Same Predicament, Different Response

Whether something is real or not and whether something is exaggerated or not, one thing we can be certain of is that it feels real to the person experiencing it. Whatever it happens to be, big or small, is subjectively real to that person.

We might think someone being brought to tears at the idea of having to use public transport is too small of a thing to have such a strong emotional reaction to, I certainly did when I witnessed this, but although it is small for me it wasn’t for that person. They felt something real. A feeling most others would only feel given more extreme circumstances. The fact that there can be such differences between the ways in which people react to the same thing leads me to ask: How come some people have to experience far more in order to elicit the same level of emotion compared to others?

One big difference between a person who experiences intense emotion due to a small event compared to a person who needs a much larger event is the level of shelter they have experienced in their life. If someone has experienced little then the small things are the big things for them. A person who has experienced a lot has more to compare things to. If you survived a near death experience, or multiple, then when the small things happen you have a much larger thing to compare them to which gives you a different perspective. Likewise if you are unlucky enough to have been through a lot of negative stuff in your life you may be inclined to look at someone getting upset about something small and think they are being dramatic or exaggerating how big of a deal that is. But for people who have been lucky enough to not have anything largely negative happen to them the small things will feel the same way something big feels to you, because it is a big thing for them. Most of what we are exposed to during our life is not within our control. If you have been beaten up and hospitalised walking home or, perish the thought, have been sexually assaulted then you know what some of the worst things to happen to a human can feel like. Some things are objectively bad for the individual and we hope no one has to experience them but other things that are subjectively bad can improve our perspective. If you have come back from losing jobs, failed business, failed relationships and loss of friends or family then your ability to deal with the day to day annoyances can be significantly improved. This is why I would argue that if bad experiences give us the opportunity to see things from a different perspective and seeing things from a different perspective enhances our ability to deal with the “little things”, which increases our wellbeing, then bad experiences are good for us. Credit Tony Robbins for my next example:

Experiences words

As you can see from these images the left one represents a person who has been sheltered and experienced little. Because they have experienced little they have a small circle of things that they can deal with without eliciting negative emotion. When anything from outside that circle comes in they can experience negative emotions or trauma.
The picture on the right is someone who has experienced a lot this is why their circle of things which they can deal with without negative emotions is large. We want a bigger circle if we want to experience more wellbeing.

How does one increase the amount of things they can deal with without experiencing negative emotions? We have to periodically expose ourselves to things outside our circle. If the idea of taking public transport terrifies you then don’t wait until it is inevitable, take initiative and do it under your own control. For example, you might walk to the bus stop one day then walk home. Another day you get on for one stop and then get off. On day three you take the full trip. This way you can expose yourself to the thing that causes you distress in baby steps. Psychologically baby steps, in any endeavour, will make it easier to deal with.

If the idea of starting a blog, business or social media scares you then you know what you should be doing. Sometimes anxiety is a good indicator of what it is we should deal with in order to be better at dealing with things in general. This is especially so if we know that the thing causing anxiety takes us closer to our goals.

So if the more things we are exposed to the wider our circle gets, and people who have experienced and dealt with a lot can have the largest circles and are emotionally affected the least by small things, then we can conclude that the more we experience the less influenced by emotion we are. And since being less emotionally reactive makes us better thinkers then this is a good thing.




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