To David from me:
One thing that is so very, very obvious to me now, almost all of my students are unable to articulate their inner processes, whether it is of energy states, emotions, neediness, loneliness, sadness, Chi, etc., and they tend to speak in very abstract ways about their inner negative experiences, and tend to use otherwise very inappropriate words, and are entirely clueless about their inner worlds, an thus about their external world. And intelligence does not seem to make a difference. The smart and knowledgeable are equally afflicted.
From David to me:
You wrote “...almost all of my students are unable to articulate their inner processes, whether it is of energy states, emotions, neediness, loneliness, sadness, Chi, etc., and tend to speak in very abstract ways about their inner negative experiences, and tend to use very inappropriate words, and are entirely clueless about their inner worlds, an thus about their external world. And intelligence does not seem to make a difference.”
I also face this issue with (many) guests at my events. The problem seems to be that few people actually live in their bodies. They are off in their imaginations somewhere, commenting on “self" from some far-away place, as though they live off-planet. Here’s an example: someone begins talking to me about “enlightenment,” about wanting to be “enlightened,” but as the discussion goes deeper (if it does), it becomes obvious that the real topic is sadness, loneliness, frustration and perhaps even depression. But the whole problem is falsely articulated in terms of “not being able to become enlightened."
Learning “assisted introspection,” and/or “learned articulation” could be helpful, since knowing and expressing one’s feelings is the very definition of authenticity, and any good enlightenment teaching will tell you that the "first commandment" in sadhana is: "Thou shalt be sincere.”
This sort of insincerity goes on spontaneously in such people and it’s chronic, i.e., ongoing—like a stream of consciousness fantasy, where one forgets one is fantasizing.
In such instances, I often have to go to great pains to even begin having a real and sincere discussion, having to even dismiss the initial comments. For immediately I can sense the disconnect between feelings and content of discussion. What is this, in a word? Insanity.
These are true wisdom teachings never heard in Advaita or Zen. But this is my experience. Almost all that come to me have no idea of who or what they are because they are not first, simply human, simply feeling and expressing their feelings.
I have a slightly different take on this inability of many of my students able to express their feelings: They were never taught the words. They were not spoken in their homes. So all the feelings these people have, in a sense are not well-formed. This is what a psychotherapist does: he or she guides the client into looking and feeling within, and giving life and form to undifferentiated emotions and energies. They help clients discover and express them as if they were still toddlers who felt feelings but could not express them because they lacked the words.
This is not really using one's brain, so to speak, but teaching the heart-feelings how to speak for themselves, especially feelings like fear, sadness, loneliness, emptiness, love, wants, and sexual desires. The undifferentiated "soup" of inner energies and unformed feelings become well formed and defined, and each is found to be related in its own way towards the personal self and the external world. This allows the person to be comfortable in his or her body and have an accurate map of the world.