By Lynn Fraser.
We all know this experience. Someone at work has an edgy tone of voice we interpret as impatience with us and it makes us feel stupid. An eye roll triggers feeling judged. The joy and delight on a child’s face when we arrive home creates a warm loving feeling. This is how we work. Human beings interpret our experiences and we are socially interactive.
One survival level need is consistent, trusted attachments with people; being included as part of a family or group. Because we need that to live, our primitive survival systems support that drive. We notice social cues and adjust our behavior to stay safely within the protection of group.
Associations help us with social intelligence. We recognize danger because of prior experience. Say someone is critical of our work and we feel anxious. That look on their face may or may not have anything to do with us or our work but that doesn’t matter on one level. Our interpretation is affected by prior experience.
Feeling that someone is critical of our work could inspire us to work harder for their approval. We could own up that we’ve been slacking off and need to focus more. The same circumstances could trigger anger. We know we’ve been working hard and feel unappreciated. The past always comes into play. We had a parent who was always critical and pushing us. We came home with 96% on a math test and they asked about the other 4%. This can make us more vulnerable to (perceived) criticism or being judged as not perfect. Our past experiences trigger associations. We don’t arrive neutral if we have experience with something.
When we know our brains use association with the past, it helps us to understand our reactions and how we are vulnerable to other people. Like any system, it helps us when it works well. What happens when that isn’t the case? Maybe then we’re over-involved with wanting to please other people. We can’t live with the tension in our body so we say something unwise or numb out.
Explore your own system and associations through these guided inquiries.
This practice is 5 minutes and works directly with our perception and associations.