WASHINGTON May 15, 2012 - Imagine living back in the day when our Sun revolved around the Earth. Then, along comes a guy who says, “We have it wrong, the Earth twirls about the Sun.”
It may take years for that idea to trend its way throughout the land and reach your hamlet but when it does, yipes.
If you were a farmer in 1530 with no education other than what was taught by your church, the idea of the Earth not being the center of everything could seem ridiculous, or very frightening. Maybe you would shrug it off, but it could be a seed of doubt that nags you the rest of your rural Renaissance life.
Being an educated man of wealth in 1550, you might read Copernicus’ On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. It could open your mind and stimulate thought unless you are devoutly religious and become scared and angry. If a young man, you might embark on a life of science (women didn’t do much embarking then) or burn the book and join a monastery.
Then and now, our perceptions are important to us. They are shaped by our family, culture, background, education, environment, and experiences. We tend to identify with our perceptions, so emotions are triggered when the perceptions are threatened or dismissed.
Back to the Future
Feelings and emotions are not indicative of facts. Just because you feel strongly about something does not make it true or right or best. It may turn out to be the best, but not because you feel strongly about it; and some things never boil down to one answer.
When we argue with our children, spouse, coworkers, or the grocery store clerk, each person is defending their identity, or point of view. Most of us feel strongly about how we see things so no one wants to say uncle.
That is why, if you take the time to understand another person’s perspective, and ask questions until you can verbalize his or her viewpoint, they will feel seen and heard. Being seen and heard is what we all want. If our perceptions are acknowledged with respect, there is nothing to defend leaving room for meaningful conversation.
What brings this to mind is hearing about all the security measures being taken in Chicago for the soon to be NATO summit. The effort is to prevent or avert violence which is known to erupt during a clash of emotionally-soaked perceptions.
The frustrating thing about violence is that underneath our individual and group indignations, all human beings need and want the same things.
So, What Are Emotions Good For?
Emotions are not the problem. Life without emotion and feeling would be flat, and tasty as drywall. Knowing what we like and dislike comes from how we feel about things, providing us with a basic sense of self.
Our emotions let us know what is important and help us prioritize the people and events in our life. When feelings are quiet they are a sixth sense that helps us read situations and people, and allow the rising of intuitions and hunches. We communicate and connect through emotion, and it is a language every human being shares.
The problem is giving emotion the reigns. Without being balanced by reason, good sense, and mustered wisdom, we tend to believe feelings are true. However, emotion and feeling are a flow of information, feedback, about our own inner landscape in relation to the outer one, not litmus tests for truth.
This Relates to My Everyday Life How?
Though this article was sparked by the news of the NATO summit preparations, it is really about all of us having better relations with our self and others.
Writers can look at blank screen and feel they have nothing to say. When they start working and keep plugging away, words that make sense mysteriously end up forming sentences and then paragraphs, despite the feeling.
So, do you feel inadequate, like a loser, or as if you are never good enough? That is a feeling not a fact. If you feel anger because someone insulted you that does not mean you were actually insulted. Feeling anxious about a new job does not cancel the fact of your skills and knowledge.
Below all the feeling, life is simple. We each want to be respected, cared about, heard and understood, have our basic needs met, and follow our interests and talents. Unfortunately, everyone has the same talent for complicating things.
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