Discover U Podcast with JD Kalmenson

Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD; Navigating Conflict with Real Dialogue

April 06, 2022 JD Kalmenson, CEO Montare Behavioral Health Season 2 Episode 7
Discover U Podcast with JD Kalmenson
Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD; Navigating Conflict with Real Dialogue
Show Notes Transcript

Host JD Kalmenson interviews Polly Young-Eisendrath, PhD,  about how the skills of Real Dialogue can help us humanize those we have conflict with, appreciate a different perspective, and increase both self-understanding and compassion for others.

Polly Young-Eisendrath PhD. Polly is a Jungian analyst, a psychologist, and a psychotherapist in private practice. She's a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and is the founder and director of the Institute for Dialogue Therapy. She's the author and/or editor of 18 books on the topics of parenting, adult development, intimate and parental love, Buddhist theory, Jungian psychology, women's development, couple therapy, couple development, and various paths to awakening and enlightenment. These books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Her most recent works are The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance. And Love Between Equals: Relationship as a Spiritual Path. 

Host Kalmenson is the CEO/Founder of Renewal Health Group, a family of addiction treatment centers, and Montare Behavioral Health, a comprehensive brand of mental health treatment facilities in Southern California. Kalmenson is a Yale Chabad Scholar, a skilled facilitator, teacher, counselor, and speaker, who has provided chaplain services to prisons, local groups and remote villages throughout the world. His diverse experience as a rabbi, chaplain, and CEO has inspired his passion and deep understanding of the necessity for effective mental health treatment and long-term sobriety.

#Mentalhealth, #conflictresolution, #polarization, #realdialogue, #peacefuldialogue, #non-violentcommunication, #communication, #mediation, #Buddhistphilosophy, #karma, neardeathexperience

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JD Kalmenson:  Welcome to another episode of Discover U, our podcast exploring innovative and effective solutions to issues in mental and behavioral health. I'm JD Kalmenson, CEO of Montare Behavioral Health, a family of dynamic and comprehensive mental health treatment centers in Southern California. I am so honored and excited to introduce you to our fascinating and deeply compassionate guest today, Polly Young-Eisendrath PhD. Polly is a Jungian analyst, a psychologist, and a psychotherapist in private practice. She's a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and is the founder and director of the Institute for Dialogue Therapy. She's the author and/or editor of 18 books on the topics of parenting, adult development, intimate and parental love, Buddhist theory, Jungian psychology, women's development, couple therapy, couple development, and various paths to awakening and enlightenment. These books have been translated into more than 20 languages. Her most recent works are The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance. And Love Between Equals: Relationship as a Spiritual Path. 

JD Kalmenson:  Dr. Young-Eisendrath is a lifelong Buddhist practitioner in Zen, Tibetan, and Vipassana lineages, and brings decades of leadership in mindfulness practice within the Buddhist context, as well as integrated into her clinical work.

                        Welcome, Polly. I'm truly honored and grateful that you've taken the time to be with us today and share your wisdom. It's especially great to have you here with us during this time of extreme conflict in the world. There's so much anxiety, fear, and uncertainty floating around, ranging from social unrest, global warming, war, a pandemic, political polarization. It's so easy to be overwhelmed right now with negative emotions. And I think all of us, no matter where we are on the spectrum of mental health can use tools, coping skills, to be able to better deal with discord. And after so many thousand of years of human civilization on this planet, it's shocking about how little progress we've made in conflict resolution. I'd love to start our discussion with some of the broader philosophical issues pertaining to conflict and the human psyche. And then perhaps we can move on to talk more specifically about some of the particular distinctions you've made.

                        It seems preposterous that in this day and age, we're witnessing bloodshed, violence and wars that are started by such a profound lack of capacity to understand and bridge our differences. From what I understand from your work, a certain degree of psychological health is necessary to navigate conflict effectively. 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: So hi, JD. It's great to be here. 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: first of all, let me say that I do my own podcast called ENEMIES: From War to Wisdom. And I do that podcast because I want to make clear to all of us that human beings everywhere, not just in Russia or China or whatever, we have a strong propensity to make enemies, and that comes from our natural early development, which takes place from sort of in uterine time to about 18 months during which time we have no language, we have no culture really, but we have a capacity to control each other emotionally. And the way that we know this is that we have to get our needs met, and infants come well equipped with emotions, the primary emotions. And so they can make all sorts of signals about what they need and try to bring under control the adults around them because they can't survive without that really constant attention. The human infancy is a long emergency and the back and forth of that attachment bond sets up in all of us a desire to protect ourselves, to get our needs met.

                        And then you layer on the next level of emotions, which are the self-conscious emotions that come in around 18 months that cause us to feel like we're inside of a body and the world out is there. It's the I, me, mine, the terrible twos, the no, I won't do it. That creation of an ego takes place in all humans no matter the culture, no matter the language. And so we have a very strong desire after we create the ego to protect ourselves and to promote ourselves in groups in any kind of relationship. So when something goes wrong, there are several things that we should know about in understanding ourselves.

                        First of all, we're going to look for the solution outside of ourselves from the time that we begin until the time we're sitting right here. The tendency to blame is very strong because the feeling of shame, which is that I'm bad or I did something wrong is very painful. And so wanting to blame somebody for what goes wrong is a natural human tendency. And then, you top that with the fact that most of our emotions are negative. That is, we want to constrain and protect ourselves more than just relax and open up because we're motivated essentially to become more and more competent in our environment. So we're motivated to see what's wrong, what's not working. We don't often notice what's right and what is working, so we have something called a negativity bias. All humans have it. 

On top of that, we have a confirmation bias that is that we tend to find evidence for what we already believe. So you put together the negativity bias, the confirmation bias, these negative emotions that motivate us often to see what's wrong, our desire to blame and all of the issues that surround us in terms of the way we identify with a tribe or a family or a particular group, and we absolutely have the nature to destroy ourselves. And that is every one of us. And there's a scene in Terminator Two where the little boy asks Arnold Schwarzenegger, "We're not going to do very well, are we?" And he goes, "Well, you have the nature to destroy yourselves." And the kid says, "Yeah, that's kind of screwed up." And it's the case.

                        And so until we each overcome that nature, and we have to overcome it through an awareness that we are creating an enemy, this person may not be ending to do something harmful to us, but until we overcome that we have a tendency to create again and again and again, enemies in our families and our closest relationships among our siblings, in our communities, our societies, across our nations and then in our species. So about 95% of the time that homo sapiens have been on earth, they've been at war-

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... and often in continuous war. 

JD Kalmenson:  what I'm hearing from you is that it's however unfortunate war and conflict is, it does seem to be the natural tendency. I'm almost thinking about like a car that is, needs an alignment because it's naturally veering off the highway, and unless we consciously intervene, it's going to veer off. That it's just what you're describing, how this is so embedded in the very fabric of the human DNA. It reminds me of what they always used to talk about and joke around that there's this fellow living on an island by himself and somebody finally visits him after 20 years. And they see three houses of worship and they ask him what is going on here? And he says, "Well, that's the one I go to. That's the one I don't go to. And that's the one I went to."

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Yes. Yes, exactly. Right.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: So if we understand this, then we have, let's say a leg up on it. I mean, until you get that you and I and all of our friends and our family members we're all highly motivated to make enemies, that is to find someone else who intentionally harms us, that we hold at fault for at least some of our misery and suffering and maybe a lot of it. And that is an attribution that gets sustained in our relationships with others and it gets sustained through something called projection.

JD Kalmenson:  Sure.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Projective identification, by just assuming that we know others' motivations.

JD Kalmenson:  So it's so interesting because there's something really foundational that at all of our levels of care and throughout the various different lines of service that we provide at Montare in our treatment, one of the common underlying themes is existential affirmation and validation. And what I'm hearing and correct me if I'm wrong, is that if somebody really does have a very health of an intrinsic existential affirmation, they'll be more open to acknowledging that some of the challenges or some of the frustrations might be able to be resolved from within.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Well, I think I would love to say yes, the part of the problem is that even with really good self-esteem, secure attachment bonds, affirmation of our abilities, we still have this negativity bias and this confirmation bias. Until we wake up to it and recognize it, we will still find that it's difficult to go through conflict with someone that we fundamentally disagree with, or someone who's insulting us or seems to insult us, or who seems to humiliate us, because again, of this limbic system reactivity that connects right up to the prefrontal cortex and makes you the problem even if I feel pretty good about myself. So it would be great if a secure attachment bond was really a panacea for a lot of difficulties.  


JD Kalmenson:  And that actually, I think answers one of the questions that was really intriguing me about the work that you do, whether conflict resolution is a unique area in and of itself that has to be pursued and has to be cultivated, or is it a symptom of unhealthy self-esteem or deficient inner equilibrium that spills over into the conflict? But from what I'm hearing is that even for somebody who has a healthy self-esteem and has serenity and tranquility, and has an overall very healthy mental health sort of experience, that still will not necessarily preclude them from having unhealthy conflict resolution skills. Conflict resolution becomes this whole other domain and arena that has to have separate awareness about how to navigate. And that's what I'm hearing. Is that correct? 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Well, first, even with the healthiest self-esteem skills are needed to resolve conflict. And I want to take a moment just to say that the method that I use, which is called real dialogue is not conflict resolution and it's not compromise, and it's not nonviolent communication. I like to make these distinctions because there are lots of methods out there, communication methods that specialize in dealing with conflict. And a real dialogue is an approach to conflict which does not require compromise. It does not require any solution. 

                        And so if we avoid the idea that we need a resolution, we need a compromise or need to sort of tune ourselves down, we can create rules for proceeding in a humanizing respectful way so that no party is dehumanized. Each party feels heard and seen and understood, but not necessarily agreed with or compromised with. But when we get to the point of being heard and seen and felt, and we have that sense that we're mirrored, we can work almost anything out. 

                        So real dialogue looks for differentiation. And then from that differentiation also the constant humanizing of the other person, being able to see and hear and feel the other person as that person is, but not necessarily endorsing that or agreeing with it. And that creates an environment where there's tremendous emotional relief. The emotional threat level comes down. People take a... They take always a deep breath when they feel they've been heard and seen, and then they begin to talk in a different way that is not enemy making.

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: That is not primarily polarizing. 

JD Kalmenson: If only we could have a little bit more of that in our political discourse, because that sounds so refreshing. I mean, there's a few things that come to mind when it comes to let's say religious differences or theological and philosophical differences. I feel like this is such an effective method or such an important mentality and mindset because first of all, it presupposes a certain degree of humility. I don't have to impose my view on others for my view to be true. So there is a certain serenity there. You don't feel like it's all or nothing. 

                        I think that would be more to more directed at the behavioral sort of conflict where there could only be one way to do a certain thing for it to get done, and we have opposite opinions, so if we can't come together even if we don't finish the project together, we're still walking away as human beings. And what it also does is we don't engage in the scapegoating-

Polly Young-Eisendrath: That's right.

JD Kalmenson:  ... which I love that. And we're talking about the scapegoating and the unhealthy self-esteem, it just reminds me of a story about two brothers who were playing, and the older brother pushed his little brother into a ditch and he said, "Wow, look at me, I'm taller and stronger than you." And it was their father happened to be walking by and he tells the older son, "Never put someone else down to make yourself feel better. You're still in the same spot that you were before. If you want to feel better, raise yourself up." So it just, it really helps with that. And like you said, naturally our habit is to put others down. That's the easier way.  So I guess what I'm asking is does it actually also once people get into this mindset of not scapegoating and being a lot more self-aware, does that actually help resolve some of the conflicts in your experience? 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Well, it depends on what you mean by resolve. Like I've facilitated. I teach real dialogue specialists and I also teach dialogue therapists who are mental health professionals that specialists can be non-mental health professionals, mediators, executive coaches, leaders, that kind of thing. I've witnessed and taught how to facilitate a difficult conversation on many topics from, for example, pro and anti-vaccination, or let's say the world of current vaccination labeling. I've done it with pro-life and pro-choice. I've done it with various kinds of preferences for how to match therapists and clients, for all sorts of family issues and a lot of business issues. And what I have seen is that when people learn to use the skills, the two... If we're working long term with the two parties, they're learning the skills. If it's just a one-time facilitator conversation, the facilitators have to use the skills and impose them on the two people.

                        But once those skills are used, which are I'll elaborate, they're a little bit more than what the title sounds: speaking for yourself, listening mindfully, remaining curious. Those are the three skills that the people have to use in this kind of facilitated conversation. When those skills are used, what I've seen across the board in organizations with audiences, with the people themselves is crying. Just this relief that I can talk to somebody who disagrees with me or who's on the other side of the issue, that I can talk to that person as a human, and they can understand why I have the feeling I have and also the experience I have of the data or the evidence or the point of view or the belief. They can understand that because they're human, and I can understand them because I can begin to see that these beliefs, these opinions, or these points of view are rooted in subjective experience of that other person. The other person's experience makes sense. 

                        They're not coming at this to harm me. They're not coming at this to undermine me. They're coming at this for their own reasons. And so what you find is that people gradually move away from the idea that there's an objective world out there that we can agree on if we just get the facts, and much more towards the idea we're in closed each of us in a kind of snow globe of our own subjectivity. And that has to do with our language and culture, also our emotional reactivity, and also our habits, our emotional habits from our early family life, relational life. There are lots and lots of things that go into our subjectivity. And what happens is that we're not seeing the same world. We're constructing different worlds. It looks different. It smells different. We hear it differently and so on. And until we explore those differences, we often take them to be intentionally against us in some way or threatening to us.

                        And that takes place between countries, but also between two people in a couple relationship where very often there's this sense that the partner intentionally harms one, "Does this thing over and over again even though she knows I don't like it." And of course that's not what's going on. That's the way it looks to the observers. So pulling this apart creates tremendous relief, but not always resolution. But if you walk away from a project that I'm working on and we both are happy to see each other in the hallway on the next day, then nobody has to be a narcissist or borderline. I mean, people call each other names like this in work settings, where they put down the other person because they feel that other person has some sort of personality disorder. This sort of thing is not uncommon, and of course in families, it's also very common. So this is what we're trying to get rid of is this kind of labeling the other person as either an idiot or just plain wrong or disgusting, toxic, narcissistic. That's the main complaint these days.

JD Kalmenson: Right. Right.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Yeah, that's-

JD Kalmenson:  It's a more sophisticated label.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Yes.

JD Kalmenson:  Giving it some clinical implications. It's so funny when we talk about these degrees of subjectivity. So it's so important to use that word because first and foremost, it encourages and invites people to think from a broader perspective and not to get caught up and believe their own press. I mean, I'm reminded of the story of the fellow who's walking in the rain, and he sees a house out there and he has no umbrella and it's pouring. It's a famous story. And he's thinking to himself, "Maybe I'll knock on the door and I'll ask them for an umbrella." And then he thinks to himself, "Well, they look at me and they'll say, 'Why would we give you an umbrella? You're a stranger.'" And then he'll respond that, "I would never normally ask you." And this is all in his head. "It's just I'm so vulnerable, and it's so wet, and it's pouring that I'm going out of my comfort zone and I'm asking, and but they'll look at me again and they'll tell me, 'But you're still a stranger and we don't know if you'll return it and why should we?'"

                        And as he's walking, he's getting closer and closer to the house. And by the time he gets to the house, he's incensed with all of the internal dialogue. And he knocks on the door and the fellow opens the door and he slaps him in the face and he says, "I don't need your umbrella anyway." And I just feel like there's so much of that going on. And if we take a moment, and I'm sure this is a prerequisite to the work that you do with the real dialogue, and I'd love to hear more about that in a comprehensive way in a moment, but just the ability to pause... I saw a great quote from Thomas Friedman from the New York Times. He wrote that when you press pause on a machine, it stops. When you press pause on the human being it starts, or we start.

                        And I just think that pause to allow myself to be able to take stock and say the world might not exactly be the way I'm perceiving it with all of its nuanced details that are my subjective interpretation. And so that's so important. What would you say are practical skills to implement that pause or the basic tenants of the real dialogue on the daily, as opposed not just the conceptual ones, but on the daily exercise? For those who are listening out there, we could all benefit from this. 

Polly Young- Eisendrath: CSo the first step of course is to take a pause and take a breath, and then notice what's going on that you are feeling this difficult conversation thing. And of course, if you're with somebody who knows how to use real dialogue, you can signal let's try some dialogue. But if the other person has never heard of that and you don't even think they'd want to, then you have to use the skills yourself, which will change the tenor of the conversation. So I'll just sketch out the three skills. The first one is called speaking for yourself. And of course, we've all heard of sticking with I state statements and no you statements. No sneaking in you statements like, "I have the impression that you are manipulative," is a you statement even though it starts out with I have the impression. 

JD Kalmenson:  So how would you say that without the you?

Polly Young-Eisendrath: You would say something like, "I'm finding it very frustrating at this moment to understand what you're saying," or, "I'm very discouraged about what's going on right now because of this or that."

JD Kalmenson:  That's beautiful because what you're doing there is you're taking all accusatory language out of the sentence, out of the dialogue, and you're sharing with the other person how you're experiencing this experience, how you're feeling. And there's no real denying how you're feeling that this is how I'm feeling.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Right. That's right. You're absolutely right. That's the very first step that lowers the threat level. You can't argue with it.

JD Kalmenson:  Right.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: So you're taking out the so-called objectives saying of something like narcissism or you're manipulative, which could never be determined in any case, because it's the observer who's having this experience, which may be uniformly wrong. 

JD Kalmenson:  Sure. Sure.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: But so the very first thing in speaking for yourself is that you stop the you statements or the accusations by making something subjective. But then there's much more to it because to retain that modesty of subjectivity, you have to stop saying that you know the truth like, "It was the 4th of July when your mother called. The other person goes, "I think it was the fifth."

                        Now, obviously those things are insignificant in the larger conversation. So say, "I remember that it was the 4th of July. That's the way I remember it. How about you?" So you get around the issues of memory, of fact, like, "It's a fact that this is happening with the climate." No, instead, "From what I understand, from what I read and study, this is the way it looks to me that there's this and this and this." And again, "How about you? How does it look from your side?" So the facts, stating things as though absolutely, stating things as though you remember things absolutely. Humans are about 95% unconscious. We're terrible eyewitnesses. We don't remember things well. And when we realize that we can take that lightly, it's sort of funny, but you certainly don't assume that you are an expert at something you remember that happened two weeks ago, or even yesterday, and much less, 30 years ago when you remember that conversation-

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... that you had with your sister. So all of this is part of speaking for yourself. So it's your desires, it's your memory, it's your impression, it's your feeling states and your desire. Like I said, desires. You can speak strongly like, "I don't like that," or, "I'd love to do that. I hate Detroit." No problem. No problem. 

JD Kalmenson:  Right. Right.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: It's fine. And so that first skill has a whole number of things going to lower the threat level, even in the way you speak. And then the second skill is the harder one across the board in all forms of conflict remediation, whether it's conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, negotiation. It's the listening part. So that is the reason why most negotiations fail, because people do not listen accurately to each other. And the main reason is... And again there's a lot to be said about all these things. Is that we speak to ourselves instead of listening. So we're listening to what we're saying in our own ears about the other person or the situation, or we're rehearsing something that we want to say at the next step when there's a space.

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: So the listening function has to be cultivated. And the way that we teach it as we first have to be able to hear in through your inner voices. And so there's a meditation skill that has to do with hearing in and hearing out, hearing in and hearing out, because that's always going on. We're hearing out, then we're hearing in, so that you let that narrative drop to the background when you're in a difficult conversation and you have to listen. Because the way real dialogue works is after the speaker speaks... the listener says, "So I'm understanding," instead of, "I hear you saying, blah, blah, blah." "I'm understanding that this is the way that it is for you, blah, blah, and this and this, did I get it? Did I get it?"

                        And if the other person says, "Yes," then you can say, "Is there more?" Or you can make the response to it. But you have to get the reflection back from the speaker that you get it the way the speaker is intending. And that allows you to step into that snow globe. Again, you're not agreeing, you're not endorsing it. You're just listening, just to the point that you're understanding what the other person intended before you respond to it. 

JD Kalmenson:  That sounds so simple, but it is so profound and so real. I'm not sure if you discussed this, because you're so prolific and you have a lot of teachings, but what about conflict within the human being itself? So- 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Well, yes I do. I mean, my podcast: Enemies, starts with that. You're very insightful in the way you're understanding this because it is the case that within ourselves we're also often at war with ourselves, particularly in North America because we hold certain kinds of standards that we're always going to fall short on.

JD Kalmenson:  Correct.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: And so we're often really criticizing ourselves. I have a Ted talk that's called the Key to Happiness Is... Gosh, I can't even remember the rest of it. The Key to Happiness Is Letting Go Of Self-importance. I wasn't sure. It's Key to Happiness Is-

JD Kalmenson:  Sure.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... Letting Go of Self Importance. But in the talk, the self-importance I talk about is negative self-importance. How we are talking to ourselves, "You didn't get that right." or, "You were stupid. You took too long there. You did this, you did that." So that way of talking to ourselves also creates often a harmful sense of self-consciousness, and so then we're very self-conscious about what others are saying. So that inner conflict plays a big role. Also there's one other more subtle inner conflict. As we develop an understanding of our subjectivity, we find that we have mental images and we have mental talk, and we also have outside images and outside talk, and we have emotional feelings and we have physical feelings. All of those things get mixed up.

                        So we may be seeing a mental image of someone who looks angry. And then we say that person looks angry, but the person is just having a stomachache.  I mean, there are so many ways that our mental image covers what's actually going on with other people. And so that creates conflict within us also like, "Am I just imagining this? Is this my gut feeling? Should I react to this person who has this sort of disgusted look? It goes on and on about-

JD Kalmenson:  For sure.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... those subtle kinds of conflicts.

JD Kalmenson:  I love what you're saying about tying in this inner conflict to a lack of happiness, because it's been a theory of mine for a while that happiness really is something that we're born with, and it's something that exists within us, but as we go through life and we judge ourselves and we allow others to judge us and we feel shame or a certain pain, we compartmentalize, which creates a subsequent sense of fragmentation. And now we're not really unified internally, and that's a key factor in tranquility, serenity and happiness, being able to feel radically comfortable with ourselves. So this inner conflict is essentially a form of us placing some judgment on ourselves. And then we seek to suppress or put away or hide that part of ourselves, which is never going to allow all of us to really just be comfortable and feel represented.

                        And the beauty of what you're describing, going back to one of the skills that you referenced earlier is that there doesn't have to be resolution for all of us to feel comfortable. So if we take that into the sort of inner conflict within the human being him or herself, we can have conflicting tendencies, we can have opposing feelings and sentiments and desires and inclinations, and we don't have to reconcile that necessarily and say one is wrong, one is right, one has to be converted, one has to be suppressed, one has to be eliminated. We can live with each other and still have that inner serenity and tranquility and recognize that it's okay to have that feeling, it's okay to have that tendency, to have that attraction. And I think that today there's so much negative talk in the news today in 2022, we're more equipped to really own that than ever before in human history. 

Polly Young-Eisendrath: I hope so. I mean, I think that the sort of calling out culture. The culture of let me attack you before I know you.

JD Kalmenson:  Yes.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: That sort of thing. You're already wrong before you've begun. And so on. Any kind of calling out or lowering of somebody's social status for human beings, it naturally brings about rage, and that if there's a cycle of rage and humiliation in any kind of movement, whether it's a political interaction or it's on the schoolyard with two kids, rage and humiliation lead to destructiveness between human beings. And so to lower the humiliation factor will itself increase our possibilities of tranquility.

                        I mean, we have a possibility of living at peace with each other, not because that's built into us, but because we can become aware, we can become aware of what we do. We can change our behavior mid-action. No other animal can do that. And that ability to be aware of your awareness and then to work with yourself in a way that allows for not just your own inner conflicts, but also your conflicts with other human beings. This is your species and you really need to be able to find a way to want to save this species. I mean, we are always wanting to save other species-

JD Kalmenson:  Right. What about our own?

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... but we're so terrible to our own.

JD Kalmenson:  And that leads me to the next question, which is it possible in your opinion to engage in conflict resolution or in real dialogue if you absolutely have no respect for the person sitting across the table. Is respect a prerequisite to real dialogue?

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Well, I've entered into difficult conversations in environments where it looks as though people don't respect each other, where there are... It's typically not... I don't go into fist fights and things like that, but it's more a sense of contempt and the feeling that the other person is toxic or the other group. It's not usually just an individual, but the other point of view is toxic, is disgusting, shouldn't be at the table, whatever. 

                         I've been in situations where I wasn't sure I could handle the level of animosity that I was hearing, but as soon as I and my facilitator, we interviewed each person, we began to understand what is subjectively driving this person. As soon as you see what's happening, you begin to humanize that person, and then that person has a facilitator to help with a humanization back and forth.

                        And I just want to give you a little bit of an example if I can. This is not exactly about the humanizing of using the method of real dialogue, but this gives you the feeling for what the method does. In these recent like say five months or so, I've gotten very involved in interviewing on my podcast people that are involved in near-death experience, the research of near-death experience, as well as the archiving of many, many cases. Now, there are thousands of cases because of resuscitation medicine. And in that detailing of the near-death experience, there's something called the life review. So about 10% of people that experience cardiac arrest do have these memories of death experiences. And then of those, about 10% of those have some detailed life review. So it's not across the board on all of the near-death experiences that you get this detail. But here's the kind of thing that comes out. I'm going to tell you about a case, a guy named Tom.

                        And so Tom had a near-death experience in his 40s. And as he was reviewing his life in just a split second, he experienced and talked in detail, and I will tell you one in a moment what the others around him were experiencing, not just what he was himself experiencing. So when Tom was in his 20s, driving his pickup truck in his small town, somebody came out of the bar drunk, stood in front of him. The guy walked over to Tom and smacked him in the face. Put his hand in through the window and hit Tom. Tom jumped out and he beat the guy up. And then at the end of that interchange, he had looked up at the crowd and said, "He hit me first." And he got into his truck and drove away.

                        Now, in his near-death experience, Tom is inside the bar drinking because his wife has just died. He staggers out in front of this truck. Now, it's Tom driving the truck. And then he comes around and hits the driver because the driver he thought was trying to ram into him. And then the driver gets out. And at this point, Tom is in both. He's hitting him 32 times. He feels it coming into his face.

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: And then drives the truck away. So that's an example of the life review in near-death experience. So it puts you in to the other person's subjectivity when you have acted either very well or very badly, these are the kinds of things. When you act well, you'll feel the other person's joy, gratitude, good feelings. When you act badly, you feel the other person's pain and suffering from your action. Now, who would've thought all of that. I mean-

JD Kalmenson:  Wow.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: ... when I... Hearing even the science that has been accumulated from collecting these cases I began to understand more deeply the Buddhist teaching about karma, because it basically teaches that you experience directly the effects of your intentional actions on others. And so this comes around to, can anybody do this? Yes. I think they can. It takes effort though, and it takes desire. If you don't want to learn how to speak this way, if you just want to beat somebody up, you won't put the effort in. But of course the people that I see, they have either it's family members and they want very much not to be estranged or separated, or it's working situations where people have to go on working together.

                        So I'm seeing highly motivated people. I believe in my heart of hearts that all humans are motivated to have compassion.  So I think that if we could put these different parties into a real dialogue situation if they were motivated, that anybody could learn that natural compassion and then begin to humanize the other person so that they don't have to get into one of these situations that Tom was in when he was going through his death experience.

JD Kalmenson:  Right. So to go back full circle, the word that is a prerequisite to the real dialogue is not necessarily respect, but it's the humanization, which is the precursor to empathy and to compassion.

Polly Young-Eisendrath: Right.

JD Kalmenson:  And from that perspective, I'm sure that this is a principle that would be integrated and applied equally whether it's a conflict of spouses, neighbors, children, culture, is we can all tap into that humanization because it is such a fundamental basic part of our existence. Truly, truly wonderful insights, and I learned so much personally, and I'm sure our audience did as well. Thank you, Polly for joining us today on the Discover U Podcast and sharing your remarkable distinctions and observations with us. How can people find out more about you and the work that you do?

Polly Young-Eisendrath: My website's the best way,, but you can Google my name, Polly Young-Eisendrath. You'll see I have a YouTube channel. I have a podcast called Enemies. Two interview programs. One is called Pay Attention: Interviews About Truth in Troubling Times. And the other one is Beyond the Fringe: Extraordinary Conversations with Scientists And Sages. So those are my interview programs. Enemies is my podcast. And I've got a bunch of stuff out there because I feel deeply that it's absolutely necessary for us to humanize our species person by person with each other. And it's been lovely talking to you JD because- 

JD Kalmenson:  Thank you.

Plly Young-Eisendrath:  ... you have very a quick and refined ability to get to the core of the matter.

JD Kalmenson:  Thank you. Thank you so much, and I'd also like to thank our audience for joining us as well. We hope you enjoy today's episode at Discover U. And at Montare we want you to know that you're not alone in your journey. To find out more about our treatment programs you can find us, and you can listen to our Discover U Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Wishing all of you vibrant health and a safe and fulfilling day. See you next time.