Johnnie Moore

Feeling our conversation

David Bohm and the restoration of the subtle sensing involved in conversation
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Restoring our connection to the subtle feelings in conversation

Transcript of this video:

-The physicist and philosopher, David Bohm, tells the story of a woman who wakes up in the middle of the night, horrified to find herself being choked. And she reaches around in the dark and manages to catch the light switch and switch it on only to discover that the hand that is choking her is her own.

And it’s because of a medical condition. She’s lost the capacity to actually feel where her limbs are.

It’s one of the senses that isn’t on that list of five, partly because it’s got a rather awkward name – “proprioception” but proprioception is the thing that allows me to close my eyes, but still know how to bring the tip of my finger to my nose, because I can feel where my body is.

And it’s a sense that we probably don’t notice much until, as in the case of that woman, it’s taken away.

Now, Bohm uses it as a metaphor, because he suggests that we have lost proprioception of thought. It’s quite a deep point.

I think he’s trying to say we’ve really lost the capacity to notice how our thinking is intimately connected to our experience and how it is shaping our experience, without us noticing it. We’re not noticing it, we’ve lost proprioception of it.

And I’d actually extend his metaphor to suggest that I think we often lose our proprioception of our language and communication.

We don’t really, really notice or feel the full effect it has on our relationships. And I think it’s exacerbated by technology and the internet, which tends to encourage us to feel like we can have more leverage, to use a popular phrase, in the way that we communicate.

It deludes us as to the impact that we’re having and it strips a lot of the subtlety out of it. At the risk of using a second metaphor, I think it encourages us to end up like the character inside one of those giant foam mascots that you see at sports matches.

It allows us to make what seem to be very big gestures, but because it has a fixed mask, this character, it doesn’t really convey a lot of emotional richness. And so we end up feeling actually a bit cut off from reality, even though we think we might be having a large impact.

And much of the literature around things like management and leadership seems to strip away proprioception. I mean, management and leadership really is in the end about relating to other human beings, that’s what it fundamentally requires. But it’s often described with, you know, models and tools and diagrams, pyramids, labeled beliefs on one level and culture on another and behavior on the next.

This rather intellectual and abstract way that I think contributes to taking, if you like, the sensuality, to risk a word, the sensuality out of our communication. But I think in a world that’s feeling a little bit deprived of it, that’s perhaps where ironically and I use the term cautiously, perhaps there’s actually more leverage in the forms of human contact where we’re not trying to leverage people.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

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