Dealing with Problems, Before they become Problems

    January 2011            
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The Reality of Feelings; the Reality of Thought

By Arthur Rosen

Man (the species as opposed to the gender) contains within himself two opposite modes of comprehension of circumstances which occur within his sphere of perception. These two modes of recognition and subsequent interpretation of the external stimuli give man the unique ability to cope with changes in the circumstances or conditions that surround him. For man to continue to contend with difficulties and act to successfully overcome them requires on his part the correct capacity for insight, intuition, and/or knowledge of that which causes him to be in need of making a change to relieve or adjust to discomfort or danger.

For man to survive, like any animal, he must make a correct assessment of danger, for if he fails in making a proper analysis, then his security, comfort, and potentially continuance is jeopardized. For this reason, man is equipped with two different types of internal devices that process the external stimulus that are brought into his internal being. These two tools work in opposition to internalize this external challenge to which he must render his assessment or judgment to reach a decision as to the appropriate action, if any, to take.

It should be apparent by now that the two processors of external stimulant are the intellect and the emotions or feelings. These two separate apparatus exist for the task of preparing, treating, and converting outer circumstances into modes and methods by which to contend with difficulties and modes of action to react or avoid this external stimulant.

Whereas these two exist for the same purpose, yet they differ in their method in dealing with externalities. Feelings relate to that aspect of the how the person is affected by the external; thought deals with what the external stimulus is, independent of the person. Thought is abstract, not related to the person; emotional feelings are subjective and evaluated based on practical, individual and personal considerations.

When an action is directed by feelings, and given that feelings are subjective and strong, the result is generally a strong reaction to outside stimulation. In certain situations that require immediate reaction, such as immediate danger, which may require instant action, emotional response is needed. Similarly in 'flight/fight' situations, it is the spontaneously rather than conscious aspect that is dictating the appropriate response.

Conversely, intellectualization of a problem and its subsequent solution is lengthy in time and requires concentration is not given to quick solutions. In addition, inherent in reasoning is the requirement to attain factual knowledge often through investigation and careful consideration before arriving at a judgment that is appropriate for the situation.

It is therefore obvious that emotional response will precede in time an intelligent analysis. Often the emotional response is so strong that the analytical response is either not utilized or not given validity. Since emotion response is the quicker of the two and the stronger it generally and often unfortunately preempts intelligent consideration. This is the cause of many problems.

It is interesting to note, that the Torah (Numbers 15:38,39) attaches great significance to avoiding sensory stimulation that can cause harm. As a manner of remembering the importance of intellectualization, the Torah has given the mitzvah of wearing fringes to remember not to be carried away with visions that one sees. Rather one is to turn away in order to preserve and protect one's heart (emotions) and eye's (the sensory preceptor) from mistaken judgments.

“Speak to the children of Israel and tell them that they should make fringes (tzitzit) on the corner of their garments through out their generations and they should put with the fringe on the corner (or their garment) a blue thread. And it will be for you fringes that you (plural) will look at it and remember all of the commandments of G-d and you will do them and that you shall not go after your heart and after your eyes which lead you astray.” (Numbers 15:38,39)

It is clear that the Torah realizes that the heart, as understood as the seat of emotions, and the eyes, the chief sensory preceptor, can be deceptive and therefore require stiff means to curtain the disruptive results that can be caused by giving it a free rein. The Torah's solution is to wear fringes on the garments to remember to curtain your emotional reactions.

We can all learn a lesson from this. Mistakes can be costly; not just in business, but also in personal life. The values of the modern culture do not bring happiness; more often, they bring personal sorrow and disaster. We all must learn the lessons of the Torah: limit the extent that emotions rule your life and in doing so, make proper decisions to enable us to live a better life and as a result of less emotional entanglement, also a longer life.


from the January 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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