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The Essence of We: Intersubjectivity and the Intersubjective Field

During my doctoral journey, I discovered a wonderful, dynamic word: intersubjectivity. It is, quite simply, the space in between us that is also an entity itself. It’s not me. It’s not you. But it is the element that is us.

Intersubjectivity is an essential concept in my work and research on coherence, group beingness, and deep interconnectedness. I don’t know that any other word so brilliantly captures the idea of this liminal, in-between space. Groups have distinct personalities. That is why a group changes when someone enters or when people leave. The group personality is made up of the bits and pieces of its members and becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.

I also like to play with the idea of an intersubjective field—the space or container that holds the group. It is the energy, the physical space, and how the group interacts with each other. It also includes the rituals the group engages in and the practices that are meaningful. All of these elements can result from how a leader or facilitator sets up the parameters for the group’s interactions.

Sport and the field of play are another means of conceptualizing coherence. The space where the teams play is the playing field, which could be considered the intersubjective field. Players involved in the game are individuals who are entering the field. The team begins to attune to each other. As they tune in, they might begin the exceptional experience of a high-performing team, anticipating each other’s movements, reading each other’s thoughts, and creating seamlessness from one player to the next. The team is cohering and moving into a more advanced state of being. The result of the play in this cohered state of being could seem almost otherworldly. Any revolutionary techniques or patterns borne from this extraordinary play may indicate emergence.

Whether it’s a sports team, a musical group, an improvisational acting group, or even a committed romantic partnership, coherence emerges through the social field, where individuals tune into each other to such a degree that they begin to merge in consciousness. Poet Robert Bly brought the idea to life in his poem, The Third Body.

A man and a woman sit near each other,

and they do not long at this moment to be older, or younger,

nor born in any other nation, or any other time, or any other place.

They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.

Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.

The man sees the way his fingers move;

he sees her hands close around a book that she hands to him.

They obey a third body that they share in common.

They have made a promise to love that body.

Age may come, parting may come, death will come.

A man and a woman sit near each other,

as they breathe they feed someone who we do not know,

who we know of, but have never seen.

It is in the in-between, the intersubjective space, that is, the initiating space of coherence.

1 Comment

Michael Galvin
Michael Galvin
Oct 24, 2023

wonderful take on inter-being, mapping it to the interstices and the field. You've gone so Bodhiquantum; love it!

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