Friday, August 17, 2012

The Lesson of a Soccer Goal - The Source of Emotions

A black and white ball speeds by an outstretched hand and is captured by the straining cords of a net.  A singular event spawns a spider's web of emotional energy in the hundreds of individuals who are just now processing what has happened.

Some cheer loudly with pleasure, some groan quietly with anxiety.  Some feel the pride of accomplishment, others the fear of not meeting expectations.  A few feel almost nothing, having buried their emotions deep to ensure impartiality of judgement.

Many completely different emotions are felt by scores of individuals on the field, in the stands, and watching at home.  Each person's unique balance of emotional reactions being attached to their experience of one singular physical event.  Let that sink in for a bit.  Truly think of those individuals, not as a crowd, not as a team, not as fans; set aside the collective concepts and absorb the reality that every single person is an individual just like you.  They each have histories, families, favorite colors, preferred sleeping positions; they are each as dynamic, historic, brave, and deep as you are as you read this blog post right now.

As you attempt to imagine the infinite complexity of the histories and experiences of all of those individuals; from this view point of exciting diversity and complexity, look back across that field to the ball in motion.  As you stand disconnected from your emotional understanding of a ball without a perceptual context, what do you see?  Some leather, some stitching?  A dynamic process of dissipating kinetic momentum into the elastic tenancies of the complex array of cords?  Look at the ball. Do you see emotions?  Do you see waves of feeling radiating from the object?  I will guess that you do not.

We easily accept that the ball does not percolate with emotional energies.  Given the diverse emotions felt by the individuals witnessing the event, we completely understand that each emotion felt is being created by that person's mind.  We understand that what emotions that person's mind generates is wholly dependent on that person's past experiences.  These experiences can include education about why the ball is going into the net, education about the virtues of their sports team, and education about the importance of goals and success.  Beyond education, the individual may be drawing on personal experiences of the past relating to how they have set up goals for themselves and also how goals have been dictated for them.  They finally relate to the past consequences they have endured and what other people have endured,  when goals were or were not met.

The ball, the event, is an input, the experience of the event is a catalyst.  The emotions each one feels are by their nature founded on past experiences and only are tertiarily triggered by the experience currently in progress.

Our experience of physical events can be triggers for our emotions.  What events have triggered emotions in you today?  What past experiences laid the groundwork for those emotions?

Today I felt anxiety after interpreting that an event outside my control was not meeting my expectations.  I was unhappy, feeling a bit of anger and fear.  Looking back, I was not feeling these things because of the event; no they came from some place much deeper.  A dark place I do not visit often, but into which I continue to creep deeper and deeper to understand what makes me tick and help to unravel my past to ensure my future.

Damon Smith

(I borrowed this soccer ball metaphor from Stefan Molyneux at Freedomain Radio.)

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