What I would like to discuss today is the amazing power of the brain and our ability to live inwardly. What we do with information and external stimuli, and how that relates to our outlook on life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness. The ability to discover how we perceive the world, and how that controls our actions is crucial to our well being now, and when or if the Schumer hits the fan. (God forbid.) If we are truly serious about surviving I believe this (much ignored) topic of survival psychology to be most beneficial in this time of imminent disaster globally.
I am going to try to break these paragraphs of into bite size contemplations, although it may get thick at times, just bear with me: it is just the nature of the beast…
The power of perception
No matter how far we come as the human race we still can’t get passed this limiting problem, we cannot be introduced to new ideas or information without unintentionally and automatically viewing this information through a lens of our old paradigm. This paradigm being, how we see the world, what kind of education we have, how much we have traveled, what we have experienced, our relationships and many of our human interactions until this ‘new information event.’ As this new information is received into our brain we automatically collect the data, organize it-by categorizing it, and then catalog it for retrieval. This is not as straight forward as it sounds, though.
Philosopher Andy Clark explains that perception, although it occurs quickly, is not simply a bottom-up process (where minute details are put together to form larger wholes). Instead, our brains use what he calls predictive coding. It starts with very broad constraints and expectations for the state of the world, and as expectations are met, it makes more detailed predictions (errors lead to new predictions, or learning processes). Clark says this research has various implications; not only can there be no completely “unbiased, unfiltered” perception, but this means that there is a great deal of feedback between perception and expectation (perceptual experiences often shape our beliefs, but those perceptions were based on existing beliefs).
Something like looking at things through a positive or a negative lens can have an enormous affect on life when this information is taken into account, especially in an overwhelmingly negative situation.
Positive Versus Negative
While receiving new information such as a death, destruction of a city, destruction of a country or any other end of the world scenario, our ability to recognize a few key things about the way we handle situations is crucial for our sustained psychological well being, now, and in the future-when the Schumer hits the fan! We need to honestly and realistically look at how we face situations taking into account whether we point out negative things or positive things. We need to look at how we assign the weightiness of information, Do we describe persons, or events as overwhelmingly negative, or positive? Do we allow our view to invade reality and create an unrealistic perception?
Fiction and Faction
First off let me define two terms and then I will elaborate on them a bit.
- Subjective reality is the belief in the world around us filtered through our perception.
- Objective reality is the concrete evidence of the world around us, it is truly reality, not just how we see or perceive it to be.
When we change our beliefs we can literally alter our reality! To elaborate and explain this a different way this objective reality I speak of is: how things exist, not how we believe them to be. The goal here is to understand ourselves and how we relate to the world to be sure that we are not living in a fictitious subjective environment. If we find that to be the case then we need to correct and chart a course towards a more objective reality leaving no room for factions of self deceit within.
As calamity befalls us as humans our natural tendency is to become irrational, emotional, and grief stricken. Armed with this knowledge about yourself you can battle this potentially devastating tendency-as this applies to all of us, assuming you’re human and reading this…
Battling feelings-arriving at reality
Another factor in our perception and beliefs that shape our subjective reality is our feelings. A coarse mixture of illogical emotions, sentiments, desires, experiences and biological chemical processes flow together to create what we call emotion. Controlling these emotions, or feelings, is another important factor in balancing the equation of (personal) subjective versus (holistic) objective reality.
There are three main types of coping skills that you need to know about that can help you stay sane in a crazy ‘end of the world as we know it’ situation! Each of which can be either positive or negative.
- Action-based Coping
- Emotion-based Coping
- Harmful Coping
When a person is completely overtaken by emotion in a stressful situation it is easy to fall prey to harmful coping mechanisms.
Action-based coping is just that, taking action. If you lose your job, you cope by going out and getting a different job. It is planning, confrontation, self control, restraint, studying, and suppression of competing activities. If you are stressed you can use action-based coping to control the situation and yourself. Obviously you want to keep yourself in check and make sure you are looking positively at your surroundings.
Emotion-based coping is the ability to calm down the stress through release of emotion. These calming emotions can be either negative or positive and include: denial, repression, distraction, humor, wishful thinking, rationalization, relaxation, and discussing the stress with a friend.
Harmful coping methods include drugs, alcohol, skin biting, hair pulling, nail biting, smoking, and promiscuity. These all can skew one’s perception or subjective reality even farther out from the objective reality of the current situation.
Being aware of the practice of these coping techniques is key. Many men and women are completely unaware of themselves and their responses to stress or other stimuli. A large part of survival is the ability to keep cool under intense stress or pressure. Using positive coping methods and even (I dare say) developing them now-within yourself is going to benefit you now, and in the long run!
Being Prepared for the new reality (end of the world as we know it)
The ability to understand ourselves and be aware of how our mind processes things is the key to staying sane under immense pressure.
- Looking objectively at ourselves as we take into account our perceptional process will help keep us in check and move us toward a greater objective reality. We all have ideals and values so our perception of how or why things happen will always be a little skewed from the objective reality, but that shouldn’t deter us from trying and striving for a realistic paradigm. Honest self assessment is needed.
- Stay positive, but not too positive-don’t put on rose colored glasses! Staying positive is a key to staying sane. A positive person will always out perform a negative one. Remember, a positive person will have a “How can we do it?” attitude versus a negative person having a “We can’t do it!” attitude. The goal in survival and life is be as creative as possible. If you have a shut down attitude- I submit, that you will not last long in an end of the world as we know it situation.
- We must know the difference between the subjective reality that our perceptions create, and the objective reality of the world around us and our circumstances. Stepping outside the subjective reality box once in a while, exercising objectivity and honesty will help us immensely.
- Keep your emotions in check! Life is full of hardship, pressure, and stress. Whether or not the “big event” or end of the world actually does come in our lifetime, it is/will be always wisdom to have the ability to control one’s emotions. Emotions cloud our judgment and in the case of a TEOTWAWKI this process could be fatal!
- Develop honest and healthy coping methods! The use of these throughout ones life can only be beneficial. Whether you are a “go it alone” type or have a “significant other” even the simple act of taking a walk when you get upset can be beneficial on many levels. There is actually a biological process that happens in the brain that balances your emotions as you use both sides of your brain (i.e. walking, running, or punching (get a punching bag if you are that type)). Take advantage of this knowledge!
The ability to stay cool under intense stress, the ability to have peace of mind, serenity, calmness and control is what this is all about: Surviving psychologically in an uncertain future throughout the trials and triumphs.