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    « 6 Things happy people never do | Main | Resolving relationship problems »
    Tuesday
    Mar132012

    Some notes on how our practiced emotions alter our view of the world


    All of the evidence seems to point to the fact that we are emotional creatures first, reasoning creatures second. An increasing number of cognitive studies indicate that we use our powers of reason not to discern a better description of reality (one that's more workable, given our values) but more to justify irrational choices and decisions. More often than not, we make emotional snap decisions, then after the fact we justify them. We believe we "thought things through" when really we haven't done that at all.

    Many of our preferences and decisions aren't really logically defensible, not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that. Logic isn't always the right tool when we find ourselves confronted with complex situations. Complex situations demand that we evolve new, broader perspectives, not cling to logic or rule based thinking. Reason is much more than logic -- it needs to be balanced by feeling to be truly helpful.

    We all believe we see reality clearly, but most see only a small, filtered and self-justifying tokenized version of an infinitely complex world. In life, perspective is everything. What limits us more than anything else is our limited understanding of the larger world. The greater the perspective the greater the life.

    We evolve and flourish, individually and collectively, when we achieve a broader perspective, a more inclusive, more workable sense of the whole. Instead, we're more often trying to over-simplifying things, trying to narrow things down to a single cause, a single rule, often someone or something to blame.

    The truth is there are no single cause for anything. The basis of any effect is always multifactorial. It takes many streams to make a river.

    On a mental level, upset, blame, reactivity, resentment, anxiety all undermine the building of a broader perspective, and limit life. Upset makes us narrow minded. Positive emotion, on the other hand -- hope, appreciation and enjoyment -- fosters, supports and allows for broad mindedness and growth.

    Fear, anger and sadness, in all of their forms -- anxiety, righteous indignation, depression, to name a few -- grip the mind, and when they are present, they powerfully distort one's ability to model reality and reason clearly.

    Negative emotions are mental/physical resistance to loss or the perception of limitation. There is very little value in cultivating them. All they do, like a bad taste in food, is help us to identify what we would do well to leave be.

    Negative emotions even tend to mask the distortion they create. When we're gripped by grief or paranoia, the distortions in our world view seem "reasonable," even "normal." Disturbed people, people under the influence of negative emotion, are, like drunks, poor judges of their own liabilities. An enraged person or a depressed person truly believes that they're finally seeing things clearly. Most perpetrators of violent crime felt totally justified in what they did. Phobic people argue for their phobias. They don't see them as a sign of mental confusion. They see them as reasonable.

    Our negative emotions, our unhappy moods, our need for self-justification limit our ability to see points of view other than our own. Negativity distorts our world view and makes us less able to adapt to the changing demands of the environment.

    In life, adaptability -- our ability to learn and develop, to broaden and deepen perspective, to learn better ways of doing things -- depends, to a very large extent, on our emotional equanimity, our sense of peace of mind. Balanced and open feeling states and feeling self-secure provide the strongest platform for learning and adapting.

    Rigid beliefs, unreasonable dogma, fixed ideas or fixed emotional states (judgements) undermine our ability to adapt and evolve, to grow and thrive.

    Truth is an ever evolving thing, because truth is a model of the world, and the world is an ever evolving thing, never the same twice. There are no eternal verities, only constantly evolving verities.

    If you would grasp a greater truth, you would do well to achieve emotional equanimity, even-temperedness. Strong passions distort reality. Even-mindedness supports open-mindedness, balanced perception, insight and creativity, all of which make it easier to adapt and grow.

    In short, learn to trust, to feel safe and good in the world. Make peace; live and let live; befriend. Let go of needing to resist or attack. This will help your emotional balance, which will in turn support a reasonable, broadminded, adaptive and successful approach to living.

    Trust, appreciate, include, value and celebrate and you will thrive.

    Argue, attack, defend, avoid and criticize and you will suffer.

     

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