Friday, August 11, 2006

Filters

Alright. So the initial, welcoming post is out of the way. Now for that first attempt at a substantive post.

I was thinking it would be funny to do something off the wall. Some sort of Stephen Colbert homage, perhaps. But that will have to wait for another time. Because when you're someone who thinks too much (like me), the first instinct is to become philosophical.

Which, in a sense, is what this post is about. Thinking too much, that is. To some extent, our thoughts can interfere with simply living, being fully aware of life. Thinking (oddly enought) prohibits mindfulness, in its deepest sense. What's more, thinking tends to engage all of our mental filters -- ways that we process experience. Call 'em what you want -- cognitive distortions, negative/maladaptive schemas, etc. Basically they boil down to a way that we filter sensory input. And in my experience, these filters tend to be rather egocentric. I don't mean that in an entirely negative or critical sense.

Let me see if I can explain that better. Our filters tend to reflect our pains, whether from a sense of defectiveness, a painful mistrust of others, etc. And out of our pain, we become focused on ourselves -- whether we are being accepted or rejected, whether others are out to harm us, whether we are OK, etc. All of which leads me to wonder: to what extent is it possible to truly love when we are stuck in such patterns? At the very least, it seems to me that our ability to love is suppressed by such filters, such unresolved pains -- because inevitably we are focused on ourselves rather than those around us.

2 comments:

Becky Papp said...

I think the fact that most people do manage to form a connection with others---whether it is "love" or "compassion" or whatever you may want to call it--despite the fact that we are essentially designed to think about ourselves first, is one of the mysteries of life. I am sure that most of the time I am motivated by self-interest on some level, yet I can think of times in my life where I cared only for another person in a difficult situation. Parenthood supplied examples of this like no other. It is an almost primitive instinct to protect your own and it seems to override all the "thinking" I may be doing about myself or other things.

steve westby said...

Great point. My sense is that such situations override our "filters," if you will, allowing us to focus on others. So our filters are not always active.

It's interesting to think about what it means to have filters overriden. In part, I think it simply involves an engagement of our compassion or capacity for love. In my practice when working with intransigent families, I will often harness a parent's desire to be a good parent -- their concern for their child -- in encouraging them to make some kind of change (say, stopping some kind of verbal abuse). In essence, I'm trying to engage their compassion or love in order to get past their filter.