Guest Author - Sabera Chowdhury
A strange choice you might think, but as a fictional character one of the most striking and beneficial qualities that I feel sets a great example for us is the way that Mr. Spock is able to keep his emotions and intellect separate. I’m not even beginning to suggest that there are necessarily too many other advantages of being half Vulcan and half human, but certainly Mr. Spock’s singular eyebrow raise that somehow has come to personify his scientific and unemotional turn of mind is a noteworthy quality. His ability to make an observation, proffer a scientific analysis, or interact in a dialogue without bringing in personal emotion or opinion, is a very useful skill.
There is a strong distinction between feeling and thinking which can get blurred and essentially end up distorting not only what we see, but also how much we are able to ultimately see with clarity. It is a great skill and discipline to be able to simply observe a scene or a situation for what it is and how it is, in an objective and “technical” way, without bringing in personal judgments, feelings or opinions. This way of looking is integral to scientific observation, and also a training that many technical artists have to learn to perfect.
Bringing in a few personal thoughts and feelings into one’s thinking stream may not seem like a big deal at all, and we may even think that it lends a personal touch to the way we see the world, but even a tiny “personal” reflection can alter the way something is seen and filter our perception so that we only then see a situation colored by our experience. When we infuse a situation with our personal thoughts, feelings and opinions, we see what we have “decided” to see. Our emotional take on a situation literally changes the landscape. It’s a bit like those halls of mirrors you may have visited as a child, where each mirror distorts your image in a particular way, giving you bizarre distortions of how you actually look. Our emotions and thought patterns (influenced by past experiences) can be just like those mirrors, so that we don’t realize that what we are seeing is no longer what is actually there.
Emotions bring richness and depth to our experiences and without feelings we would lose an essential aspect of our humanity, but there is a real benefit in being able to keep our emotions out of our thinking and perceiving, in order to see what is really going on and not be influenced by biased thought patterns and emotions. Mr. Spock’s “scientific” turn of mind, if we simply coin the phrase for convenience, gives him an edge and a clarity that is highly effective and allows him to really align with the way things really are in the present moment. He sees clearly because he focuses on what is going on “now” and does not distort or “corrupt” what he sees with thoughts or perceptions or images from the past. Being able to look without the filters of emotion or the past means that he is able to fully interact with the situation at hand and be in harmony with it.
What we think and feel about a situation, outside of the stark facts, are what gives the scene its “narrative”, or “storyline”. It is simply our personal perspective within a moment in time, not objective reality. It is always our “story” about a situation that brings in the dimension of suffering to our experience. Looking at a situation without emotion or personal opinion can be very freeing and help us to move forward. It is the personal story that we create, that “fixes” us into a more or less predictable sequence of events that can be life-limiting and negative. We are so used to infusing what we see with our own feelings and our “conclusions” based on past experience, that we deny ourselves the possibility to experience a situation as it is.
Habitual patterns of anxiety for example can often be triggered by the way we “assume” and “overlay” our incompetence and inability onto a situation even before it takes place, so that we already “handicap” ourselves and our performance. Over time, as the negative events keep repeating themselves, we begin to believe that this is actually the reality, totally not realizing that we “loaded” the situation ourselves by coloring it with our own limiting and self-defeating conditions, albeit unconsciously.
We may all have been influenced and tainted by certain experiences during childhood and in our formative years that made us believe that what we experienced were “truths” about how we were and what the world was like. Sometimes our beliefs can become very entrenched, for no fault of our own, but simply because of the intensity and frequency of our negative experiences. In these situations we might benefit from the help of an objective, receptive professional who can gradually help us to develop new filters for perceiving ourselves and the world, so that we are not influenced so much by the traumas and negative influences of our past.
To free ourselves from the particular storylines of our lives that limit and stereotype us into always being the victim or even the hero (or whatever particular role that hurts us), means learning to see and assess situations without the distortions of personal emotion, feeling and judgment. It means distinguishing between what are the actual facts of the situation and what you “feel” about the situation, and not mixing the two. Neither one is more “valid” than the other, but it can be very useful to remember that what one sees is actually very personal and completely subjective. At key moments when we feel limited or stuck with the view we’re presented with, it can be helpful to be able to “remove” the emotional filters from our perception, so that we can really look at what is going on. This approach can begin to release us from habitual and self-created patterns of suffering.