Falls the Shadow

Found this an interesting introduction to one theory of how the mind forms our response to a situation. Ironically for something that talks about prior experience causing flawed assumptions, my initial disagreement was due to Feldman Barrett using certain terms differently from how I would without defining them first.

She divides experience into “feelings”, which are immediate (such as jumping in fear when the lights suddenly go out), and “emotions”, which are complex reactions to an immediate experience (such as feeling fear that a monster might get you because it’s dark); once I stopped parsing emotion to include instinctive reactions, the theory offers a glimpse of scientific support for ideas that have been part of mystical practices for a long time.

While science backing up the theories of Stoics, Buddhist, and many other thinkers does – as Feldman Barrett mentions – provide more evidence that people bear responsibility for the consequences of their emotional reactions, the key extrapolation for me was that both our default reactions and our practice in not merely going with our default are the product of our past. We bear responsibility for our actions, but our parents, educators, and all of society bear responsibility for how well they provided a past in which we developed rational responses and nuanced perceptions.

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