Tag Archives: senses

Picture It 

by Mona Dunkin 

Picture taking and sharing has become a national pastime. Whether it is the exotic – Eiffel Tower – or the ordinary – PB&J sandwich – See it. Capture it. Share it. Develop it.

We have an internal camera that is handier than our cell phones, quicker than our fingers and never runs low on batteries or storage facilities.

It’s our brain attached to our six senses.

Our six senses are continually taking ‘sensual pictures’ – smells, tastes, sights, sounds, emotions – whether we are deliberately snapping them or not. The brain and senses are on call 24/7 from birth to death. And the brain sorts and stores all these pictures for later recall – or not – but they are still cellular stored.

Psychiatrists William Glasser says, “The power of the picture is total.”
What?  Basically that means that we cannot separate ourselves from ourselves and everything we do effects everything we do and involves every part of our being which is connected to all of our experiences.  The totality of our existence works in tandem and is inextricably tied together – thoughts, actions, feelings and physical.

The following example reflects the possibility of a child’s first-ever encounter with liver and ice cream.

Liver: ugh!

  • Thought – horrible, never again.
  • Action – spit out, gulp down
  • Feeling/Emoting – frustrated, deceived?
  • Physical/Bodily – iron, nutrition, strength

Ice cream: yum!

  • Thought – wonderful, delicious, more
  • Thought – wonderful, delicious, more
  • Feeling/Emoting – happy, joyous
  • Physical/Bodily – nutrition, fat, tooth-decay

When our reality seems to match these sensual pictures in our head, we have some degree of satisfaction. This degree of satisfaction – no matter how minute – was the pioneering pathfinder to the brain.  The degree of satisfaction leads to organizing our behavior to do it again or to refrain from the next time.

This simple example illustrates how an initial unpleasant encounter can be developed to be beneficial to keeping us mentally and physically healthy and happy. It also illustrates how a pleasant encounter can become detrimental in the long run to mental and physical health and happiness.

Custody of the eyes

Dr. Ken Larsen

I have a friend who used to be a Franciscan nun.  It has been interesting through the years to hear her tell about life in the convent.  Her anecdotes are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but always colored with the wisdom that comes from reflecting on the experience of life.

One of the practices she described was “custody of the eyes”.  This was part of the way of life in the convent.  What it meant, essentially, is that each nun was responsible for where she focused her visual attention.  This practice taught the important principle that we have choices over what we put into our brain through our vision.

When I first heard her describe “custody of the eyes” I was reminded of the old computer aphorism, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  What we put into our brain/mind becomes the stuff of our thoughts, our memories, our dreams and reflections.  I believe our mental health and happiness is connected to the quality of our thought processes, which are formed by what we take in through our eyes and other senses.

Why am I telling you this?   For a while now I have avoided television news broadcasts, often because they bring images and information into my brain that are not helpful to me in maintaining my mental health and happiness.  This does not mean that I adopt an ostrich approach.  There are many thoughtful, responsible sources for staying informed that do not involve the sensationalism of television news shows.

sunAnother thing that strikes me is how many of the popular TV series are focused on murder, violence, and the hatred and ill will that generate violence.

I went to a movie with a friend recently and was afflicted with nearly a half hour of previews of coming films that were largely the stuff of nightmares.

What is a reasonable way to think about the role public entertainment plays in our life and culture?

I close with the following words from Newton Minow, the newly appointed Chairman of the FCC given to the National Association of Broadcasters in May 1961.  A bit idealistic perhaps, but thoughtful, even noble in its meaning and intent.

Television and all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children, for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the program materials chosen, for decency and decorum in production, and for propriety in advertising. This responsibility cannot be discharged by any given group of programs, but can be discharged only through the highest standards of respect for the American home, applied to every moment of every program presented by television.

When a tree falls…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear, does it make a sound? This question has been posed to countless students in Philosophy 101 through the years.

It points us to the distinction between what Dr. Glasser calls the “real world” and the “perceived world”.  Having a “sound” grasp of the difference between these two is a big part of mental health and happiness.

The real world is where the tree falls and generates a moving molecular wave through the air.

When that wave strikes the auditory apparatus of a person it is perceived as a sound.  If there is no person to hear, the wave still happens.  So the question is answered by how we define “sound”.  Is it the wave or the perception of the wave?  This is the way that I suggest we think about the often repeated statement that “perception is reality.”

Let’s say that we agree that what we call “sound” is the perception of the wave moving through the air.  The person does not respond to the sound wave, but to the way that sound wave is interpreted by the brain as a perception.    This is what is “real” to the person.  The recognition of that sensory stimulus as a sound is the reality that enables the person to choose what to do about the sound of a falling tree.

Let’s use another sensory example.

eye

We know that our visual perceptions are an adapted interpretation of what our eye registers.  The lens of the eye follows the laws of optics and inverts the image of what the eye is seeing.   We don’t “see” the inverted image do we?  The wonderful apparatus we carry in our skulls adapts the sensory data to a perception that more closely represents the image in the real world.  We “see” the candle upright as it is.

A perception is what our brain tells us about the information gathered through our senses.  It is an interpretation of the real world.  It is a constructed representation of what the senses pick up.  If we remember that my perception is a different interpreted construction than what your brain has constructed, we might take a step toward overcoming the conflicts that lessen our mental health and happiness.  It’s good to understand that many of these conflicts arise from assuming that we all experience the world in the same way.