- How do we see life?
- How have we seen life in the past?
- What are our perceptions of life?
- How do they compare to reality?
- How have those perceptions changed as we have moved through life?
- Are they still changing? What causes the changes?
A definition of perception:
1. the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses
2. the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpretted
The first three bullet points on “Food for Thought” are:
- We are what we think.
- Wilderness experiences – when the old answers no longer make sense, we are forced to ask new questions.
- The unanswered questions aren’t nearly as significant as the unquestioned answers.
It was in December 2012 that Bob Greaves talked about the need to understand the relationship between our emotions, our focus, our perception and their relationship to reality.
He had earlier come to realise that his traditional, immature (Fundamentalist Baptist) faith had got in the way of his development as a human being. He felt he was uninformed and unaware of the meaning of emotion, and went back to college to study human development.
Many Christians (especially Evangelicals) are encouraged to think that their emotions are unreliable and should not be relied on. I would suggest that this is an unhealthy attitude because a lack of respect for our emotions can create a lot of difficulty in finding both maturity and healthy development (with people worrying about whether they are good enough and becoming anxious and neurotic).
Bob started with the counter cultural suggestion that all emotions are totally involuntary and that they cannot be managed; that they are a true reflection of what we are thinking; that they can never be wrong; and that we can trust our emotions 100% for what it is they do.
I initially found that mind blowing! I think this is something we really need to consider! Bob went on to suggest that emotions are a form of self-reflection – seeing the world around us through our own eyes.
We have our own perceptions based on all of our own previous experiences and whatever we choose to focus on or become emotionally involved with. We are all on our own unique journeys and we only ever really pay attention to some of what is going on around us. We perceive the world around us through our own eyes. It is only those things that we focus on that have a major impact on our thinking. It is only when we are focused on something that we become emotionally involved. But our emotions do not tell us about reality, but they do express our reactions (as we see them) to what we think of as the realities of life. What we are seeing and thinking is reflected back through this sense of feeling that we call emotion, but this reinforces the need to define what we mean by emotions. What are they? How are they generated? What do they mean?
A few of my own thoughts:
There are a limited number of things that we can pay attention to at any one time – some will soon be discarded – others will become more and more significant. As individuals we all have differing talents and differing strengths (consider Myers Briggs and Enneagrams) – many of which will never have been developed. Do we for example have a real understanding of some of the fundamental differences between introverts and extroverts? Some people concentrate on the ‘big picture’; others like the ‘minute detail’; while most of us are somewhere between the two extremes.
FOCUS – we really pay attention to some things and not others. We can alter our focus and become more aware of some of the things going on around us.
Our EMOTIONS will always be a reflection of what is in our focus. Some people are more emotional than others!
How we see life – our perceptions are based on those things that we have focused on, guided by our emotions at the time we were focused on those things.
From this it seems to me that we need to take responsibility for what we focus on and embrace the emotions that that focus generates. This will give us some understanding of what makes us what we are.
It will also help us to deal with the challenges of dealing with others who have different perspectives (as a result of differing life experiences) – the ability to learn from them – and at the same time leave them free to be themselves.
What do we mean by emotion?
In “What do we mean by Emotion?” I have collected together a number of thoughts.
As human beings we cannot function without assigning meaning to things – even if they are not necessarily correct or even honest. Everything we rely on is based on something we have observed in the past – our history – thoughts and ideas that are not easily changed. Is our perspective based only on our own experiences? Are we open to the idea that there are a multiplicity of ways of understanding things?
Managing our emotions – we should not try to stop the ones we think are wrong, or to gain the ones we think are correct – that’s not a healthy thing to do. Emotions do not require that they be changed – the problem is elsewhere. Instead we need to engage our focus and perception and take the opportunity to be honest with ourselves (taking into account all the features that are present) and consider why we feel the way we do.
Remember that our emotions will also be affected by our general state of health and especially by our history that can be very commanding!
We need to get out of the boxes we have been living in – willing to rethink the way we understand the world – developing a wider way of making sense of things – not necessarily settling into any of them with fervour, obsession or dogma. Bear in mind that we have an aptitude and a capacity to see things that are beyond our ability to understand – but at the same time we need to recognise our own limitations.
Nobody else ever makes us feel – we make the way we feel as a result of our focus, our perspective and our health.
No matter what we are feeling if we can take into account our focus, our perception, our health and our history, the way we feel should make complete sense – the issues being dealt with are merely in the context in which this occurs. This is why people can be in similar contexts and experience them quite differently.
Looking back on some of my old notes I found this comment:
Emotions don’t have anything to do with reality – they are not in touch with reality; emotions are not even a response to any stimulus from anything outside of ourselves.