Practicing Proprioceptive Dialogue

Proprioceptive dialogue (PD) derives from the work of the scientist-philosopher, David Bohm. This kind of dialogue is not primarily a discussion of concepts or a forum for exchanging ideas. It is an experiment in “radical honesty” in which participants relate to one another on the basis of an awareness of and willingness to share their hidden agendas: underlying assumptions and motives, feelings and projections, defensive maneuverings, etc.

PD requires that we relate to each other by moving in the “opposite direction” in which conventional discourse takes place. Rather than moving forward, moving out to you, authoritatively advancing my position on whatever we are discussing by simply and directly presenting it to you, I relate to you in a more circuitous, reflexive way, by going proprioceptively backward into myself, back into that hollow place at the center of my being (see Invitation to Proprioceptive Dialogue). That is to say, in PD, I relate to you through a bodily felt sense of my own open process of relating as it is occurring in the moment. In this way, I am not just presenting an abstract content, a collection of finished thoughts. Instead I am disclosing — to myself and to you — the thinking and feeling and sensing process that lies behind the finished products. If we can encourage each other to relate in this way, it should allow us to “see behind the scenes,” to read the subtext of our discourse, to make transparent underlying motives and hidden agendas that are normally invisible in the defensive posturing of ordinary discourse. Crucial to this process is our ability to suspend or slow down our own thinking to a great enough degree that we can be receptive to ourselves and to each other; to listen deeply out of the hollow core of ourselves, and mirror back to each other “a view of some of the assumptions and unspoken implications of what is being expressed along with that which is being avoided.”[1] Each participant then has an opportunity “to examine the preconceptions, prejudices, and the characteristic patterns that lie behind his or her thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and feelings, along with the roles he or she tends habitually to play.”[2] And there is an “opportunity to share these insights” with the group. By tapping into the dynamic — sometimes formless and chaotic — substrate that lies beneath the fixed positions we customarily hold, PD becomes a “process of creative participation among peers,” a free-flowing exploration in which we can play together in otherwise unconscious, unknown territory.

Note that while PD can be meaningful and rich, it is not necessarily rewarding or entertaining, since it requires that we tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity for extended periods. Rather than obtaining ready rewards, gaining fast closure on specific goals, and receiving food for our egos, we must be willing to stay suspended in that hollow place, that ever-changing, open-ended field of process and flux where the questions far outnumber the answers. This can be frustrating to say the least.

Finally, I note (as Bohm and his co-authors did) that perseverance is needed for effective PD. Even with a clear introduction to the process, “when the group begins to talk [or write] together it will often experience confusion, frustration, and a self-conscious concern as to whether or not it is actually engaging in Dialogue. It would be very optimistic to assume that a Dialogue would begin to flow or move toward any great depth during its first meeting. It is important to point out that perseverance is required”[3]

In conclusion, what seems most crucial to PD is that we be able to “move backward,” self-reflexively engage in proprioception. Just as I can obtain a proprioceptive sense of the muscular activity in my fingers as I write these words, I should also be able to obtain — though not as easily, to be sure — a felt sense of my defensive “reactions, impulses, feelings and opinions.”[4] Seeing them and feeling them in this way, observing them as they are actually taking place within my own embodied psyche, allows me to share them with you, and have them be reflected back to me by you.

By way of shifting from monologue to dialogue, I now invite your participation. You can reach me at: Before responding, please read Bohm’s paper on dialogue. You can then send in your proprioceptive soundings. Feel free to respond through descriptive prose, paradoxical images, dialogically processed dreams, poetry, or any other conceivable vehicles for proprioception.  When you send a contribution, give it a title and provide your name or initials, unless you wish to remain anonymous (in either case, please identify yourself in your initial e-mail). If you are responding to material that has already been posted, identify it by title.

Let the PD proceed!


[2] Ibid.


[4] Ibid.

Response to Rocky Fjord’s “Ecological Challenge and Changing Consciousness” (Steven Rosen)

Thanks, Rocky, for your stimulating post. I like the dialogical touch of questioning your own thoughts and feelings. I agree with you that consciousness needs to change by being more in-sightful. I think we need to shift gears so we see inwardly, becoming proprioceptively aware of our own subjective process as we interact with others, [...]

Ecological Challenge and Changing Consciousness (Rocky Fjord)

I’ve been listening to Bohm’s Dialogues, the one’s recorded after Krishnamurti’s death. Before Bohm, I listened to Krishnamurti, from whom what was being said about thought was resonating. Before him Marshall Rosenberg on Conflict Resolution, before him Milton Erikson on the unconscious and hypnotism. I was listening to a hypnosis recording on the web by [...]

The Old and the New (Steven Rosen’s response to Colette Carse)

Thank you, Colette, for your very thoughtful reply to my comment about conventional books (in Invitation to PD), and to my call for Proprioceptive Dialogue. Maybe I went a little too far in expressing my disenchantment with the usual kind of book distributed in the usual kind of way. As I know you realize, I [...]

I found your virtual invitation in a book on my coffee table (Colette Carse)

Greetings Dr. Rosen, I read that you requested we read the Bohm article before beginning to participate in PD, but I must grant myself permission to respond to something  you wrote in your invitation: “I’ve presently reached a point of disenchantment with conventional books distributed in the conventional way. However revolutionary a work like this may be in terms [...]

Commitment and Ambivalence (Steven Rosen)

I appreciate Ronald Polack’s personal reflections on his experience in a proprioceptive dialogue group. His comments were quite welcome after a relatively long period of inactivity on this website. I must admit though, that I myself could be doing a lot more to vitalize the website, both by encouraging people to respond and become involved, [...]

Personal Account of PD, Sparked by the Comments of Mitch Hall and Steven Rosen (Ronald Polack)

Steven responded to Mitch by writing: ….As for the question of whether “participating in such a [PD] group affect[s] participants’ relations outside the group,” it is hard for me to imagine that the effects of sustained and serious involvement in PD would be entirely limited to the group setting. My guess is that — to [...]

Response to Mitch Hall’s Commentary on “Practicing Proprioceptive Dialogue” (Lloyd Gilden)

I appreciate very much Mitch Hall’s comments on PD.  He cites a broad spectrum of approaches that involve many aspects of such dialogue. I want to address one of his questions in particular, namely, how participation in such a group affects participants outside the group.  I will do so while trying to proprioceive, or engage [...]

Response to Mitch Hall’s Commentary on “Practicing Proprioceptive Dialogue” (Steven Rosen)

I appreciate Mitch Hall’s thoughtful reflections on Proprioceptive Dialogue. His references to concepts and practices related to PD are a welcome contribution. I agree with Hall on the helpfulness of Morris Berman’s book, Coming to Our Senses. Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin also seems quite relevant to the subject of cultural history and embodied awareness [...]

Commentary on “Practicing Proprioceptive Dialogue” (Mitch Hall)

[Note: The introductory text for this "Practicing PD" web page was recently posted on DIALOGUES, a listerv of philosophers and psychologists.  The following commentary is a response to that posting.] Steven M. Rosen’s recent posting on “Practicing Proprioceptive Dialogue (PD),”  as derived from David Bohm’s work, stimulated reflections on other initiatives that have sought to [...]

Reaction to the Website (Ronald Polack)

I have perused most of the site – yet to do the dreams – and find what you are initiating quite fascinating and a huge step in the environs of cyberspace where there are so many frivolous games going on, it seems.  Maybe they are more meaningful seen through larger eyes. Some of the site [...]