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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

On the Interactions Between Emotions and Awareness

Emotions are the helmsmen of our conscious process. They tell us what to attend to, what to avoid, what to ignore. These determinations are made very quickly, based on a holographic application of our past experience (and genetics) to our current perceptions.

Thus our emotions and our awareness are intricately intertwined, the course of each being largely determined by the other, each guiding the other in a circle of causation until an action emerges and/or the world changes and we move on. Whether we own our emotions or they own us thus comes down simply to a choice--yes, ultimately an emotional one--of when and where we decide we are done and stop exploring.

This view is in sharp contrast to the commonly held premise that our emotional responses are somehow fixed and fundamental, to be observed, felt, often heeded, but never denied or repressed. To the latter points, I agree, but the rigidity which begins that perspective is completely unfounded and detrimental.

Recalling the earlier premise that emotions reflect a "holographic application of our past experience to our current perceptions", there are two obvious routes to altering our emotions: changing our experience, and changing our perceptions. Note right away that we are not altering the computation--whatever magic or mechanism within us that computes our emotional response remains unaltered--rather we are altering the inputs to that process.

The most immediately alterable of these two inputs is our perceptions. Indeed, at any given moment simply by turning our heads ninety degrees we vastly change at least some of our perceptions. Likewise, in conceptual matters simply choosing another viewpoint to examine or pursuing a greater depth of scrutiny brings us new conceptual perceptions. If our mind is relatively sound, the overwhelming result of any such exploration can only be to improve our perception, since in accumulating observations the general rule is more is better.

Put simply, how we feel about something right now at this moment is a reflection of what we perceive of that thing right here and now, and thus if we endeavor to explore and understand that thing in greater depths, we may find ourselves emerging with a completely new emotional evaluation of it--and that is good because it is the more-informed evaluation, the wiser perspective. This may sound obvious here, but consider how often people lock into their first emotional response to something and hold it as the truth, as if to feel differently about it a short time later could only be repression or denial. On the contrary, repression and denial are quite the opposite, as they implicitly do accept the initial response as truth, and then attempt to sweep it under the rug by placing focus elsewhere--i.e., definitely not by exploring the issue itself in greater depth. This is as if upon encountering a door with a scary face painted on it, we simply go on to the next door and pretend we never saw the first one; when in fact if we had simply opened the door and gone inside we may have found something quite acceptable. (Then again we may not have--but the presumption is it is better to know than to simply assume.)

This short-term alteration of perception translates to our longer-term emotional changes as well, since today's experience becomes tomorrow's past experience, and thus every time we uncover a corrected emotional response via additional exploration, we consequently improve the quality of our future initial emotional responses as well.

And thus it is that over time a broad and fearless awareness can truly reshape our emotional responses in positive and profound ways, allowing us to feel at every moment just that which really matters rather than forever remaining subject to a hodgepodge of random programming lathered onto us by a lifetime of societal programming.

And it all begins with this seed: bringing our awareness to bare on the possibility that what we feel is not cast in stone, nor beyond analysis and ultimately correction. And with each exploration of this possibility in which we find it to be true, we further emotionally integrate this understanding, and thus find ourselves ever more inclined to open those doors we might have left closed before, until it becomes our second nature to second guess our nature.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com