What we call “reality” is not outside but inside our thinking, constituting our convictions and beliefs. If these change, so does what we consider to be real. This is the starting point of the psychologists Montserrat Moreno and Genoveva Sastre, who in their work “Why do we see dinosaurs in the clouds” (Gedisa Ed.)) They approach a new approach that combines “cognition” and “emotion” to understand how everyday thinking works.
Our way of looking at, locating ourselves in the world, conceiving it and organizing it does not go through classifying faculties and dividing operations, but rather by integrating them and understanding that the limit of our reality is usually (many times) the limit of our thinking and the horizon of our imagination. For once being in the clouds is not synonymous with distraction or laziness …
With an evocative example such as that of the different drawings that each person sees in the clouds, they take us into the construction of universes and realities … Why don’t all people see the same thing when faced with the same facts?
Genoveva Sastre (GS): Some people often ask themselves “why doesn’t everyone think the same way?” and quite often “why doesn’t everyone think like me?” But to answer these questions we need to first find out what it is to think, what we do when we think.
What we see, hear, touch, that is, everything we perceive and all the sensations we experience are interpreted by giving them a certain meaningWe relate them to each other (we organize them) and we extract some consequences from the set. This is the process we follow to develop organizing models of thought. We call “reality” the result of this mental process.
But the problem is that, in the same situation, not everyone takes into account the same elements. Another person, observing the same situation, may retain other data, ascribe different meanings to it, and relate it to each other in another way, thereby reaching very different conclusions. Your “reality” will not be the same.
Montserrat Moreno (MM): And here the problem begins! Let’s imagine it is a couple arguing about a common issue, two scientists who defend different paradigms, or two politicians from rival parties. Reality, for everyone, is what they believe in. There is no single reality but as many as there are beliefs and if each one is convinced of having the only possible truth, there is no way to agree. That’s why it’s so important learn to de-center yourself. A brilliant epistemologist used to say: “Truth is the invention of a liar.”
In their work “Why do we see dinosaurs in the clouds” they start from the union of perception and interpretation, of affectivity and rational thought, why?
GS: Because no perception without interpretation and no thought without emotion. To whatever we perceive we attribute a meaning. For example, if we think “what I see is a tree,” we are immediately giving meaning to what we have before our eyes. If I hear a melodious sound coming from the tree, I immediately identify it as the song of a bird. An ornithologist, however, may perceive it as the song of a blackbird or a goldfinch, for example. Our prior knowledge is what allows us to give one meaning or another to what we perceive.
If we relate this to what we have said before, we will realize that the meaning we attribute to the data we select depends, to a large extent, on what we know and our previous convictions.
Both what we call “affectivity” and “rational thought” have a common origin and develop in parallel, as the study of the psychogenesis of both concepts shows us, but they do not evolve in the same way. The environment has a great influence on this evolution.
The curricular programs are aimed at the development of reasoning through different subjects, but the same is not the case with regard to emotional thinking.
Together with our research team, we have experimentally verified the enormous influence that emotions have on thinking. In this work we describe the experiments that make it evident.
MM: From what my colleague says it follows that if we don’t know what a dinosaur is, we will never see it in the clouds. Knowledge opens the doors to new mental universes. If girls and boys are not exercised from an early age in the knowing your emotions and their moodsThey are going to have a very difficult time understanding themselves and others.
Men are the ones who suffer the most from these consequences, largely due to the fact that society forces them to repress certain emotions considered “feminine” and encourages them, instead, to fight and compete among themselves.
The vast majority of inmates in prisons for violent crimes are men and so are the majority of those killed in unsuccessful battles and from coronary heart disease. This should lead us to reflect.
When do we start to build our reality and how do we do it?
GS: Since we were born. When we learn the name of things we have already experienced them previously. The creatures learn from those around them that everything they see and touch or every sensation they experience (hunger, thirst, pain…) has a name. Here begins the socialized attribution of meaning.
MM: Certainly, and also the culture in which they live tells creatures how they should behave and what they should learn, according to their sex, the social level of their parents, and the beliefs, uses and customs of their society. What is considered “natural” changes according to the different cultures and according to historic moment of each society.
What factors most influence the construction of our reality from our thoughts?
GS: We cannot make the outside world our own by introducing it directly into our body. But we can “incorporate” it through thinking through the sensations it produces.
To do this, we attribute meanings to these sensations, organize them and preserve them in our body, that is, we construct organizing models. In this way we are converting what exists in the outside world into our own.
This is, schematically explained, the basis of mental representations. From this perspective, representations are not copies, nor models that exactly reproduce reality, as previously believed, but subjective constructions of each person that freely selects the data it deems pertinent, organizes it according to its understanding and draws the conclusions it deems most appropriate.
What psychological consequences can building reality have based on the sensations it generates in us?
GS- Organized and meaningful sensations produce knowledge Y emotions. That is why we affirm that, in the beginning, both are the same thing and can only be arbitrarily separated. If you have any doubts, I invite you to focus on an event that has produced very intense emotions. When you have relived those circumstances, ask yourself if you have been able to do it without thinking about them.
MM- And the reverse is also true! There is no thought without emotion, since the meaning is initially emotional. Knowledge is essential to be able to experience emotions and vice versa.
Is there a healthy way for the mind to construct reality?
GS- If we have the conviction that the world is full of selfish, evil and dangerously competitive beings, in which envy and betrayal predominate, we will spend our lives defending ourselves from our ghosts and our existence will be very unhealthy.
If, on the contrary, we build a mental universe in which the trust in others – unless they show us that they do not deserve it – cooperation and mutual help, loving feelings and caring and caring people, we will act accordingly and live in a mentally much healthier world. And what is very important: we will be happier.
MM- To a great extent everyone is responsible for the universe in which they live. It is true that there are biological and social conditions that put limits on our desires, but it is also true that it depends on each person how to handle these conditions.
We have wonderful examples of overcoming biological conditioning factors in Paralympic athletes, capable of achieving goals that seemed impossible. There are also many resilient people who have managed to overcome extraordinarily negative social conditions. These and these are an example of how to build healthy lifestyles.