A Vicious Circle of Feelings and Perceptions and Feelings

by Aranyakananda

I was given the book “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by a friend recently. It is one of those books I had seen many times in Barnes & Noble and considered buying and even flipped through because it is not too big and therefore not too expensive and thought it was just provocative enough to be worth investing in. But I never did, so I was interested in reading it when my friend passed it on to me.

And it was a good read for the most part. Some of it got very dry but it had some nuggets of insight that will likely stick with me.

One of them was about perceptions and feelings. To most people there is probably a subtle difference between the two. Meditation reveals a veritable gulf between things that until then had been a subtle gap.

My perceptions of a person inform my feelings toward that person. The tough part is that my perception can be informed by feelings as well.

Say I have an enemy. You’ll ask me why that person is my enemy. I’ll say because he’s a jerk. You’ll ask what he did that makes me think he’s a jerk. I’ll say he said this or that to me on the bus one morning. Well there you go. I don’t know why he said this or that to me on the bus that morning. I have already let my incomplete perception of the situation paint the full picture. This perception informs my feelings toward this person.

Granted having a bad day is no excuse to say “this or that” to a person and maybe they really were a jerk for that moment. But still I’ve made up my own set of circumstances beyond the fact of that person’s external response toward me that day on the bus. So not only have I possibly perceived wrong, but whatever his reaction was toward me, whatever it made me feel colored those perceptions. Which, as I said color my feelings toward that person as a “jerk” today.

The question is where does this all start? What is the beginning of this seemingly never ending cycle. This wheel. And it’s not necessarily a linear set of causes and effects that goes back to the “beginning of time” whatever that is. It is more about uncovering hidden fears, and prejudices within you.  We all have a personal myth we’ve created. So it does require some meaningful, honest meditation on the lower self, the personality.

So it’s all about “blame yourself first” then, right? Maybe. Maybe “blame” is not the right word, depending on the situation. “Discover” or “study” is probably better. All I can blame the other guy for is the look on his face. It was my interpretation that caused me to think he was a jerk.

Hari Aum Shanti

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3 Responses to A Vicious Circle of Feelings and Perceptions and Feelings

  1. Justin says:

    Interesting post! I used to have enemies! But now I just try to see the world from their point of view. When someone is a jerk I try not to take is personally. Unless I flat out insulted the person they have no real reason to hate me. They most likely are just having a bad day, or maybe something really messed up just happened to them like they had a bit of bad news, or they are just stressed out about something and maybe they are taking it out on you unjustly.

    If they are just an outright jerk all the time for seemingly no reason they may not be aware of how they come across to others, or maybe they are struggling with stuff internally, had a rough childhood or parents who had some issues.

    I find it useful to just open a dialog with them. Ask them how their day is going. Let them vent a bit, and ask them if I did anything to offend them. If you did something you can apologize and mention it wasn’t your intention to upset them like that. Or maybe you can explain your thought process behind the action. That person might not be able to see your point of view on something until you tell them what your view is at which point they may be able to relate!

    There is no need to internalize the situation beat yourself up or start looking for someone to blame, just show compassion for your fellow man and inquire about their day, ask if they are alright. Most of the time that’s all it really takes to defuse negative feelings.

    If when you do so, they just verbally abuse you, then tell them to go fuck themselves or just tell them “I hope you have a better day”, and simply leave them alone.

    They either have a serious mental issue, don’t feel like talking about anything because they are upset, or like you said they are simply content to be a jerk to everyone. At which point you shouldn’t want them to like you anyways. Nobody needs another jerk in their life, and by avoiding or ignoring that person eventually they will be forced to face themselves and their attitude in the mirror. Or another jerk will come along and tell that person off.

    But either way, don’t let that person ruin your day. It’s not your fault, and you don’t need them to like you. Just ignore it, and chalk it up to them having a bad day. Suddenly your enemies disappear into thin air. Life is much better when I take that approach.

  2. Justin says:

    I just reread your article and I think I misinterpreted what you were saying. I wish I could delete my other comment but it won’t let me. haha.

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