Listening, Learning and Communication

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3DP3022

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 2

Course Coordinator and Team: Prof Anup Dhar

Email of course coordinator: anup[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in


Course Objectives/Description:

The desire to be understood and in turn to understand others is an intrinsic and core part of what human beings strive towards, and yet, complications and challenges accompany our attempts to relate and communicate. The dynamics between the Self and Other, (existing within our inner or interpersonal worlds) help us to appreciate that all of us are deeply identified at some levels, similar to an extent in certain respects and quite very different in other dimensions of being. Therefore listening and communicating forever pose fresh challenges in the order of relating with and receiving one’s significant others. It is also important to note that communicating and relating are forever contingent on a capacity to listen deeply to the self as well as to others (and also to the “other” within the Self). Beyond the conscious processes activated in listening, there also exists a dimension of unconscious to unconscious receptivity. Hence, drawing from literary and creative narratives, short stories, films and field sessions, a foundational emphasis of this course is to enable one to listen to the deeper resonances of unconscious articulations. By tuning in to a receptive mode of listening, sequences of seemingly disconnected and free flowing communication would begin to acquire a pulsating and rhythmic flow, in consonance with unconscious human life. Further by focusing on lives (characters in literature) that have been rendered invisible, and which remain unheard and “underground”, we will listen to the struggle to communicate as well as, sometimes, the simultaneous desire to erase attempts to be understood by any other human being, and also the self.

As part of the MPhil programme, even as participants will be immersed in listening to their rural counterparts, within the space in which this course will transpire, they will be sensitized to receive the affects, messages, cultural symbols and meanings as communicated through traditional modes of relating prevalent in the India which still retains its roots in villages and rural communities. A focus on the oral, mythic, folk legends and community practices prevalent in Indian rural life will be highlighted. In addition the course facilitators would foreground the storied nature of lives and the intense universal desire for communication while acknowledging the paradox of its limits.

How do we learn about others form listening to them deeply enough? How do we further communication by empathically reflecting feelings and expressed needs back to the other – these and related foci will be taken up during reflective sessions. Through a simultaneous inward tuning to one’s own self, participants will be encouraged to maintain experiential diaries around struggles and possibilities of listening, relating, learning and communicating to themselves as well as their significant others.

Further the philosophy of the course extends itself to not only listening to human life but to all forms of life, and therefore, at an implicit level the course will attempt to create bonds and linkages between psychological perspectives, the spiritual emphasis on compassion and understandings from deep and sustainable ecology. It is hoped that participation in this course will help students to forge healthier personal relationships, to become increasingly open to experiences of sharing joy and also pain within the family, the field and in other interpersonal spaces.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Become increasingly alive to one’s humane potential, even as one delves deeply into self- insight.
  2. Immerse in and engage with communities in rural and forest societies
  3. Capacity to listen to and communicate with rural communities
  4. Capacity to engage with diverse groups and diversity within groups
  5. Become more open, receptive and empathic towards significant others, their chosen field of work and the world at large
  6. Think and feel to respond empathically to emerging and expressed needs, conflict, misunderstandings or any other feeling states in the space of communication.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit I Listening: Interdependence and Communication: The first module projects seeing living beings as co-travelers across the journey of life embedded in evolving relational nature of our psychic Self and of the world in which we all mutually exist. By exposing students to listening of “Other in Self”, “Self in Other” and “Self and Other”, the module reveals listening from a horizontal and lateral axis to appreciate differences without hierarchies.

Unit II Opening the Self to deep listening: The second module introduces students to psychological processes involved in listening to Self and to Others. Listening to our suffering and pain, to our joy and potentials, to our mind and to our body, and to the rhythms of the unconscious. To do so, the module listens to life-stories of others by focusing on the inchoate aspects of communication.

Unit III Capacities for empathy and compassion: The third module shifts attention to becoming aware and alive to our intense emotions. Recognizing universal human proclivities to insecurity, misunderstanding, rejecting and also to loving, seeking and forgiving, the module focuses on recognizing internal hurdles to connecting and relating. In doing so it hopes to develop understanding of and working with ones emotional limits and opening to one’s compassion and empathy

Unit IV Focusing on self in rural settings: The final module gives special focus on listening through attuning oneself to the special modes of communication as emergent in the space of the rural and the group self. This involves facilitating dialogue in dyadic and group spaces that acknowledges and works through issues, also conflict and incomprehension as emerging from one’s field experience.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Reflective Exercise: Exploration and sharing of field diaries (50%).
  • Viva-Voce Session: On Listening Through Immersion (50%)

Reading List:

  • Akhtar Salman, Psychoanalytical Listening. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Akhtar Salman, Listening to Others: Developmental and Clinical Aspects of Empathy and Attunement, U.S.A. : Jason Aronson Press, 2007.
  • Bion, W.R. Learning from Experience. London: William Heinemann Medical Books, 1984. Birch, C. Feelings. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. 2003.
  • Bollas Christopher. The Infinite Question. New York: Routledge, 2007. Devi Mahashewta, Sishu. Collection of Short Stories, Delhi: Penguin, 2001.
  • Gyatso Tenzin , A Policy of Kindness. New Delhi: Snow Lion Publications, 2003.
  • Hanh N. Thich, The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. New Delhi: Full Circle, 1997.
  • Hanh, N Thich. Teachings on Love. New Delhi: Full Circle, 2007.
  • Kishen Chander: “Kalu Bhangi, The Sweeper” in Amina Azfar (ed). The Oxford Book of Urdu Short Stories. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Marion Milner. A Life of One’s Own. London: Virago, 1987 Ogden Thomas, Reverie and Interpretation: Sensing Something Human. New York: Karnac, 2004.
  • Ogden Thomas, Conversations at the Frontier of Dreaming. New York: Karnac, 2006 Symington Neville, A Healing Conversation.London: Karnac, 2006.
  • Symington, N. Healing the Mind: What is the healer’s task? Australian Journal of Psychotherapy, 22 (1): 25-36.