Search This Blog

Friday, August 25, 2006

Authorship of Ideas and Ego

Inverness Park and Elephant Mountain In a dialogue group I am still a member of eight years ago an interesting attitude came up about using other people's ideas as sole content. It was quite common at that time that a dialoguer would throw out an idea into the center of the room to see if other people wanted to talk about it - as if it was an idea that came from nowhere, as if they had not said it. The intent was to keep "ego" out of the attachment to the idea.

Having read an author's book was commonly being used in this group as shorthand for what a talker wanted to say - often without giving a little synopsis of the content of the book that was being cited. So it acted a little as name-dropping
sometimes, which was a problem for some people who had not read the book. Dialogue was pretty easily turned into more of a book report or info dump rather than a conversation between peers. It divided the room between those who knew the book and those who didn't and made dialogue more like a classroom.

Evidently people saw citing authors as a way of talking about the ideas without admitting it was "their idea." After investigating this assumption, it came out that talking from your own personal experience was regarded for awhile by this particular dialogue group as evidence of "ego attachment." Ego displays were, of course, to be avoided at all costs carefully by everyone because it meant people may have an "investment" for bringing up the experience. This smelled too much like a personal adgenda of what they wanted the group to do for them. Personal agendas were to be avoided because this was mentioned specifically by David Bohm as something to be avoided. If you had a personal agenda, then you kept steering the conversation back to what you wanted to talk about and that meant it wasn't free to go toward something new for everyone.

When we finally got around to talking about our conceptions of ego, what evolved was a very interesting series of observations. Many member of the group concluded to resolving to risk more personal stories of core experiences behind the various beliefs they held...and this has continued into the Dialogue group that we have today.

The group decided that many author's ideas were all valid, but really, why not admit why you are bringing them up and where it came from that made you hold them to be valuable? Essentially, we discovered as a group that people were being careful to protect their ego by not admitting authorship of their own ideas. There was a risk when the experience of how you came by your idea was not a logical one and it could be picked apart irreverently by the group.

Then the question came out of what exactly does someone have to lose by revealing your core values to a group in dialogue? Together we realized that talking about "other people's ideas" more often meant mistrust that you may be attacked by the group or someone in the group!

So we decided to "dare" to reveal core experiences to each other. We went into as a group what exactly was "attacking" and what was considered "investigation" and we explored exactly where this line was. Over time, this ongoing conversational topic evolved into a quite a codified ideal of what the group was going to put up with and for how long from people who had no clue what Dialogue was. This was a quite tolerant group of people, so there was little "rule-making" other than someone would ask for another topic when two people would get into what we joked was a "Duo-logue." Our solution for that was that another person would suggest that new topic. Also, people in the group saw a need to say something to come to the defense of someone they believed was being "attacked." This happened by identifying common debate tactics that discredit the speaker such as name-calling.

One time, two people who were strangers to Dialogue came into the group and got into a passionate, exclusive conversation they would not stop. After what we usually did for a solution described above obviously did not work, we realized we needed to invent another measure to deal with the situation. Nobody seemed to want to play the authority to remove the offenders from the room. Suddenly, the entire group of about thirty people responded in the heartbeat of one breath; every person suddenly started talking to their neighbor in multiple private conversations, drowning out the two who wanted to continue arguing in front of everyone! It was a hilarious solution - but it worked.

Anyway - those are some of the interesting things that happened in our dialogue group.

No comments:

Post a Comment