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The Integral Map - Part 5 - Speech


Ah, what a juicy territory!  This is where care actually happens.  Offering compassionate service will require entering into relationships with people.  Integral care is not about “doing to”, but rather about “being with” (as Loren Mosher has suggested about good mental health care) .  So it is important to look into what is involved in this miracle of being human.  Just like the other territories, what is included in speech is vast, so I will only be able to suggest some of the major aspects.

In order to enter any kind of relationship there has to be some form of communication.  But before the meaning of language even enters the picture, we can and do experience profound communication with each other in terms of body language and vocal sound.   The following are some of the non-verbal ways that we communicate with each other:

  • Body language

-  Posture
-  Movement
-  Gesture
-  Proximity
-  Facial expression
-  Eye contact

  • Vocal sound

-  Volume
-  Pitch
-  Rate
-  Rhythm
-  Tone

Based on these things alone we are able to interpret and understand much about what is going on with another person as well as their intention toward us.  We also communicate many things about ourselves in these ways. This can involve quite subtle perceptions, perhaps not always translated into conceptual understanding, but significant nonetheless.  So we need not see time spent with others as empty or meaningless, simply because we have not talked much.  This can be a common misconception of people who want to do some form of “counseling”.   Integral care can happen with very few words, as long as we are truly paying attention to the other person, and being clear about our own non-verbal expressions.

Enter language, and communication becomes complex to the limits of the imagination.  Some of the first things we can notice have to do with language itself, such as:

  • Actual language (i.e. English, Spanish, French, etc.)
  • Vocabulary
  • Slang
  • Syntax
  • Frequently used words or phrases
  • Idiosyncratic usage and colloquialisms
  • Accent

When caring for others we can strengthen our communication by paying attention to how people talk and making an effort to understand and use their language.  This doesn’t mean mimicking people, but it does mean picking up on the words they use and what meanings they hold for that particular person.  We will see later that this becomes very important when talking about diagnoses.

Relational Pattern
Beyond body language, vocal sounds, and spoken language, we can notice patterns or styles of being in relationship.  There are endless ways to consider this, but one important underlying factor has to do with our way of balancing (or not) the fundamental human drives for both autonomy and intimacy.   How do we assert our distinct personhood, while also being connected with others?  It seems that problems arise whenever we over-emphasize one or the other of these needs.  The following relationship patterns could be seen as expressions of how we deal with autonomy and intimacy, or in integral terms- “agency and communion”.

  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • Generosity   
  • Greed
  • Introversion
  • Extroversion
  • Conflict resolution strategies
    • Passive
    • Aggressive
    • Assertive

We also have defenses that we use to protect ourselves from feelings of abandonment or intrusion/engulfment by others (i.e. too much separateness or too much connection).   These defenses show up in how we conduct our relationships.  The patterns suggested in the above list can have defensive expressions.  It is beyond the scope of this book to explore the range and varieties of human defenses, but we can know that they are a significant aspect of what happens in relationships.  To some degree we all long for human connection and simultaneously fear the loss of our integrity.  This affects how we relate to each other.

In addition to all the ways we conduct ourselves directly in relationship with others, is our general cultural milieu.  Speech includes our matrix of cultural beliefs, mores, and values and how they are expressed and passed along.  How we communicate with others is not just a product of our own independent needs and styles, but is profoundly influenced and interpreted by others in terms of the meaning structure of the group.  The following are a few of the social contexts that are at play as we engage in any relationship.

  • Family
  • Community
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Geographic region
  • National identity
  • Global village

Speech includes everything from a simple handshake, to an email exchange, to a campaign to end world hunger.  It might even include telepathic communication with extraterrestrials (if such is possible).  It is how two or more minds come to know something of each other.  When we care for another we should attend to the quality of our relationship with them.  It will also be important to know something about their relationships with family, friends, employers, etc.  How capable are they of reaching mutual understanding with others and getting their needs met through their relationships.  Maybe our care will involve helping them to strengthen this ability.

Please visit Part 6 - Environment

Loren Mosher reference

Reference on body language and non-verbal communication

We will explore this further in the Chapter on 7 Fears

Karen Horney and Anna Freud on defenses


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