I was recently at a hen do where the ‘old married ladies’ were asked what they felt was the secret to a happy marriage. In my vast one-and-a-half years of experience, I said “communication”, and was luckily backed up by someone much more qualified to be giving such advice. She said, “Whatever happens, keep talking… or yelling!” And I believe it’s true: communication provides the route to understanding, it encourages trust and empathy, and from all this, love springs and deepens.
The conversation got me thinking about communication more generally, its importance for all human interactions, for businesses and work environments, for politics and for the relationships between countries and religions. When we remove communication from the equation, assumption, mistrust and lack of understanding enter in. We also risk de-personalising and de-humanising, which allows actions to take place where humanity is forgotten. With the recent immigration situation, for example, while governments are taking actions and making stands, they forget that individuals are involved, each with their own story and feelings, and the migrants in Calais become a ‘swarm’, no longer human.
Lack of communication happens in smaller ways too. Living in London we are being pressed ever closer together with our neighbours, our fellow travellers and even with those we share a pavement. I have noticed over the years that as we are packed tighter we are talking to each other less and less. It has gone from the point of avoiding conversation (heaven forbid!), to avoiding eye contact, and now, even saying “excuse me” when passing, or “sorry” having hit someone with a bag, rarely happen. It is as if by not speaking to anyone, not acknowledging anyone, we can pretend we are in our own world and nothing can harm us. But its effect on others is distressing, we begin to feel de-humanised, as if we are merely objects of street furniture to be bashed into or passed around. It shuts us off from connection, understanding, love for our fellow humans, and erodes our confidence in our unique importance in the world.
It may also push us further into forms of communication that validate these experiences, that further isolate rather than connect us. When it comes to communication, I really believe that not all forms are created equal. There is nothing that beats face-to-face communication: talking (or yelling!) combined with body language and proximity, make us feel more alive, connected and hopefully understood, than anything else. For me, talking on the phone or via Skype would be the next best thing, followed by letters or emails. Then come texts, the personal yet distanced way of interacting: useful for conveying information but really not great for establishing a genuine connection. Lastly there is social media in all its forms, where communication is rarely personal, tends to be targeted towards mass consumption, and may even be anonymous. This seems to be why people feel comfortable dishing out criticism or even vicious attacks in this environment: there is no humanity in this virtual world and people become faceless (or perhaps masked) objects, and again it is forgotten that there is an individual with thoughts and feelings behind every cyber personality.
Of course, this is the world in which we live, and we can use the new forms of communication in any way we choose. But let’s not forget that it is a virtual not a real world, and that we are feeling, thinking, sociable beings who need to connect face-to-face as individuals in order to truly understand ourselves as well as others.
Perhaps these thoughts are why I’ve chosen homeopathy as a profession. Homeopathy is based on the principle of individualised symptom analysis and prescription, looking at the person as a whole and trying to understand who they really are. What differentiates homeopathy from so many other therapies is that we spend time talking, to understand how clients see themselves and the world, and their particular illness or challenges within it. As homeopaths make connections with their clients through communication, the clients also begin to make connections between aspects of their lives and within themselves that may be revelatory for them. This understanding and these connections are not only useful in that they point us to certain remedies, but can in themselves be very powerful tools for healing.
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