I’m not sure where I’m going with this
But then, I rarely do.
As I’ve said before, there are many angles from which one might view The Project.
My goal, over time- has shifted.
From a global reduction in suffering
To a global increase in happiness
And, I believe- the distinction, there, is significant
So that’s maybe the Why of the What that is The Project
Then there are the How’s of it
(is there supposed to be an apostrophe there? I can never remember!)
The Obstacles Problem
These are all various How’s
What I want to talk about right now, has to do with the How of things.
I believe that humans cannot help but to view things through an emotional filter
I’m sure you’ve all heard that before, likely even noted it yourselves
But what does that mean?
How does that manifest in your behavior, in my behavior- and that of those around us, in any given moment?
I don’t have the answers to those questions – but maybe that’s a ‘yet’
And not a ‘won’t ever’
Now that I’ve started asking myself those questions, however- well, that’s led other questions. Interesting questions.
I want to start by talking about how I am beginning to suspect this tendency manifests in our minds, in a practical sense
I’ve been trying to cultivate consciousness in my word choices
I’m not perfect at it, even in my own definition of that werd
But I am satisfied more often than not in my word choices – satisfied that I did my best, am doing my best, to say what I mean. Mean what I say.
I try to correct even incidents of hyperbole in my verbal and written utterances, and am getting better at catching myself when I slip.
This has led to an interesting phenomenon, one that I’ve noticed within conversations with individual people, and between different individuals.
Let’s start with the single person example, as it will probably be most effective in communicating what I intend to.
I’ve noticed, through conversations with Fred (I know no one named Fred. Fred is an amalgamation of people I do know.)
that sometimes, Fred seems to be very skilled at picking up nuance in what I say. These days, we seem to have little…friction, perhaps, in communication. She responds in a way that makes me feel fairly confident that what I was trying to communicate, is pretty close to what she is hearing.
However, some few days, when he is in a Not Good Mood (I believe)- the conversations we have become… Confusing, in a way.
It almost seems like some words that I say, become lost, in the noise of others
I am not exempt from this, I know. But it is hard to see those things about oneself, as they are happening- or close enough afterwards to be able to gain clarity on the mechanisms at play.
So I will talk about Fred, who is no one. Or maybe everyone?
It seems to me like, perhaps- when we are actively experiencing things like Stress, Anxiety, and Suffering- we become keyed to heighten our Danger Assessments in perception processing
Even things like smells, that normally bother us only mildly
When we are Anxious, can become overwhelmingly negative to our senses
Take that a step further
And apply it to everything
And everything that is normally neutral to us, runs the risk of being perceived as negative
And those things that are generally negative, run the risk of….intensifying.
How do our brains determine what is Negative, and what Positive?
We have an identity thing, in our minds-that is the basis of these valuations.
But the human mind is never so simple as to give us clearly defined and immutable concepts, even of Self
We all know that brainwashing is a Thing, though it seems the degree and the applications of which tend to vary from mind to mind
But why? Why would brainwashing work, if you believe that it can, sometimes? Has, in some places?
I’ve heard a theory- well, read, really –
That the whole thing has to do with Identity.
(I believe I read this in a book titled ‘Identity and War’, though I’ll need to double check on that)
The author spoke of things like Tribes
And put forth the theory that when a sense of unity within an identity group is fostered
Then actual harm, and even the threat of harm- against others within our identity group
Will be interpreted by our brains as harm – or threat of harm- against us.
Against me. Against you.
And that some of the most persuasive and fervently supported military leaders, then as now- know this. Even if perhaps not consciously.
They knew enough, they know enough- to foster unity of The Group
Against the Other
So, our sense of self can include more than just our individual self
But since identity groups can and do change- gain or lose members, change in ideology, or outward trappings
Identity itself is a thing which is… Complex.
And those emotional filters that I mentioned earlier-
I believe that Identity is an integral part of that process
Perhaps this is directly related to what I wrote the other day, in regards to suffering as selfishness…
Perhaps- when we are actively experiencing suffering of some sort- anxiety, sadness, worry, fear-
Our identity itself…..
To use the example of the second hummingbird story
I thought of no one, but myself and that hummingbird, until I was able to gain a little perspective, a little of the clarity that comes from time and distance from the direct experience of those kinds of overwhelming, consuming emotions
This is a New Thought that I’m writing about, even as I think it through (meaning new to me!), so I hope you’ll bear with me!
Need to connect the dots here, more.
Alright. Lemme go deeper into the hummingbird story example.
When my friend texted me that he would coming through town that night
What I heard, in my brain
Was something more like:
“I’m messaging you at the last minute, yet again, because your friendship isn’t important enough for me to value your time, or think about what you might have going on.
I didn’t say thanks to your mom, but it didn’t occur to me that she might take that out on you, and now I’m asking if you can wake up in the middle of the night to let me stay there again and I don’t care if you just killed a hummingbird!”
But he said none of those things! He could not even have known about my mom, or the hummingbird.
That was all my own brain filling in words that were not there.
My own TBF
Making everything, making all this stuff that wasn’t even said
So, now that I’m thinking about it
This is a good example
You see, when I speak with Fred
Fred hears…. Something a little different than the actual words that I am saying.
Brain logjam! Warning! Warning!
I need a break. If anyone is reading this, and would like to step in and make it more of a discussion- please feel free!!
I feel like there is something my brain is leading me towards, but that I have not unearthed it yet. Maybe an outside perspective would help!
Alright. So, no one’s reading, still. That’s okay.
I will do this myself
When I am present, when I am Brooke
And not Fred
Is that of a human being
A living creature
Doing what I do
For the same reasons, fundamentally, that all other living beings do what they do
Doing what I have determined is the best I can be doing, in any given moment
But when I am Fred
I make decisions out of desperation
I do what I feel like I have to do – what I feel like my only choice is.
Not what I think is best, or not because I think it’s best
And when I am Fred
Things get blurry
When I am Fred
I become Fred in opposition to The Other
I begin playing the Game of Life
Instead of cooperatively
But I do these things
When I am Brooke, I see what is
When I am Fred
What I see
I see what might be
What could have been
I invent reality, in a way
A dangerous way
That then becomes reality
My fears over potentials
Until the effect on my brain
Is no different than it would have been
Had those potentials become actualized
This ties into what I’ve been turning around in my brain space on the topic of my no-politics rule (which is really a no-complaints rule)
Digital echo chambers
Places like Facebook
They feed the Fred in me
The algorithms that choose what to put in my Facebook feed
Give me more
Of the things that Fred thrives on
Engorging the Fred in me
Until everything I read
Is interpreted through the eyes of Fred
Without Brooke even realizing
The people in my life
Who spend more time Fred than not
Frequently seem to hear only parts of what I’m saying
Those parts that are relevant to them, personally and individually
Fred is a dangerous person to spend long periods of time existing as
Fred is who we’ve evolved to be, so that the people who are most accurate in their beliefs, in their knowledge
Will be most likely to survive
But it is no longer in our benefit to be Fred
There are too many ways of being Right, in our world today
When I am Brooke
Right and Wrong become less absolute
More now things
But when I am Fred
These things, they are Absolute
They infer judgment
They are Life Sentences, in my brain, on some subconscious level
Searching, then finding Brooke- then searching once again
What’s the lesson here?
This sounds like your werd ‘complaint’ to me. Pointing out a problem without an accompanying potential solution….”
“Brooke! I’m glad you asked!
At least someone is reading this stuff!”
“…. Nice try, hon. You haven’t answered my question!”
grumbles under breath
I’ll try, at least.
Now, the first and most obvious question that comes to my mind, is:
“Can I turn off these emotional filters? Now that I know about them, can I just….not do that anymore?”
I don’t believe that is possible.
Of course- that’s just one person’s narrow conclusion, based off of one person’s narrow experiences in life. Perhaps it is, and I’ve just never figured out how.
But after many years of repeated and disparate attempts to do just that- I am currently operating on the premise that it is Not Possible.
That those filters are part of what you could maybe refer to as the hardware of our brains
Our brains are, I believe- incredibly programmable
But not infinitely so.
I believe those filters are part of the structural process of perception
Moment to moment
And that we cannot hack our way around them
“Oh, come off it, Brooke. That’s just more complaining!”
In my view of humans, and my own brain, then- I cannot manually override my own emotional filtration system
But what I can do
Is manually override the system settings
Manually input the ‘identity’ designation
That designation that determines Danger
That is at the heart of my lifemax equations
(there, Metavore! I came up with a name to distinguish my equations from that of minmax life!)
These equations, we can do them consciously
But they happen, I believe
in every moment
This is a whole other channel to travel down. I’m going to think for a moment about whether I’m up to the task, at the moment!
Okay. I will try.
So. Back to the beginning. Back to basics.
This is what I began to believe my own brain was doing, fundamentally- in any given moment- is doing, in every moment, after I first began trying to observe that process, back in college:
There is, first
In a flash
The visceral experience of what is
Followed by, so quickly as to seem immediate-
What seems to be a rapid, entirely automatic sort of labeling and identification of sensory input
Which is then, again so rapidly as to seem immediate, and again which I believe to be entirely automatic
Followed by a paring down of input
Based off of associated context, and value of potential threat to that elusive ‘self’ I spoke of earlier- or potential gain offered
And based off of those levels, our senses notice particular things over others
And those things convey emotional weight
Cause releases of neurotransmitters in our brains that result in particular physiological and mental shifts that manifest in mood and the like
We have evolved, I believe- to tend towards rapid and automatic behavioral responses to our surroundings
Hears a whisper in the grass
But feels no wind
Those that assumed ‘predator’, even if occasionally wrong
And immediately ran, or pivoted, and threw that spear
Whereas, the ones that hesitated- those times it was a predator, and not something harmless
Did not pass on the hesitation genes
The thinking genes.
When we are Fred
We do not think, before acting
We wound, when we are wounded
We attack, when we are scared
When we feel threatened
I do not believe that I can stop that process of perception, that association of emotional weight, in the moment
But what I can do
Is try to cultivate an awareness of my own tendency towards emotional filtration
Before I act
Freds do things like punch people in the face for calling him a pussy
Freds do things like laugh cruelly at the other girls, who threatened her sense of worth by making her feel dumb
I do things like use tone as a weapon, when I am Fred- which I consider to be a form of violence.
But when I am Brooke
I can pause, before I act
Realize what the Fred in me wants me to do
And decide whether or not Brooke would feel good about that action, later
Decide whether or not Brooke would feel proud of herself, later
And, if Brooke cannot find in herself the strength or the knowledge
To act in a way that she thinks she will be proud of
Brooke can simply – wait.
Turn her brain in another direction, for as little or as long as it may take
To find that clarity
That comes from distance
To find that perspective
That comes from time
And a cooling off of the Fred inside her.