jueves, 30 de agosto de 2018

If what I see is not true, how can be true what I feel?

a doctrine first propounded by Protagoras holding that humankind is the measure of all things, that everything is relative to human apprehension and evaluation, and that there is no objective truth

Sentado en el tren en marcha es el andén el que se mueve. Si lo que veo no es cierto ¿como puedo creer en lo que siento?
(Ibrahim S. Lerak, Cuaderno de notas)

To the last meeting of the "Circle of the square table" one lecturer was invited to speak about perception of reality and emotions. His conference, he admitted, was taken mainly from the points of view of an other lecturer but as he said, it was so clear and interesting besides matching to the point to be treated that he wanted to debate about it. This is the excerpt of his conference:

We all feel sometimes upset, angry, happy or whatsoever. This perception of our state is very important to us, but the truth is that our feelings are just reactions to “things” that happen. How we perceive what happens giving to it importance or not and if yes how important it is, affects what we do after.

Basically we do things because what we do makes us feel good or because doing it we believe to do the right thing. Sometimes we do things that don’t make us feel well or that we know are not right. When it makes us feel good and we believe the action is the right one to do, than we are very happy.  Quite often a misalignment exists. We can do things by obligation (social, moral, health) that we don’t feel as good but is right and has to be done. Or might be that we like it and is the wrong thing to do (as for instance drink too much alcohol).

Follow emotions and act based on feelings is easy, no need to think, just we let us go and don't stop to analyse our perception. The way that we perceive something, the emotion it creates in us is expressed differently depending on the cultural influence (just think different ways to react in front of death). But in any case when acting and believe go hand by hand we have a sense of relief and satisfaction. In a certain way we “discharge and feel well”.  But that satisfaction is not long lasting and disappears just as quickly as it came. To act based of what’s good/right is not easy. Mostly due to the fact that we have to stop and think, add to it that on top we not always know what is right and you have the full picture. The point is that when we act following what we consider right, the positive effects last much longer and in a certain way we feel proud of it because doing what is good/right builds self-esteem and adds unconsciously meaning to our life.   

Seems obvious then that the logical thing to do is to suppress the reaction to emotions, stop, consider the rationale behind it and do what is right. Simple? Yes, is simple. What it is not, is easy. We tend to act as if our perception would be the only possibility and on top the right one. We dislike ambiguities and the easiest is to convince ourselves that we act well. Typically, we may see one nice small cake that is directly telling us “eat me”, our brain tells that is not convenient but also that the hard day we had makes it worth … and we end with it in our hands.  If we do this sort of thing long enough–if we convince ourselves that what feels good is the same as what is good–then the brain will actually start to mix the two up. Our brain will start to think that the whole point of life is to just feel really awesome, as often as possible. And once this happens, we will start deluding ourselves into believing that our feelings actually matter and that perception alone is the only thing that has value because feelings make us believe we are the center of the universe.

Feelings are experienced only by us, they can’t tell what’s best for othersfor our mother or our career or our neighbor's dog. All they can do is tell what’s best for us… and even that is debatable. Feelings are temporary; they only exist in the moment they arise. Feelings cannot tell what will be good for us in the future. All they can do is tell you what is best now… and even that is not sure because feelings are inaccurate. Ever got really jealous or upset with somebody close to you for a completely imagined reason? Like their phone dies and you start thinking they hate you and never liked you and were just using you? Feelings are not objective, mask the truth and that’s a real problem.

It is not easy to jump over feelings because when we start trying to control our own emotions, they multiply. This is because we don’t just have feelings about our experiences; we also have feelings about our feelings. We may: (1)feel bad about feeling bad (self-loathing), (2)feel bad about feeling good (guilt), (3)feel good about feeling bad (self-righteousness), and (4)feel good about feeling good (ego/narcissism). Each one of these feelings ends in making us act and be in a certain way:

Feel Bad About Feeling Bad ends in hating ourselves and we show it with an excessive self-criticism; behaving anxiously/neurotically; suppressing the  emotions; hiding behind a lot of fake niceness/politeness and feeling as though something is in us.

Feel Bad About Feeling Good ends in a complex of being guilty that we show with a constant comparison to others; chronic guilt and feeling as though we don’t deserve happiness; feeling as though something should be wrong, even if everything is great; unnecessary criticism and negativity.

Feel Good About Feeling Bad ends in a judge complex (Self-Righteousness) that we show  with moral indignation; condescension towards others; feeling as though we deserve something others don’t; seeking out a constant sense of powerlessness and victimization.

Feel Good About Feeling Good ends in narcissism that we show with self-congratulations, chronically overestimating ourselves; a delusional-positive self-perception; inability to handle failure or rejection; avoiding confrontation or discomfort; constant state of self-absorption.

This feelings are part of the stories we tell ourselves about our feelings. They make us feel justified in our jealousy. They applaud us for our pride. They are basically the sense of what is justified/not justified. They’re our own acceptance of how we should respond emotionally and how we shouldn’t. But emotions don’t respond to shoulds. And so instead, these feelings have the tendency to rip us apart inside, even further. If we always feel good about feeling good, we will become self-absorbed and feel entitled to those around us. If feeling good makes we feel bad about ourselves we will become a pile of guilt and shame, feeling as though we deserve nothing, have earned nothing, and have nothing of value to offer to the people or the world around us. If we feel bad about feeling bad, we will live in fear that any amount of suffering indicates that something must be sorely wrong with us. This is the feedback loop that many of us are thrust into by our culture, our family and the self-help industry.

Perhaps the worst feeling is increasingly the most common: feeling good about feeling bad. People who feel good about feeling bad get to enjoy a certain righteous indignation. They feel morally superior in their suffering, that they are somehow martyrs in a cruel world. 

Feelings don’t necessarily mean anything. They merely mean whatever we allow them to mean. I can be upset today. Maybe there are 100 different reasons I can be upset today. But I get to decide how important those reasons are–whether those reasons state something about my character or whether it’s just one of those too sensible days. We decide.

This is the skill that’s perilously missing: the ability to de-couple meaning from feeling, to decide that just because we feel something, it doesn’t mean life is that something. We have to control our feelings. Sometimes, good things will make us feel bad. Sometimes, bad things will make us feel good. That doesn’t change the fact that they are good/bad. Sometimes, we will feel bad about feeling good about a bad thing and we will feel good about feeling bad about a good thing, so… stop, we need to fight and think. Perception is only perception. This doesn’t mean we should ignore feelings. Feelings are important. But they’re important not for the reasons we think they are. We think they’re important because they say something about us, about the world, and about our relationship with it. But they say none of these things. There’s no meaning attached to feelings. Sometimes we hurt for a good reason. Sometimes for a bad reason; sometimes for no reason at all. The hurt itself is neutral. The reason is separate.

The point is that we get to decide. And many of us have either forgotten or never realized that fact. We decide what our pain means as we decide what our successes expose. And more often than not, any answer except one will tear you apart inside. And that answer is: nothing.

It was long discussion after as everybody understood the conference in one way and wanted to show that their perception of what was implicit in what was said was the good one and this created some opposed feelings that had to be analysed. 

2 comentarios:

  1. No se nos enseña a detener las emociones y pasarlas por el filtro racional. Esta asignatura es difícil de hacerla por libre. Quizás la cultura que más se acerca es la japonesa, ¿son más felices por ello?

    1. Depende de la presión social, detener las emociones y actuar luego no es reprimirlas y no mostrarlas. El número de suicidios en Japón es muy alto. Parece que reprimir no es la solución. Detener y actuar es reflexión y vida.

      Gracias por el apunte Herminio :))