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Emotional Pareidolia

Emotional Pareidolia
Written by
Steve Lauder

Professional hypnotherapist, Steve Lauder, talks to Wikizine's readers: 'Human beings have a remarkable gift, but one with potential for unwanted consequences, the gift for pattern recognition.'Here, is the technical description, (brace yourselves): Pareidolia is a phenomenon of psychological origin involving an indistinct and arbitrary stimulus, frequently something like an image or sound, being experienced as significant.

Amongst everyday examples are things like seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, and can be things like hearing hidden messages, or words on records played in reverse for the vinyl heads amongst you. (This ruins both record AND stylus by the way). The word is partially derived from the Greek “para” which means "beside", "with", or "alongside"—meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong as in paraphasia, or disordered speech.

Human beings have a remarkable gift, but one with potential for unwanted consequences, the gift for pattern recognition. We may see faces in wallpaper patterns, shapes in clouds and patterned carpets, recognise words and curiously enough in emotional situations also. Hereby is the critical error. Just because you may perceive a pattern does not mean that it bears any real significance or importance in the real world. Yet it may well have consequences, for after all if you act on a perception, whether it is real or imagined there will be an effect.

I think the key word here is “recognise”. That is to, “re-cognise” or “re-know”. The main point here is that the external input has to find a resonance within yourself in order for it to be perceived at all. Have you ever had someone point out a pattern to you that you could not see? “Can’t you see it?... Look, there’s the mouth, just above it is the eye… You still can’t see it? Sheesh…” Now that is just pattern recognition, but with Pareidolia as I said, the important element is the additional perception of “significance”.

Just because an emotional experience, (maybe in an earlier relationship), happened to you does not necessarily mean that a similar situation will bring about exactly the same result. It only seems that way. Here then is the potential for harm, in the form of a contaminated response, to a pattern that belonged to an earlier time.

It is entirely possible you will see what appears to be a quality you liked in a previous partner in someone new, and yet that perceived quality will be by its very nature unique to that individual, for they will have been nurtured in a very different way to the previous person of whom they remind you, and by their very genetic nature be very different also.

As human beings we are unique. Our experiences, our genetic structure, our choices all make us who we are, but as the learned and ever wonderful Ram Dass says, “All I ever see are my own desires”.

I think this too is key to attempting to understand the actions or reactions of another. For example: “…I know what s/he’s doing, s/he’s only doing that to get at me, and then this will happen…”

While you’re busy doing your mind-reading act, with a fair degree of using your fortune telling skills, you wouldn’t mind hinting what next weeks lottery results will be would you? Er…I’m waiting…

Or even: “My previous partner used to do this when s/he was seeing their lover, therefore I can see my current partner doing the same, therefore they must be unfaithful to me also…”

Ah, the exquisite self-torment. Only you can do it you know. Nobody does it better.

So, what to do about it then? I believe that you need to take the emotive elements out of the equation. Look at what’s really there instead of just fevered imaginings. Whereas it is entirely possible that your ex is trying to get at you, it is equally possible that they are not. Do not believe what you cannot see except by employing the torturing device of your mind.

They are not laughing at you behind your back, at least there is no supporting evidence that this is the case. They are not plotting to bring your world crashing down, at least, not in the way you may believe. Chances are, they are as hurt as you in their own way, and believe that you are plotting against them.

Fevered imaginings. These are patterns of thoughts with no useful meaning.

Oh, and the dreams and nightmares, ho, ho… Can they ever torment you? They must be real; after all you experienced them did you not? There are dreams of reconciliation, or maybe dreams of desolation. They really hurt, and yet, they are only patterns echoing in the labyrinths of your dream world.

I guess what I am urging you to consider, is that not all is, as it may seem. That you consider you may be mistaken in drawing conclusions from perceived patterns rather than from things based on concrete evidence: That you consider that although your relationship may have reached it’s final demise, that you distance yourself from the thoughts that your ex-partner is necessarily reacting as they either once did, or that they are behaving as someone else they remind you of once did.

Instead of recognising patterns, which may have little bearing on reality, I urge you to go with empirical evidence. To view dispassionately what is actually there. Hopefully then you can avoid falling into a potential trap of your own making.

Also, it is easy to perceive another’s behaviour as planned and destructive, aimed solely at you when it may simply be thoughtlessness on the part of another.

Personally I never blame subterfuge on what can be adequately explained by incompetence.

In fact blame is usually destructive. Just think of someone like Basil Fawlty, blaming everyone else for his own situation in order to preserve his self-image as being morally perfect.

By the way, I recommend reading a book by Robin Skynner and John Cleese, called, “Families, and how to survive them”. Contained therein is a wealth of wisdom in pointing out patterns of behaviour, and moreover the reasons why we sometimes behave the way we do.

Steve Lauder

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