Safety vs growth

The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. Tacitus

We have all heard financial specialist say that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Whether it is always true for our hard earned savings is a debate for another time. What I am interested in tonight, is how taking measured risks in our everyday can have an incredible impact on our happiness!

Looking back at your past experiences, how many times have you played it safe out of fear and regretted it? It doesn’t need to be a grandiose adventure on the cliff of a mountain. Fear of rejection when asking someone for a date, fear of loosing face with a new idea in front of colleagues, fear that our kids will see us as a burden if we ask to spend time with them… so we play it safe and we stay at home in front of tv alone, we don’t stand out for that promotion at work, and we don’t enjoy time with our loved ones.

So take a step back and check in what areas of your life you are playing it safe out of fear. Now picture what would be the worst and best case scenarios. Would you regret it if you didn’t at least try? Then set yourself up to success and GO FOR IT!

It’s that first step of making the decision that is the hardest. From it you will gain momentum to make the change in the rest of your life and the improvements you will see will reinforce your confidence and radiate in other areas of your life as well.

If you are not sure where to start, wish to speak with a therapist for advice, or simply discuss with a third party; contact us at Psychology Experts in Singapore for a private and confidential appointment.


Why Meditate?

meditation, feelings, well being, emotions, counseling, therapyAs a researcher in Affective Sciences, I explored the structure of our affect, which is the present feeling that is our life. I discovered that it is supported by the three dimensions: activation, tension and representation. These same three dimensions define us at any moment of our life. In other words, we live in those three dimensions: our level of energy, our level of tension, and the well-being or malaise that we feel (whatever the cause we assign it).

Through neuroscience, we can explore the area of the brain generating the affects; the limbic system which is located in the temporal lobe. The main function of our limbic system is survival, memory assessment and storage are its secondary purpose. Two of the major parts of the limbic system are the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala is responsible for our ability to feel and to perceive feelings in other people. It mediates and controls major affective activities like friendship, love and affection, the expression of mood and mainly fear, rage and aggression. Being at the center of our system for danger identification, the amygdala is fundamental for self-preservation. When triggered, it gives rise to fear and anxiety which lead us into a stage of alertness and ready to flee or fight. On the other hand, the hippocampus plays an essential role for long term memory, it allows us to compare the conditions of a present threat with similar past experiences thus enabling us to choose the best options to guarantee our survival. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can show us which parts of the brain are more active, but its temporal and spatial span is still far too large to pinpoint the trigger of an affect that takes only 250 milliseconds. The technology to study affects with precision is still to be created.

My interest for meditation rose when I noticed that the three dimensions of affect have to be lowered as much as possible when meditating. Activation as we stay still, tension as we relax, and representation as our thinking shuts down. After practicing meditation for over a decade, I believe it is fundamental in developing our affective space, in the same way that education develops our representative space. When we grow up, we learn new concepts and we get the ability to play with them in our mind as we play with ideas, representations. We can process or manipulate them while still dissociate ourselves from these concepts, “the name of the thing is not the thing”.

Meditation allows us to do the same with affects, with our feelings. We can see them from the inside, observe them, and distance ourselves from them. Meditation helps me to see that I am sad, helps me to see that sadness inside myself. I am not my sadness, in the same way that I am not a policeman or a thief when we played policeman and thieves as kids, the name doesn’t make me become what it represents. I can think a concept and not become it, with meditation I can feel something and not become it. I exist separately from what I feel. This distance is a form of freedom, as I am not triggered to react to how life events make me feel; I can choose my own path. Through regular practice of meditation, we become more skilled at distancing ourselves from negative feelings and embracing positive feelings. The natural path of any human being is happiness, when we practice meditation we smile and laugh more easily and more often.

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