All things have a negative side. Every light casts a shadow. One can feel that they don’t entertain a thought, but you can’t avoid entertaining negatives. They are an inherent part of the equation that allows you to arrive at positives.
Your mind sorts your observations into categories. This is as true of women as it is of men though the structure of these categories shows differences between the genders. You have only a short list of possible characters or personalities that your mind will assign to anyone you make the acquaintance of. These categories might be broad, like “nice guy” or “jerk”, but broader categories are not necessarily any more accurate than more detailed categories.
Sort of forcing our perceptions into preset molds? Actually, not forcing. It doesn’t take force. Your brain naturally routes everything from your emotional sensations to visual impressions to sound tones and qualities through a selective set of channels. You can’t use circuits you don’t have.
Do kids naturally have this list or other animals? They do, yes. Generally with children the categories are not heavily overlaid with prejudice, instead favouring emotional tone or possible threat of danger or pain, but they do have them. This is why animal reactions often seem so irrational to humans. They didn’t react to you specifically. You just had some quality about you that set off one of their triggers, and this is where we actually get into the law of contagion. It can also be thought of as a law of training. Two things once in contact stay in contact. This is the law of contagion in the nutshell as they say.
I’ve seen people who seem to always have wild animals drawn to them. They can touch a squirrel or a racoon without being bitten. Yes. They are attuned to animal rhythms, emotional cycles.
You don’t choose your categories. Your mind forms these sectors of association instinctively as do the minds of children and animals, and the categories don’t follow analytical logic. They follow a pattern of generalized association like the smell of certain cleaning supplies with hospitals. You don’t have to decide that those smells mean hospital, your brain just automatically connects them. So things in contact tend to stay in contact. They are connected in your mind, if not in the causal world, which itself is a debated idea as well, and thus you can instigate a chain of events by introducing something that bears a contagious connection to some other category in your life. Whether this is an actual supernatural process or not doesn’t seem to matter in my experience. If you associate a picture of your spouse with feelings of security and love, with a stressful workplace, your behaviour and thus your outcomes will be impacted by that contagion. You will be less reactionary in your decision making and more patient with the constant stream of minor distress that seems to make up most peoples work.
Life is a giant pin ball game. The contagion sounds like a game of keeping the ball off the floor as long as you can. I see how it can look that way, but in fact that’s only true if you are trying to manipulate the principle of contagion to your advantage. Otherwise, you can leave it alone and things will seem more stable because you are, and something you displace from one category can develop a stable contagious link with a new category.
You can use it to ground you or to move you? Yes, exactly. This is why I called the law of contagion also a law of training. It is how you can form new habits, associate an old and previously painful behaviour with a better and more pleasurable outcome or experience. The old behaviour will come to belong in the new category you assigned it to, and you wind up having vague memories of the previous association at best.
So, if I’m getting up-tight about something, stressed out, it helps me to imagine it all in a larger space (make space for it and more). Is that an example? That would be an example, but you can’t really break your categories. What happens if you try to broaden your categories is you came to spread the influence of a negative category to a positive one, and they both wind up seeming negative.
The theory behind this is that we by instinct avoid harm more than we seek benefit, because harm has a greater cost for us than any benefit actually helps. You get less out of a good meal than you lose from a case of food poisoning. So rather than alter the dimensions of your perceptual categories, you instead transpose one item from one category to another.
This is how I get over my aversion to physical contact. By default when I meet a new person, I instinctively want to keep my physical distance no matter what the circumstances of the meeting are or their appearance of body language. I have a sensory aversion to human presences in general. How I overcome that is by transposing the body language of a person into my experience either of an idea they associate themselves with, or by transposing their body language into my experience of my own emotional reactions.
So if someone held out their hand for you to shake? I have to quickly focus and link the gesture to my own belief in courtesy.
The courtesy is the stronger category for you? Yes, exactly. It overrides the icky feelings. Yes, though this trick also numbs my sense of touch.
If someone likes movies, you put their body language into the movie category? I do indeed.
That’s what we’re doing when we have an immediate negative reaction to someone, putting them in a negative category of some kind? Exactly. You don’t have to do that consciously, and it didn’t take a full complement of traits for your brain to categorize them like that. One red flag is good enough in most cases especially if it’s overt. If it’s more subtle then it may take a small set of subtle traits, but it will happen anyway.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.