Dialogue

By David Peat November 13, 2013

Towards the end of his life Bohm often talked about wholeness and the threats to wholeness posed by fragmentation. He had come to believe that one path towards wholeness of the individual and society lay in a form of dialogue. In this approach around 30 or so people meet on a regular basis with no theme, no goal and no leader. At first their discussions are polite and avoid controversy, at the same time a level of trust builds. Then as the dialogue continues it becomes possible for more controversial topics to come up and for people to get more emotional, it is at this point, Bohm believed, that dialogue has begun to work.

Bohm held that each of us have a number of fixed non-negotiable positions. If we meet someone with the opposite position then either we avoid that topic or we engage together to the point where the relationship ruptures.

But in a dialogue there will be those who hold to neither position particularly strongly and so their present tends to slow down the emotional reactions in a person under threat. Bohm argued that these fixed positions correspond to feelings trapped in the body and by slowing down we begin to understand how  our fixed positions are contained within the body and in this way we become freed from sudden reactions of fear and anger. It was not that Bohm wished a person t o change their position but rather to come to the realization of how that position was structured in terms of sensations in the body and in so doing become freed from those sensation.

There was another factor to the dialogue group and that involved language. Bohm believed that our language has become “polluted”, this can often be seen in how we use language in order to avoid confronting painful and disturbing issues directly. For Bohm this leads to fragmentation in society and the individual. Dialogue groups, he believed  could help to purify the language, and when participants returned to the jobs and families this cleansing effect would spread out into society at large