptic. It depends on how well worldviews match.
People always have tells that give them away, if only we are paying attention. For instance, it is possible to anticipate people who might righteously attack others base on their history. The recent attack by two parapsychologists on one of our mediums is an example of a totally irrational response instead of the true and expected levelheaded report indicating that phenomena had been witnessed under stringently controlled conditions. The investigators had substantial access to the medium during an extended series of séances. Because phenomena were produced despite the stringent controls and distractions, the medium reported feeling the investigator’s agenda was to understand the physical phenomena and would produce a positive report. Yet, the lead investigator and another individually wrote reports demonstrating their probably unconscious agenda. Both articles mostly ignored data collected via the prearranged protocol, and instead, focused on innuendo and hearsay from outside of the protocol to support “what if” explanations that were not evident in the data. In effect, if not in fact, their agenda was to debunk.
This was predicted, as the lead investigator had telegraphed his real agenda about survival concepts on numerous occasions prior to the study.5, 6
An interesting story portrays a group of friends sitting around a kitchen table, deciding if it is time to drive into town for lunch. During the exchange, there is a lot of “well, okay” kind of comments, rather than “Okay! Let’s go!” comments. At the end of the story, it turned out that none of them really wanted to go, but because they had previously agreed, they felt obligated. In that story, all had the same but unspoken agenda not to go into town. They did not clearly express their position and mistook the position of the others. This story was designed for corporate employee training in office communication.
The moral of the story is to make a conscious effort to let others know what you are thinking. Try to pause the conversation long enough for you to think about what is happening. Being honest (candid) about your objectives will greatly facilitate communication.
Conversely, be mindful of the people you are communicating with. I know skeptics have a “If mainstream science does not say it is so, then it cannot be” agenda in everything they say and do concerning what they see as pseudoscience. If you have read much of my writing, you will know that my agenda is to teach about survival. When you read my writing, and if you are aware of this, then you will know to look for hints of the underlying purpose of what I say.
Most of us intend to say what we mean but we often have unconscious drivers that shape our selection of words. Take a moment and consider whether or not you are understand what is being said and what you are saying. That pause can make a huge difference.
5. Worldview changes in small increments: learning hardly ever occurs in great leaps.
This is a governing principle for persuasive expression. Based on First Sight Theory  and an the Hypothesis for Formative Causation, 7 worldview resists change, but does accept small changes if they are an evolution of existing belief or understanding. (Also so see the Perception essay.)
In practical application, we tend to readily experience something if it agrees with our worldview. Remember this is an unconscious process based on our prior conditioning, so if the experience is not recognized by worldview, it might be outright rejected in the unconscious process. This means it will not be consciously experienced. If it is possible for the perceptual process to imagine how the experience might agree with prior conditioning, that “maybe” outcome can evolve worldview to accommodate that slight difference.
It is the “maybe” outcome of the perceptual process that results in learning. It is the rejection of information that does not agree with worldview that leads to skepticism and breaks down communication.
As a practical application of this concept, I talk about a model of reality (cosmology), many parts of which are likely new to people. People will likely reject it if they try to absorb it all at once. To facilitate its understanding, I tend to use some of the concepts in my essays. For instance, you may have noticed that I speak of personality (I am this) and our human avatar (I think I am this). As I read my audience, I expect that this avatar relationship will make sense and will not be outwardly rejected. This is good because it is an important element in the cosmology. As such, prior exposure to the avatar concept will make understanding the cosmology a little easier if it is encounter it in the future.
An interesting aspect of alien abduction reports is the frequency in which rabbits are involved in the accounts. The ability of the perceptual process to imagine an alternative perception of an experience to get it to agree with worldview is thought to result in substitutions in our perception, such as rabbits for little gray aliens. This is a main cause of what Spiritualist refers to as coloring. Coloring is usually an unconscious, honest process but sometimes a conscious one.
The streaming dream experience looks a lot like our unconscious mind attempting to find a story for sensed information that our worldview will accept. This ability of our mind to tell us a story emerges into our conscious awareness as understanding that is possibly only like but not the same as what was intended.
This is also a factor in what is sometimes referred to as storytelling, in which a person tries to make a supposed paranormal example or mediumistic message makes sense by concocting a plausible explanation. A creative story can bring meaning where there is none intended.
If you are training to be a mental medium, be aware that what you sense via psi functioning is possibly translated by your perceptual processes into your personal symbols based on your point of view. Incremental learning is involved, so for me, it has been a lifelong process of learning to recognize how my unconscious perceptual processes present mediumistically sensed information to my conscious awareness.
Automatic writing, pendulum work, even physical phenomena of the séance room is subject to this translation of original intent into the medium’s or an interested observer’s understanding. Here, it is important to note that the medium works with the sitter and both contribute to perception. This co-creation of experiences appears to be a factor in all forms of trans-etheric influence.
What I refer to as the “Intention Channel” is the link of influence between conscious awareness as source of intention and unconscious as servant of intention. In deep-trance mediumship, the Intention Channel between the medium’s conscious and unconscious awareness appears to be idled in some way so that the external communicating personality is able to express its intention on the medium’s perceptual processes. This transfer of the source of intentionality appears to be necessary for clear lucidity in mediumship which produces uncolored message and/or phenomena.
As a final note, it is apparent that many of us are able to spontaneously enter into a relatively deep trance and remain functional. This usually occurs without our realizing the change in state. For instance, when we pause to remember something, for a moment, we suspend many of our mental processes in order to increase lucidity. This translates as clearer access to the unconscious perceptual processes. Acknowledging to ourselves that we are likely functional trance mediums is one way to increase routine lucidity.
This essay began as introspection as to why I am uncomfortable exchanging comments in social media such as FaceBook. It is evident that people there see the world differently, not right or wrong, just differently than me. On close examination, it is clear that many others in the groups are not communicating very well because, while obviously thinking they are making a good, well-explained point, they are not. Yet, a few others seem to think they did. Obviously there is much more to conversation than simply typing out a comment.
On the Internet, what we say through our writing is all we are to others. Others do not see our smile or always understand if we are kidding. This is especially true if there are unexpected cultural implications attached to our words.
The Internet is a most powerful tool for community building. But to use this tool, it is important to be mindful of the underlying dynamics that shape how our words are understood.
This is doubly true of serving others via mediumship. Try to listen to what you say from the perspective of mainstream society. Many people believe in some things paranormal such as ghosts and heaven, but they subscribe to what mainstream science teaches them. Part of what they are taught is to be suspicious of what the mainstream does not understand.
The rest of the world, with which we seek legitimacy, is watching, so let us take care how our “like-mindedness” is understood by others.
- Merrill, David W. and Reid, Roger H., Personal Styles and Effective Performance. l.: Chilton Book Company, 1981. See: http://www.sage.edu/centers/asset/ITK_SocialStyles____New_Download.pdf
- Butler, Tom, “How we Think,” Etheric Studies, 2014, http://ethericstudies.org/essays/how-we-think/
- Carpenter, James C, Ph.D., First Sight: ESP and Parapsychology in Everyday Life, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4422-1392-0 (ebook). See: http://firstsightbook.com
- Harris, Thomas A. M.D., I’m OK – You’re OK, the book,1969, http://www.drthomasharris.com/
- Butler, Tom, “The Felix Study: Personal Attack Under Cover of Science,” Etheric Studies Essays, 2014, http://ethericstudies.org/essays/the-felix-study-personal-attack-under-cover-of-science/
- Butler, Tom, “Critique and Trojan Horse Websites,” Etheric Studies 2014, http://ethericstudies.org/viewpoint/trojan_horse_websites.htm#Associations_as_Bad_Citizens
- Sheldrake, Rupert PhD., “Morphic Resonance and Morphic Fields,” Rupert Sheldrake Biologist and Author. http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/morphic/morphic_intro.html