Many spiritual teachers, and spiritual schools’ teachings, have said that the world around us is a mirror of our inner world. The way we perceive the world around us is a reflection of the way we think, or the way we are, internally (our inner self). I would tend to agree with it to a certain extent. The way I understand this is from a psychological point of view, especially from the Freudian perspective.
Anything in the world can be a trigger event, literally anything at all. This comes about because of our minds way for attaching meaning and value to everything that we can perceive in the world. Maybe the sweet scent of freshly baked bread at the bakery in the morning reminds you of your grandmother’s baking when you were young, or causing you to salivate because it reminds you of how wonderful it would taste in your mouth. Alternatively, the peace it brings you from staring at the droplets of water tracing a path on the window when it is raining outside; at other times, the puckering of lips at the mere sight of a fresh lemon from the tree in your backyard.
When we see an event before us that causes us some form of emotion/s, or recognizing it as something desirable/undesirable by us, it is quite possible that the event holds a meaning deep inside ourselves. In other words, it has triggered something inside us and it can be something desirable/good, or it could be one of our denials if the reaction was deemed undesirable. A denial is something that causes us anxiety which we have not given ourselves enough time to deal with (a past repressed event that caused a, what we perceived as an, unacceptable emotion for whatever reason/s). For example, grief from losing a beloved family member, but due to a busy working schedule we may not have set time aside to properly deal with the grief. In most cases, it is a form of trauma (or a mini-trauma, for lacking of a better word). Those feelings/emotions that happened at that point in the past are transferred onto this present event, thus causing our triggered reaction. Our reactions in such cases could range from being as dramatic as the volcanic eruption of bottled up anger, to quietly sitting in a corner sobbing away, in some instances somatic reactions like fainting, and in other instances .
The father of Psychoanalysis – Sigmund Freud talks a lot about the Id, Ego, and the Superego. The Id is our portion of the mind that operates on the “pleasure principle”. The Superego is the moralistic component of the psyche, and the Ego is the component that tries to balance the drives of both the Id and the moralistic principals of the Superego. When the Ego is either overburdened, or threatened by its tasks, it employs defensive mechanisms such as Repression, Reaction Formation, Projection, Sublimation, Rationalisation, and Conversion. (I shall leave the discerning readers to find out what each of those are through the convenience of the internet)
In sum, when we perceive events around us we will have some form of reaction. The reaction could be something we prefer, because it was something desirable, and can be pleasurable, due to the meanings in the past that we have attached to it. Or, it could be something undesirable, which is a reaction to our own denials/traumas in the past. All of such reactions are formed of meanings/values we have attached to similar events from our past (ie. metaphorical processing at work here). Hence, we perceive event/s through the lens of our own past experience/s. It gets very convoluted when you try to get into analyzing what event/s gets triggered by what past experience/s; you start to see layers of meanings linked to other layers, like an onion. Our real self has been insulated by the world around us with the many layers that we have just mentioned. When the universe creates experiences (or the event that gives us the experience) around us, it is showing us what our inner world is like to us. The world around us becomes a mirror of our inner world. The question then becomes have we been perceptive enough to notice that? In addition, there are more mechanics at work than just this, which will be revealed as the writing progresses.
I was thinking about writing down my understanding of “why we are all one?” The more I thought about it, the more I thought it is going to be one hell of a long article. So I decided to break it up into parts, starting today with Metaphorical processing.
Metaphors are conceptual associations that map information from a familiar source domain onto a less familiar target domain. Consider the phrase “to walk all over someone”. It creates the image of a person walking (trampling) over someone laying on the ground. Metaphorically, it means to show someone no respect. In understanding of the concept of “walk”, and how the act of literally “walking all over someone” happens, coupled with the worldly cultural knowledge, we arrive at the real semantic meaning of the metaphor. This is evidence that conceptual knowledge is applied to new experiences to form new physical-to-mental scaffolding, as the imagination tries to mentally simulate the metaphoric phrase in an attempt to understand it.
Mental simulation involves the recruitment of the same neural networks in the motor systems engaged during the execution of the action. The brain encodes the concept of any action by recording it as a pattern of neural network activations. This encoding encompasses the interaction with the environment, during which the act was committed, which is also grounded to the interactions with the people and the culture. Humans can imagine the performance of an action without actually executing it. Our ability to understand metaphors comes from our ability of mental simulation. This ability allows us to capture patterns of activation in sensory-motor systems and in systems that represents introspection (e.g. Emotions, cognitive operation) allows us the ability to communicate through languages, and the use of metaphors.
This tendency to encode information causes us to constantly attach meanings and values to every experience. As a result, every sensation cues the processing of both the physical sensation, as well as the conceptual processing. For example, physical hardness produces the perceptions of “strictness”, “rigidity”, and “stability”, even when the touch experience is passive in nature. Another example would be the concept of hardness is metaphorically associated with the properties of being hard. As a result, producing metaphors such as “he is my rock”, “hard hearted”, “rock solid”, and “tough as nails”, to name just a few. These experiences have been proven to affect our judgments and decision-making capabilities in a few research studies.
Metaphorical processing is part of the human experience. It gives each of our lives the meaning we are here to experience. It is also the very process by which affords us the unique experience of each of our lives, even though we maybe of the same culture, but who is to say each of us has the same exact culture? The definition of a culture is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization, or group.
However, due to the interaction between different groups of people, homogenization (standardization), or in most cases polarization (assimilation), of cultural practices can result. Interaction between different cultures causes one culture to borrow elements from each other to incorporate into their own meaning system, resulting in hybridization of cultures. As such, many hybrid cultures can exist within the same ethnic group or organization, thus further raising the complexity of trying to define the culture of any one group of people. This further explains why different people can have different experiences even though they may be perceiving the same event. It also answers why some gurus have said that each of our experiences of enlightenment will be unique. This probably also provides an answer to the questions of why everyone’s life journeys are unique on its own; and why any attempts to walk the exact same path which had been walked before in hopes of attaining the same results almost always end in obtaining differing results.
For many years now, Science has been telling us that genetics has a huge role to play in formulating who we are as a person. It claims that the environment that we are exposed to determines what genes in our DNA gets turned on or off. Furthermore, it implies that we have either very little or no control at all over which genes gets the attention. With the video attached below by Dr. Lipton, he is saying that its not true. That we have more control over the process than we think.
I think what he is saying bear great truths. Comparing what I know from Psychology and what he is saying about Genetics, he probably found the missing link. When Science proclaimed that the environment affects our genetics, it was done so under the premise that we are like inanimate objects who cannot affect what we are made of (true to some extent). So a piece of paper becomes soggy and wet when exposed to water. So we become more prone to Alcoholism, Cancer, or Dementia, etc, when someone in our family has it (true also). But what we have forgotten is that we are not inanimate objects that are subjected to the whims of the environment. We perceive the environment and react to changes, formulate believes, etc. For example, if a set of identical twins were exposed to the same environment but harbors a different set of belief system (or perceives environmental stressors differently) they will have somewhat different genetic make-ups, even though they were identical twins. Like the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Our perception plays a bigger role in our genetic make-up than what we have been led to believe. It’s a long video, but if you have the time, have a look and all will become clearer.