Perception

Have you ever run into a bear in the woods? I have and here is a narrative essay about it.

Every teacher I have had told me not to start off any piece of writing that way, so I obviously had to. Thanks for bearing with me.

Let’s say you do run into a bear in the woods. What would happen? First, you would probably pee your pants and there is no shame in that. Second, you would attempt to save yourself from the bear which is far more effective than peeing.

Regardless of how you plan to escape an animal that could demolish you, you are afraid. But where does the fear come from? According to my textbook on persuasion, a trusted source on scary bear situations, the bear is not what creates fear—your perception of the bear’s abilities to harm you is what creates fear within you.

A bear is not fear, your fear is your fear. Surprise. See, if you stumbled upon a bear in the woods and knew nothing about bears, you might not be afraid of the bear. In fact, you might think to yourself, “What a fuzzy creature, I think I will go pet it now.” It sounds ridiculous, but bears do look awfully cuddly.

I find it interesting that fear is an emotion we create. Emotions are our reaction to our environment. Not to say we have absolute control over how we react to situations, but this knowledge gives perspective to why we experience the emotions we do. What we feel is a response to the way we perceive.

My perception of tests is quite positive. I do not think that tests are evil or have any power over me. Previous experience tells me that I do fairly well on tests, so when I take a test, I don’t stress or fear, because my perception of tests looks quite different than most others’.

I have a few friends who will study eight hours at a time for tests. They will obsess until the test arrives because their perception of tests and doing well on tests looks different than mine. Their perception elicits feelings of stress and anxiety which creates the response of intense studying. For me, I study, but my study habits are not stress induced.

Understanding that we are the cause of our emotions is a bit of a breakthrough. Our minds are the creator of emotions within us. Again, not to say we always have control over our emotions, but something within us creates our emotions.

If our emotions are a response to our environment, based on our perspective, I wonder how much changing your perspective would alter your emotions. I am a positive thinker, and thus, I tend to experience less stress than many of my peers.  The outlook I have on life is positive, so I see my environment as less dangerous and less scary—which is not always a good thing.

For example, I am studying in New York and Washington D.C. for the month of January. My aunt lives in New York, so, like the good niece I am, I let her know my itinerary and where we are staying. Upon hearing my address, she responded, “You’re staying in a hostel in Harlem?!!”

While my aunt appears to be skeptical of my temporary residence, I have not thought twice about it. This is where my positive perception is dangerous. I don’t see Harlem as representing any real danger in my life so the thought of staying in a hostel conjures no fearful emotions. I like to think that makes me brave, but more than half the time it makes me stupid.

Regardless, I can now better analyze my emotions and work through why I feel the way I do. What in me is creating a specific response to my current situation? Are my feelings appropriate for the situation or am I responding in a reckless and endangering way?

Take some time, think about your emotions as you experience them and ask “why?”

Or don’t do that, I really have no expertise in the area of counseling or psychology so if you want a real analysis that wasn’t inspired by textbook bears, I suggest you see someone with three letters by their name.

Thank you and good luck to all you out there reading this in the presence of a bear!

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