Life is all about meaning. Whatever you decide a situation means to you, that becomes your experience of that situation. What you decide life means, becomes your experience of life. But what is the structure of meaning? What are the factors that influence how we construct meaning?
Meaning is constructed from three elements, which we call the Triad. These are our patterns of FOCUS, PHYSIOLOGY and LANGUAGE. Lets unpack and understand these…
In any situation there are many things that you can focus your attention on. Whatever it is, you must recognise that consciously or habitually you choose what you pay attention to in any and every situation.
But what is it that is directing your focus to one thing over the many other things you could be focusing on in that situation? What you focus on is directed by the questions you ask yourself. These questions can be out loud or silent (sometimes so silent that you may not even be aware that you are asking yourself a question), and very often, they are habitual.
So if you are focusing on the driver who cut you off in the traffic, you may be asking yourself “How can he do this?” “Who does he think he is?” “Does he think he is the only one who is in a hurry?” etc. Now if you are asking yourself these kinds of questions, can you begin to see where they would direct your focus? On the other hand if you chose to ask a different question, like, “What is this situation trying to teach me?” “What is more important to me than someone cutting me off in the traffic?” etc. Can you see how a simple shift in the question directs your focus in an entirely different direction? And when you focus on something different, notice how you feel differently and how the situation starts to take on a different meaning for you. Be aware that you will be in the habit of asking yourself the same theme of questions in the same situations, and then you may wonder why you always feel the same way.
PHYSIOLOGY (how you use your physical body)
Where focus goes energy flows and it influences how you respond physiologically. Does what you are focusing on cause your muscle tension to be tense or relaxed, your breathing – fast or slow, deep or shallow; your body temperature – hot or cold; your heart rate – fast or slow; how do you use your facial expressions, your voice volume and tone and your body posture, etc. We get into habitual ways of using our body, and this is a significant factor in causing us to go into the same emotional states. When you change how you use your body, you change how you feel.
Most of your programming has happened as a result of the way you use your language, whether that be spoken language or in the form of thought. The combination of your focus and your physiology (how you use your physical body) results in your initial reaction to a situation, then you will use your language to describe that situation. The language you choose to use becomes the meaning of the situation, which becomes your experience of it and therefore how you respond emotionally to it.
The key thing to know about language is that once you have articulated or described your experience of a situation, your words distort your initial experience and lock in meaning based on the language you have used.
So if you are focused on the driver cutting you off, your muscle tension may be tense, your heart rate fast etc., you may then say something like “Typical arrogant male!” “Typical woman driver!” “Those types of people are all inconsiderate” etc., whatever it is that you say, know that by using that same language each time, you are creating a template. Once you have created the template, (through repetition), all you need to do next time, is simply use the same language and automatically you overlay the same meaning, and therefore the same emotional response in that situation.
When you catch yourself responding to a situation in a way that is not helpful to you, stop, and ask yourself – “What am I focusing on?”, “What theme of questions am I asking myself in order to direct my focus there?”, “What would be something better to focus on in this situation and what type of question would help me shift my focus there?” then ask yourself those questions over and over until you feel your focus shift. In some situations, this may not be enough though, and you may need to change how you are using your physiology. Change how you breathe, change your voice tone, facial expression, body posture etc.
Lastly, begin to bring awareness to the language you use in certain situations, are you in the habit of always saying the same things in the same situations? Always describing a situation using the same language? If so, the language you are using is a template to create and lock in the same meaning. Does this meaning have a negative or positive impact on your life?
Realise that what you focus on causes a physiological response and causes you to use certain language to describe that situation, these words are what ultimately determine the meaning of that situation. If you want to change the meaning of something, relook at the situation and think about what else you could have focused on that would better serve you, then redescribe that situation from the new perspective.
Control your FOCUS, control MEANING, control your quality of life!!!