Priming, Framing, Transcending & Enjoying (part 2)

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Philosophy is the study of living. The absence of a true philosophy can destroy a life. We may want what we want, but we get what we get. Sometimes we don’t know why we want what we want or, even less, why we get what we have.

There are about five billion web pages on the Internet (source). Readers who return to a Philosophy of Enjoyment or who stumble upon it, are looking for something.

tasmanian-devilUnless you’re a bot—an autonomous program on a network—you’re here for a reason.

We’re more or less a mystery to ourselves. That’s why we say and do things and think later, “Why did I say and/or do what I said and/or did?”

The post “Priming, Framing, Transcending & Enjoying” (2017) produced evidence from the sciences that says we don’t always know why we think and do what we think and do do. We can be manipulated at an unconscious level by priming and framing (source).

Priming can influence any decision including one’s judgment of happiness. Priming is when an exposure to a stimulus activates mental pathways without conscious guidance. Those pathways can become mental ruts with repetition.

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In this example, dotted lines show primes from words that sound similar and straight lines show words that have associations (source).

In the dictionary priming is a “substance that prepares something for use or action.” It comes from the Latin primus meaning “first.” Priming here means the same except, in psychology, instead of a substance preparing a surface or priming a pump, it’s a memory triggered by a sensation that leads to streams of associations.

We see the word BLUE” and get confused. Priming is more than a wandering mind triggered by sensation. Every perception that we have consciously or unconsciously sets off a chain of ideas in our neural network (McRaney, 2011).

Magicians trick us through our brain’s limitations. If life is a joke, wanting is the set up, getting is the punchline. You get it or you don’t. If you get it, you laugh and enjoy. If you don’t, there are no spontaneous eruptions of glee.

Doug always circled around four or five times before lying down to sleep.

Look at Jim Morrison from the Doors. Jim wasn’t into playing it safe. Better to be wasted than see life being wasted. For Jim Morrison, life boiled down to having fun regardless of consequences.

In 1968 Jim Morrison sang, “No one here gets out alive.” It’s from the song “Five To One”. Jim had no idea when he sang that one-liner that he’d be dead three years later.

And so it is for many people who argue that nursing homes are full of people who played it safe and now live with mental deficiencies. Rather a full life that is shorter than a slow life that is longer, so the argument goes. For Jim and others like him, the hardest thing to do is do nothing.

dwight from the office

But doing nothing can be a good thing. By not doing and enjoying a moment of stillness, time feels extended. You can see how driven, agitated and restless our brains normally are (see also: “Enjoy a Funny Feeling“).

Can you watch a pot boil?

Can you stop and stare like a sheep or a cow? Can you enjoy the stillness of a lull or the silence of no sound? Can you not do anything, at least, for a while?

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Existence is the starting point. If you don’t exist the absence of pain is assured and the absence of pleasure, although sad, isn’t bad either. 

kinder eggWant buys you a Kinder egg in hopes that you enjoy the toy inside. What you get from wanting is a prize, guaranteed. 

Rather than fight the current of your stream of consciousness or think what you want is important, go with it. Let life take you.

What did Kurt Vonnegut Jr. say in Breakfast of Champions (1973) when a character sees the question, “What’s the purpose of life?” Answer: “To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool!”

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The universe exists because you’re in it and of it for when you cease to exist, you and your universe go together.

If you’re reading this, this reading is your life. Primed by sensations, you make a collage of images from your consciousness pasted from memories, emotions and thoughts that exist only in your skull.

Memories hidden from conscious awareness prime associations without you knowing why. That’s when you confabulate—as in, fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for a loss of memory.

buster running and jumping

Framing is like priming except different.

Large and small decisions are based on a “frame of mind.” Words used to frame perceptions are based on thoughts and feelings these same words evoke in you. Framing is circular or, more usually, rectangular.

Appearances frame perceptions based on visual cues. Feelings frame perceptions based on emotional responses. We think we know what affects our behaviour, but in truth, we don’t always. It’s how you spin it.

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 2009

The painter René Magritte once said, “There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us.”

On TV when someone is falsely accused or “framed,” evidence can be construed as damning or inconsequential. If you effectively frame, you strategically magnify losses and gains depending upon the desired outcomes.

The truth is, most of the time, we’re unaware of the influence of our unconscious. We react in the situation (the ground) to some thing embedded (the figure). We toggle between positive and negative and sometimes mistakenly frame what we think we saw.

Framing is how we see an idea, issue or reality based on context. One’s perception of reality is not set in stone or passively observed. One constructs reality as one sees it.

salvador dali.jpg
Each morning when I awake, I experience a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.

You could be somewhere and smell a rum-dipped cigar. Automatically you think of your grandfather. Grandfather loved his garden. His garden was replaced by a Walmart which reminds you, pick up vegetables and rum.

To enjoy the full experience of this movie, there is laughter and tears, but there’s a big difference between a brain as thing and the experience of thinking or the heart as a pump and not the home of loving.

The trick is to enjoy what transpires as it’s transpiring.

Enjoy a Funny Feeling

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In The Divine Comedya medieval vision of the afterlife completed in 1320—Dante (c. 1265-1321) wrote, “Tonight we fly over the chimney tops, skylights and slates. Looking into all your lives and wondering why happiness is so hard to find.” 

Seven hundred years later we do the same, except with a drone—still wondering why happiness is hard to find (even with indoor plumbing). Like a peeping Peter Pan we fly over “all the  lonely people” living in “quiet desperation.”

The quietly desperate are resigned to fate. They won’t speak up. They won’t cry out. They simply exist. Nothing means anything. And when nothing means anything, pleasure is everything. Pleasure initiates a process that learning sustains.

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Pleasure releases dopamine into nerve cells underneath the cerebral cortex—the area for planning and executing tasks in the brain. Liking it becomes wanting it and then we’re driven to get it.  It’s in the Human Brain Owners Manual. We might think we run our own show, but it’s really just chemistry.

How addicted we get to a drug or activity depends on the quickness, intensity and reliability of dopamine release (Harvard Medical School). Without self-understanding, the default is to become a non-self-aware robot-person following a program.

hook

The comedian Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) used to joke, “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.” People used to laugh. They still do, but they used to too. Mitch joked about addiction until it killed him. But he was onto something when he said, “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle,” because it doesn’t matter if it’s sex, drugs, or Cocoa Puffs, human brains register all pleasures the same (Harvard Medical School).

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But it’s funny (maybe it isn’t), the more we get what we want, the less we enjoy it. Psychologist Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California said, “With repetition, action tendencies become stronger. Feelings, however, become weaker with repetition. So, the more often you eat ice cream, the less pleasure you get from eating it” (“If you enjoy something, don’t make it a habit”).

The greatest single barrier to finding what you seek is the secret assumption that you already know. Thinking you know lends itself to barking up wrong trees.

barking up the wrong tree

Living quietly desperate means never knowing satisfaction and feeling happiness only rarely (possibly while dancing).

Thoreau’s quote about leading a life of quiet desperation is used as a reason to follow your passion and achieve a life that isn’t small and mediocre but big and successful but to Thoreau, “success” isn’t big: it’s small.

coffee2Success is in the small and ordinarywatching ducks, feeling cozy, wearing plaid.

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy,” writes Thoreau, “and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success” (Walden).

Seeing is beautiful when the “I” of criticism is gone.

When the comedian Steve Martin said,  “Let’s get small,” he was practically Thoreauvian! To get small is to shift from a self-perspective to a kind of disappearing where you get smaller and smaller until at last you are free of fault-finding and a happy feeling of love for “Both Sides, Now” hits you in the face like a pillow.

henry thoreau cartoonIt’s practically mystical—or is it mystically practical? Either way, it is beautiful. Take a break. Stop seeing the world through conditioned opinion as a programmed person and feel aware of reality and yourself in it.

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Happiness happens. It’s happening right now but you might not see it because happiness is like finding money on the road. You look at the money but don’t see it. Your mind is elsewhere. The hypnosis of regularity obscures the profound.

If everybody really felt what it is to be alive in this minute counting up as we count down, it would be too much! Daily living puts us in an emotional coma. It’s easier to deaden our senses, but it isn’t better. If you don’t believe it, try this exercise in awareness:

daffy duck2

Look up. Look around. Give your head a shake. Don’t just notice where you are, notice yourself in where you are. See yourself as if from above. Notice how as you were reading, you did not exist to yourself? Notice how you can listen to thoughts in a detached way? Watch your thoughts come and go like floats in a parade. Wave hello and good bye to trolling thoughts and your mind will start to relax. 

daffy fights darkness

It’s like there’s an annoying duck-person blathering inside. Who is this annoying self-centred duck-person? How’d he get in here? Make him leave. Listen without reaction. Eventually he’ll get tired and you’ll feel peace.

In the 1911 song “Life’s a funny proposition after all” George M. Cohan (1878-1942) sang-spoke, “Hurried and worried until we’re buried; there’s no curtain call.” Cohen puts it all together and shows us the pickle of our problem. Life may be funny but not everyone is laughing. People don’t necessarily live the way they do because they like it. They live the way they do because they don’t know what else to do!

this-chair-looks-pretty-depressed-226290If you sat on a beach and yelled at the ocean, “Stop waving!” It wouldn’t stop. It couldn’t stop. Oceans aren’t independent. There are natural processes beyond our control. There are two worlds: the living and not living. Neither knows the other.

Reality plays itself out from first to last. If you don’t believe it, ask Bo Diddley to “Bring it to Jerome”. Everything connects back to front. The back of you is the front of what’s behind. What’s inside has an outside inside something else and space holds it together.

negative spaceThere is but one answer to every question that’s ever been asked by every single man, woman or combination thereof. The question is: What is that one answer?

And there it is.

“There is what?” 

There is what that one answer is.

“What is that one answer? I don’t get it.” 

That’s because ‘what-is-that-one-answer’ is the answer. 

“What?” 

Precisely.

magritte2
The Pilgrim (Le Pelerin) 1966 by René Magritte (1898-1967).

To every question there is one answer but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many answers. It just means that the answer you give is your answer. It’s like on a test: The answer you put on the test is your answer. It might not be right. It might not be wrong. Either way: It’s your answer.

If the question is, “What path did I take?” The answer is the path taken. The path is where you are as you’re going. Your path is what’s done as you do it. Life is a warring of opposites. Understanding the pleasure-centre dopamine release game frees you from chemical bondage. To cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry is to enjoy a ripple in time, self-aware in happy awe and filled with love.

yugen

Priming, Framing, Transcending & Enjoying

framing-psychology

There’s a battle going on. It happens in your brain. Do not be alarmed. It only affects every decision you’ve ever made and will ever make. It only affects your health, wealth and opinion and how you think and behave. No biggie.

icebergThe battle goes on beneath the surface of consciousness. That’s why you sometimes say, “Why did I do that? Did I say that? That wasn’t me.” Like everybody, you’re under a misconception. You think you know what influences you and how those influences affect you.

Freud (1915) described the conscious mind as the tip of the iceberg because a lot goes on beneath the surface (source). We can like or dislike something instantly without knowing why.

It goes like this (cue music: Ulf Söderberg “Tide” part 1).

chickenfreudpartyFirst you have a feeling, then you make up something to explain that feeling. The explanation becomes a label. The label is declared true. It influences you. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy primed by what you do.

Think badly and badly you become.

You’re framed by spin.

In You Are Not So Smart (2011) David McRaney wrote, “You move through life forming opinions and cobbling together a story about who you are… taken as a whole it seems real” (p. xi).

you-are-not-so-smartBut it isn’t.

It’s how you look at it. Out of the randomness of life you try to make sense and create meaning for yourself (McRaney, 2011). It’s what humans do. We interpret reality. We look at stars and see constellations. We see patterns in bullet holes on country signs.

With facial suggestions, we are “uniquely wired” to see faces in breakfast (source).

jesus-on-toast
Jesus on toast.

We connect the dots of what goes on by combining expectations (what we think will happen) with mental models (how we think something works) and five senses (source: Myth or Science?).

act-naturally
See: “Act Naturally,” 1963

With confidence you see your history like a movie with characters, plots, themes and settings. You see yourself as a protagonist, but it’s a beautiful confabulation. The truth is: You make yourself up as you go. You’re a work in progress and like Buck Owens and a Buckaroo think, “All I gotta do is act naturally.” 

You are the tale you tell. It’s “The Story of Me!” as told by you. Memories are daydreams: part true, part fantasy, but you believe them completely.

Look at your surroundings. Set your mind “Open!” Realize that what matters most is to enjoy the significance of existence by loving the life you are given and giving the life you are living.

sunset on melting snow.jpgThere’s nothing you must do. There’s no mountain you must climb. Success and failure don’t matter. Just contentment. Contentment is not death! Contentment is bliss! In dictionaries contentment and happiness are interchangeable.

loser-stampIt’s all in how you frame it. What’s your spin on things? How do you see yourself? Is life bliss-filled or disasterous? You decide. You choose. It’s simple really. Nothing to it. Live a pleasant life by living wisely, justly and well (Epicurus). And yet, living a pleasant life can be difficult when you’re with a species hell-bent on making the earth a landfill.

How is it that humans are such brilliant numbskulls (or is it boneheads)?

numbskull-boneheadIn 1982 when Alice Cooper (aka Vinnie Furnier) sang, “We’re all clones. All are one and one are all” (“Clones”) he anticipated a people without individuality singsonging, “No more problems on the way!” 

It’s not a new idea. People have always cloned around. In 1802 Willy Wordsworth put it this way:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; –
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

landfill

Why have humans declared war on nature? Is it because we construct reality and meaning within our minds? Is it because we have a bias towards confirming ourselves? Is it because we have a bias towards the present? What is it? The news is not good.

Is it any wonder so many want a new drug like Huey Lewis did?

Here we come to the crux of the matter. The trick to enjoying in the midst of humanity’s idiocy is in framing, priming and transcending.

larry-davidFraming is a bias towards a given choice depending how it’s presented. It’s how the cover of a book influences your judgement. Framing moves you to react in certain ways based on how your brain makes comparisons between loss/gain, good/bad, half-full/half-empty. In framing you decide what’s important.

Framing is how you find patterns in chaos to survive and create meaning out of meaninglessness. The way you choose to frame things determines how you see.

Amelie-Bridge-End
See: Amelie frames and primes les petits plaisirs (the little pleasures).

Priming happens when subtle triggers influence your behavior without your awareness (Gladwell, 2006). Almost everything you perceive with your senses can blitz you with associations in your mind and cause you to act in certain ways without your awareness.

For example, if asked to name a fruit and you see the word “RED,” you’re more likely to think “apple” than “banana.” The word “RED” is priming the word “apple” into your brain.

magritte
Detail of  René Magritte’s “Son of Man” (1964).

René Magritte painted a self-portrait with his face behind a green apple and said, “Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see” (source). Maybe that’s why we don’t see what’s in front of us. We’re looking for something hidden.

beacon-of-beauty

Priming works best when not over thinking. You know you’re priming when time disappears. The trick is to let human bumbling cruelty prime you for transcendence by framing it differently. Frame it: They don’t know what they’re doing! They’re doing the best they can. Frame yourself freedom and then see beauty in a dump.

kite“Transcend” comes from Latin trans-, meaning “beyond,” and scandare, meaning “to climb” (source). It’s simple: to transcend is to climb beyond your usual physical needs and realities.

Prime yourself aware! Create meaning! Climb beyond ordinary feeling. Transcend transcendence by enjoying.

References:

Glandwell, M. (2006). Blink. Little Brown & Company.
McRaney, D. (2011). You Are Not So Smart. Gotham Books.