Perception and Emotions

Aaron Beck, a cognitive behavior therapist, said, “emotion follows perception.” Meaning that the way you feel about something is based on the way you see it. Since the human condition leans to the negative, if one sees the situation as difficult, he might also feel it is hopeless and that he is defeated even before trying.

This does not have to be a permanent condition. All have experienced a time of being caught up in a flurry of emotions, only to have them instantly dissipate when new information presents itself. We can learn to monitor our perceptions before engaging emotions and thus have a more pleasant outcome.

Our brains store all information received through our many senses. The brain continually seeks patterns by evaluating new sensory information over and against previous sensory input. When patterns appear, the brain attached “meaning” to it and creates expectations for the future. Thus, emotions follow these perceptions.

Over a lifetime, this storage unit becomes full and the brain becomes confused in sorting through all the messages. The childhood reaction of fear “meaning” to seeing a spider should not control the adult response to the insect. Emotional arousal fixates on what happened in the past and clouds the reality of what is happening now.

From another’s point of view. How might your feelings toward an individual soften if you see him as a fellow human being with struggles and fears? Realizing that each person is doing the best he can with his limited resources and with his imperfect insight can transform your emotions toward him from frustration or anger to caring.

Input of perspective. When another gives their opinion, choose to see the comments as perspective rather than a personal attack. Listen to the words and filter out a supposed hidden agenda. Monitor that you are responding to the information, not the person’s rotten personality. After all, when do you want to know that the boat won’t float? When it is in the middle of the lake or while still on the shoreline? This will allow you to reflect and answer in a calm manner.

Acquisition of skills. When something happens “again”, rather than reverting to an emotional outburst, ask yourself, “What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?” Consider the abilities you have at your disposal and use them, such as improved communication, self-defense, enforcement of boundaries, outside resources, financial reserves, reasoning capabilities and personal power.

Locus of control. When you tense at another’s attempts to control your decisions, how might peace come when you consider that their unwelcomed input might be motivated by their concern for you? Regardless of their input or your response, you are self-determining in attitude as well as in actions taken.

As you see situations based on what is transpiring now, rather than dredging up similar past events, internal positive results will automatically happen. You will be pleased with the emotional shift to a mature perspective. Although the spider may not be adopted as a pet, you are in a position to take effective measures for pest control.


Realistic Thinking

We live in the limits of our own thinking. Your perception is your reality; only it may not be really real. The answers you give are not necessarily facts; they are simply your interpretation of the situation as you see them. However, your perceptions and beliefs have a powerful impact on both the present and your future. Your direction is dependent upon your perception. Here are some thoughts on how to reframe pre-conceived perceptions.

It’s Fixable. I am all for positive thinking and make it a continual practice. However, it takes more than seeing the glass as half full as opposed to half empty. Realistic thinking sees the glass not as either-or, but as capable of being filled to the brim or completely emptied as the need dictates.

Be Thankful Thus Far. Soren Kierkegaard observed that “life is lived forward and understood backward”. It has taken the trials, triumphs and tragedies thus far to get you where you are now. Use every experience as a learning tool to see what needs to be repeated and what needs to be adjusted or avoided.

Address it with compassion. In trying circumstances, have compassion on those difficult people. The crucified Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” You may wish to argue that he does most certainly know what he is doing. But do we really know the extent of our actions? Adopting an attitude of caring – for them and for you – gives grace to handle the situation with calm.

Yes, You Can. A life-long slacker in transitional housing was forced to get a job or be kicked out. After rejection and discouragement, he honestly looked at how he was presenting himself to prospective employers. On the fifteen-day-deadline, he was hired.

Two weeks later he was a changed man. He said, “All my life I have been a screw-up. You made me get a job and now I have a ‘can do’ attitude.” And you can too.

Grow into the New. Studies show that practicing grateful thinking makes people more energetic and enthusiastic. At the above-mentioned transitional housing residents are tested for drugs. Some are incensed. Change your view. Instead of seeing it as a controlling act, view it as your opportunity to prove you are living a clean life. See any accountability – forced or not - as a way to show you are responsible.

The importance of the way you perceive life is that people seek out experiences that reinforce their beliefs. If you believe yourself to be stupid you will see a wise choice as a fluke. Regardless of what you are facing it is within your power to choose your responses. You have 100% control over your thinking and attitudes. You can be grumpy, miserable and hateful or you can reframe to see things in a different light.

Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach of Solution Principles, specializes in maximum people development. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mdunkin@flash.net Read past articles at www.monadunkin.blogspot.com


What Is Your Goal?

What is your goal for a successful life? Or for a fruitful marriage? For effective parenting? For job fulfillment? For financial security? For wellness? Although most people say they have goals, the truth is, what they have is a vague ‘I-want-this-or-that” mentality. Because the object is not specific, you wind up multi-tasking and getting very little accomplished.

In the 60’s Harvard University conducted a student survey as to how many had life goals. All answered in the affirmative. “Yes.” After all, they were in Harvard, what would you expect? Then they were asked how many had written these goals down. The responses fell sharply.

Only 3% of the student body of Harvard had a written goal for their life.

Harvard did a follow-up study thirty years later. The results were staggering. The 3% that had written down their goals had accomplished more and had a greater market value than the other 97% combined. Wow. And what had made the difference? It was the power of written down and clarifying the goals.

As long as your objectives remain vaguely stuck in your head, you run the risk of them remaining a fantasy rather than becoming a reality. It is imperative that you put your goals into writing. Writing down goals pin-points intent, makes the illusive concrete and energizes you to accomplishment.

If you have never written goals before the concept can seem overwhelming. Here is my KISS plan – keep it simple, sweetie.

One: Get a legal pad and randomly write down everything you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Do not put a time limit on it, a proficiency boundary, financial abilities or the need to receive permission.

Two: Group all of these “want to’s” into the following categories: family, financial, career, health, spirituality, community.

Three: Pick one category to work on for the next two weeks. Ferret through your general “to do” list and select those items that directly apply to the one category you have chosen. Now, for the next fourteen days, focus exclusively on those things. As other issues may need to be addressed, spend minimum time and then get back quickly to your focal points.

You feel more organized now than you did at the start of this article because order has been brought to your thinking. You are more focused about what you want and where to start and what to do. As you begin to write down what you want and plans to achieve it, it mysteriously becomes real and attainable. Get busy. Make your “yes” answer to “Do you have goals” a reality.

Mona Dunkin is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach. Read past articles at www.monadunkin.blogspot.com. Contact her at mdunkin@flash.net. -30-


Getting a Handle on Irritants

Do people frequently get on your nerves? And if so, how do you handle the situation? Here are suggestions on how to minimize the annoyance so the encounter does not “ruin your day” and does not diminish the individual’s value in your eyes.

Go from personal to general. Focusing on my circumstances makes events overwhelming. My car broke down. My child disobeys. My spouse is inconsiderate. My job is demanding. Consider the same situations with the detachment of somebody. Somebody’s car broke down. Somebody’s child disobeys. Somebody’s spouse is inconsiderate. Somebody’s job is demanding. All of a sudden it is not a big deal. When viewing it from another’s perspective, you are open to see the problem more clearly and to find solutions. Do not take yourself so seriously.

They, You, I. Psycharitist Carl Jung says that what drives you crazy in another person is, in reality, a denied character defect in you. When we embrace our flaws, not only does it free us to acknowledge and discard the behavior, it also alleviates our frustration with the irritating individual displaying the same attributes. It sets us up for compassion toward the offender.

Try this focus changer: 1) Get alone and privately speak aloud about the irritating person in third person tense (she/he). 2) Repeat the frustration in second person (you) as though you are addressing the individual. 3) Then speak of the annoyance in the first person (I). Example below:

Speak in third person tense. “She interrupted my conversation and didn’t even care! She is so rude and selfish.”

Speak in second person tense. “You really offended me when you butted into my conversation as though you are the most important person in the universe.”

Speak in first person tense from based on your personal honesty. “I am selfish and guilty of speaking up when I have something to say. I am sure I come across as being ill-mannered and uncaring.”

Changed compassionate perspective is this: I am guilty of having done the same type of behavior. I acknowledge it and become aware and will stop before interrupting. Even though it is irritating in my co-worker, I have compassion for her and choose to hold her in high regard. With my anger subdued, I am in a better position to either speak up or overlook it should future such incidents occur.”

Those times when you are guilty of proclaiming “I am having one of those days”, remember, that statement is true only as long as you claim it to be so.

Mona Dunkin is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach. Read past articles at www.monadunkin.blogspot.com. Contact her at mdunkin@flash.net. -30-

Anger Busting

Anger is an emotion common to all. Anger is a legitimate feeling with a valid cause, at least from the victim’s point of view. Aggression is an expression of anger that may seem like an automatic response, but it is controllable. Here are thoughts to gain control of yourself before anger becomes danger.

Become aware. Pay attention to your body and emotions to pre-determine when frustration is building so you can “nip it in the bud” before it becomes a full-blown outrage that is damaging to you and your family or co-workers. Keep an angry calendar; mark down every time you become frustrated. Make a list of hot topics that push your button so you can pre-determine to not engage. This will let you see how frequently you turn to negative responses.

Voice it. Give a verbal warning that you are nearing the end of your patience. This puts you in a more aware position and gives strength to not over-react. It also alerts your children or constituents to alter their behavior or to duck-and-cover.

Take a time out. Being emotions driven cause fuzzy thinking. Give yourself a five minute break so feelings can calm down and rational thinking can reconnect. Think of a past event when a positive outcome would probably have been affected had you given yourself a short time-out.

Give up the defense. Hold your position loosely - just in case you may possibly be wrong. When you change how you react, you change the way another’s actions affect you. Right or wrong, angry responses do not solve problems.

Regard self and others. Anger is destructive and is powerless to effect positive change in a relationship. Healthy regard for you holds you accountable to behaving like a mature adult. Healthy regard for others prevents aggressive behavior toward them.

Become aware. The first become aware is to determine the nearness of short-circuiting. This become aware is to congratulate yourself that you handled it well. The mind tends to think “what has happened will happen.” As you put these suggestions into practice, you will change your response. Reflect on your improved behavior and feel good about it. And be confident that the next time you will handle it even better.

Although anger prodding events may occur, allow your new anger busting skills to treat it as being an irritation. This change of view will equip you to handle it with grace and not outbursts of anger.


Staying Up In a Down Economy

Major unemployment, economic woes, falling stock rates, mounting foreclosures, rising gas prices – it is a current reality that brings with it the potential for despair. Without discounting the severity of the situation, how you make it through depends on your outlook. Here are suggestions to keep an upbeat attitude regardless.

Think About What You Think About. Pay attention to your thoughts and interrupt them when they turn negative, worrisome or anxious. Say “STOP” out loud, then deliberately change your mind. Turn to prayer, joys, successes, past accomplishments, future plans - anything that will keep your spirits up.

Search for the Silver Lining. Without rain the flowers would not grow. Without mountains, the valleys would be ordinary. Without the night the sun would be too much. With unlimited funds, gratitude would be jeopardized. Without financial restraints, debt becomes unbearable.

Use Your Creativity. Yes, you are creative. To thrive in a recession, adopt the mind set of “how much can I make do with what I already have.” What tasty meals can you make from the hodge-podge of staples in the pantry? How can you repurpose items in the tool shed or attic, either to use or to sell? Adopt the shaker philosophy of “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without.”

Lighten Your Load. Few things expand your buoyancy like extra space. Look through closets, cabinets and drawers and get rid of at least ten items in each room. Donate the discards to charity to brighten another’s day. This exercise has psychological benefits in that it breaks emotional attachments to things that no longer serve you.

Be Thankful. With a heart of gratitude focus on what you do have rather than what you do not have. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a safe place in which to sleep? Multitudes of people world-wide do not. Do you have at least one person who cares bout you? Are you able to take care of most of your bodily needs?

Pay It Forward. The law of reciprocity really works: what you give into the lives of others is returned to you. Volunteer at a charity of your choice. Help out weekly at a soup kitchen. Commit random acts of kindness with no regard of praise. Be gentle with the infirmed and compassionate to a child.

Rest and Refresh. Make it a point to be in bed by 10 PM. It is amazing how differently the world looks after a good night’s sleep. While your body is in relax-mode, your unconscious mind is busily searching for solutions. Insurmountable problems are lessened by rest.

Perhaps the best way to stay up in a down economy is in to summons the courage of “I will try again tomorrow.” Be thankful for today and do not worry about tomorrow; stand in amazement at how things work out – in the long run - for the better.

Mona Dunkin is a Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach. Read past articles at www.monadunkin.blogspot.com. Contact her at mdunkin@flash.net. -30-