Much of the conflict that takes place, especially in relationships, can be avoided when we understand the relationship between facts and feelings. Why do we tend to rely so heavily on assumptions? It is because your mind must find a meaning to what you experience. It is the meaning you derive for any given situation that creates your emotional response. Therefore it is a misconception to believe that emotions such as anger, jealousy and fear are all ‘natural’ reactions. These emotions are created by the ‘meaning’ you give to the situation. A good meaning triggers pleasurable emotions; a bad meaning triggers painful emotions. You simply cannot feel happy or sad about anything, which has no meaning to you. Hence, emotions are created and controlled by your thoughts and what you perceive to be true. The problem arises when there is a disparity between how you feel about a given situation and the actual facts!
The Map is not the Territory!
To give further light on how assumptions are derived, let us look at a map. A map is an artist’s impression of a geographical location. The map is merely an illustrative representation it is not reality. The map is not the territory! The map overlooks reams of information in order to present a simplified version of the territory that we can comprehend. Similarly, in order to make sense of the world around you, your mind presents to you its’ own artistic impression of what is around you. However, you will never capture all of the complexities of all that is happening around you. Sight is a function of your mind, not your eyes. Your eyes merely serve as a window, but only your mind is capable of defining the images you see through the window. Like a map your mind overlooks a large quantity of information in order to present to you only what is relevant and within your comprehension. You will not see beyond your comprehension. Therefore, your conclusions are self created and may not actually reflect what actually happened! None of us are in the position to see the whole picture in full clarity.
The Things We Believe
How does your mind determine what is represented to you? Well, in order to handle the vast amount of information that you encounter on a daily basis, the human mind (on a subconscious level) only presents to you the things that support your beliefs and values and rejects anything else. For example, if through painful past hurts you have come to the conclusion that all men are cheats or all women are gold diggers – your mind will actively seek for what it would consider ‘evidence’ to support that claim and overlook the ‘evidence’ that does not support that belief.
We can now see why Jesus said divorce is the result of hardness of heart! When couples refuse to question the validity of their own assumptions and continually make decisions based on those assumptions it inevitably results in the destruction of the relationship.
Carry out this simple exercise:
Count every ‘ F ‘ in the following text:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS…
HOW MANY? We’ll look at your answer later on.
The meaning we give to any particular event is derived by our own distorted viewpoint and thinking (distortions). Therefore no two people see things in the same way. Even if they were standing together looking at the same thing, each would see something different and draw differing conclusions about what they saw. Distorted thinking does not mean you are warped or twisted. We all look at the world through unique filters, which give us our own perception of reality. These filters are derived by the facets of our personality such as values, beliefs, goals, drivers (the things that motivate you) and principles. Therefore the way you see the world is a reflection of who you are!
The key to exposing hardness of heart is to identify and question our assumptions. In order to do that, we must be aware of our own distortions. These come to light especially when we are upset and experiencing pain. The following are common distortions that influence how we interpret situations:
taking valid comments as personal insults or blaming yourself for something you cannot control.
All or nothing thinking:
seeing events in extreme terms and allowing no room for shades of grey or middle ground.
Magnification and minimization:
exaggerating the negative and minimizing the positive.
imagining or assuming the worst case scenario.
drawing sweeping conclusions based on a single event
Our distortions lead us to jump over a great deal of logic and common sense in order to reach extreme conclusions. These conclusions spawn painful and destructive emotions culminating in a behavioral response that leads to severe consequences.
The Cycle of Emotional Bondage
All painful and emotionally charged situations go through a sequence of events, which if left uninterrupted spirals into an ongoing cycle of destructive behavior as highlighted below.
1. The event or experience
2. Your interpretation of the event (using distorted thinking)
3. The meaning you give to the event (derived from distorted thinking)
4. Emotional response to your meaning
5. Behavioral response to your emotion (verbal or physical abuse, self abuse, rash decisions, sexual vice etc.)
6. The consequence of your behavior
7. Leading to another event (retaliation, punishment, divorce, separation, loss of job etc.)
No doubt there are some of you who are totally convinced that your viewpoint and your interpretation of events are totally correct. As far as you are concerned there is no need to question what you believe to be true; it’s all there in black and white. Let’s look at your answer to our simple brainteaser.
How many F’s did you count?
Obviously the answer is 3 right?
Did you see 4?
That’s good, but still wrong.
There are actually 6 F’s!! Don’t believe me? Go back and try to find the F’s before you read on………
Anyone who sees all six the first time is a genius. If you originally saw three, don’t despair your normal!
Why didn’t you see all 6 F’s the first time? It is because your mind did not process the word ‘OF”. Your mind actually ‘skipped’ this word, as it was not needed to understand the sentence you were reading. For the majority of us the word ‘OF’ is unimportant. Incredible, but this is how your mind works. This is not a magic trick or mass hypnosis!
You were so certain there were only 3 F’s but now you can see 6. With this in mind look at the conflicts you are experiencing, especially in your marriage or any other relationship. Are the facts really as you see (interpret) them. Or are there things that your mind has overlooked because it was not considered important?
The reverse is also true. There are things we put too much emphasis on that really does not warrant our attention. Simple actions, simple words that should be taken at face value are looked into too deeply, often leading to extreme conclusions. Do you really want people to walk on eggshells around you? You will never achieve intimacy in a relationship where this is the norm.