Understanding Your Context Filter

By: Jill Pack

One of the first things I work with my clients on is understanding the difference between thoughts and circumstances. This is one of the foundational concepts to understand if you want to create something different in your life. Understanding the difference between the two allows you the opportunity to act instead of being acted upon. 

For example, my husband is my circumstance, and I am his. The words we say are also circumstances. They aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are. There isn’t a problem until we each have a thought about the other person and what they said. 

Now, does that mean we have to love what the other person says or does? No, of course not. But we empower ourselves to be our best selves when we realize that it is the way we are thinking about what they said or did that causes us to get upset, not the actual words or behaviors. Understanding this allows us to decide on purpose to act in a certain way instead of reacting to the situation. 

But there is another part to this. There is a space between the circumstance and a person’s thought. 

It is called the Context Filter. 

A context filter is like a pair of special glasses that everyone wears, but each person’s glasses are different because they are made up of their own stories, what they believe, what they think is important, and where they come from. These glasses help them see the world in their own special way. This means that when they look at a problem, a chance to do something, or when they are talking to someone else, their glasses make them see and think about these things in their own unique way. This is how they decide to handle different things that happen in life. 

Some things that make up a personal context filter include: 

  • Past Experiences & Outcomes or Results in our life 
  • Culture (ethnic, religious, family, regional, etc.) 
  • True Self (divine self/spirit/soul, natural abilities, personality, genetics) 
  • Current Emotional State 
  • Core beliefs 
  • Values 

All of these things make up the lens through which we view life, so it makes sense that we think the thoughts we do. 

When I begin looking at what is part of my personal context filter, I can begin examining it and deciding what I want to keep or let go of. This really is a lot of what coaching or self-coaching is. It is taking a look at what is in our context filter, questioning it, and deciding on purpose what we want in there. 

Here is an example. 

Let’s say you grew up believing that getting a college degree was very important. You went to college and got your degree. You have a successful career and are able to provide for your family. You teach your children that education is important and you believe that attending college is just a given. You value learning and education. You believe that a college degree is key to living a fulfilling and productive life. Of course, college is the logical next step after high school. Then one of your children decides college is not for them and you can’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense to you. 

Can you see your personal context filter at play here? 

Viewing their decision, which is your circumstance, through this lens shapes your experience. You feel sad and disappointed because you are making it mean that everything has gone wrong and there is no way that their life can be as good as it could be if they were to go to college. It just feels so true. 

Yet, how do you show up in your relationship with your child when looking at the situation through this context filter? Are you behaving in a way that helps you be the parent you want to be? Do you feel more connected to your child? My guess is the answer is “no” to both of those questions. 

Again, it doesn’t mean you have to love their choice, but it doesn’t have to derail you either. 

This is when your emotions can be a clue that it is time to take a deeper look into your personal context filter. Examining those things that may not be serving you in your relationship with your child. Curiosity is key to shifting your lens. 

What if you are wrong? What if it is possible that your child might even be happier if they don’t pursue a college education? What if they are learning exactly what they need to learn by not going to college? What if whatever they decide to do, it will all be ok? What if your belief is just your opinion and it isn’t the same as your child? What if that is really ok? Of course, you might feel disappointed. It makes sense because of your filter. Let yourself feel that. But, what if you can still be the parent you want to be and have a very connected relationship with them whether they choose to go to college or not? 

Using your emotions as clues can help you use questions like these to help you shift your personal context filter. Then you can begin showing up in your life and in your relationships as the person you want to be. 

We don’t want to judge or be critical of our personal context filters. That isn’t the point. Objective self-examination or awareness opens the door to change. Of course, we view life through the lens we do. It makes total sense because of how we were raised, the experiences we have had, and the things we value. We can validate that and still decide to change our filter. 

The work I do, as a life coach, is to help people take a deeper look into what makes up their personal context filters, question them, and decide what they want to keep and what they want to let go of so that they can show up in their life and relationships as the person they want to be. The person they like being. When we take the time to really look at the lens through which we see life, we can begin to see how this filter affects what we make it all mean, the emotions we feel, our behaviors, and our overall experiences. 

Click HERE to listen to this week’s podcast episode to learn more! 

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Confirmation Bias And How It Hurts Our Relationships

By Karen Edwards, CPQC

We’re all human, so we all deal with confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a phrase devised by English psychologist Peter Wason. Ultimately, it is the tendency of our brain to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existingbeliefs. It’s a survival tendency of our brain to try to prepare us for possible dangers. If our brain believes that “dogs bite”, it will find every evidence of it. If a dog runs up to you on the street, your brain will make that mean it wants to bite you. If the dog licks you, your brain will see that as evidence that the dog is getting ready to bite you. So, of course, you are guarded and fearful and the dog feels the fearful energy and tries harder to seek affection, which continues to scare you. So, your reality is that “dogs bite”.

Confirmation bias is behind most of our limiting beliefs. Whatever we think will be our reality. Our brains make assumptions constantly in an effort to protect us. And those assumptions are naturally going to be negative because that is what our survival brain is there for, to find danger.

I like to think of my survival brain as my default mode. If I don’t choose what mode my brain is in, it will just default to survival and the negative.

How is this hurting our relationships?

First, I believe that one of the best ways of showing love in our relationships is to pay attention. To pay attention to the other person and really hear and see them. Confirmation bias can definitelyinhibit your ability to do that, especially if you have known that person for a long time. Your brain just makes assumptions and isn’t able to keep discovering new things about this person. But we are all changing and growing and there are always new things to discover in our relationships. One way that I’ve seen this in my life is with my son who struggles with ADHD and anxiety. At night, when I’m going to bed, he sometimes comes into my room and wants to talk to me. I have hearing loss, so I wear hearing aids and when I go to bed, I take them out and can’t hear well at all. He sometimes comes in and starts talking to me, I have to stop him, turn on my lamp, scramble, and knock things off my nightstand while I’m searching for my hearing aids. I finally locate them and put them in my ears. I ask him to repeat what he was saying. He says something like “next time you go to the store, will you buy stuff to make pumpkin muffins?” I feel irritated because I’m thinking it could have waited until tomorrow, so I naturally act irritated. He leaves feeling a little embarrassed. The next week he comes in again and we go through the same scenario, except this time my brain says “here he comes with something unimportant to say” so I’m irritated before he even speaks. My brain believes it will be unimportant and so no matter what he says to me, it will be unimportant. It’s significant to note that I really love my son, I worry and think about him all the time and try to come up with ways to connect and help him.

Do you see the problem?This is why I do what I do. Understanding and learning about my survival brain has helped me overcome its negative thought habits in my relationships. I am now able to be more mindful and take each experience with my son as it comes, without pre-judging it. I am able to pay attention and be fully present with him. Healthy relationships don’t just happen, we have to create them with our thoughts. We do not have to stay in default mode. We have access to other regions of our brains that have other tools besides survival…tools like empathy, patience, curiosity, innovation, and discernment.

We can learn tools that help us use our agency in how we think so we can create the lives and the relationships we want. We don’t always get to choose what thoughts come into our heads, but we can choose which ones we keep thinking. My mission as a life coach is to teach these mindful tools to my clients so that they can use their agency to choose what mode their brain is in, instead of living in default mode.

To learn more about working with Karen, please visit her PROFILE

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SANITY (and the art of remaining calm through the storm)

By: Lisa Christy

E-MOTION is energy in motion. One takes you forward and one keeps you stuck. Which would you prefer?

Did you ever have a day where it seemed like nothing went right?

Did you ever have a week like that?

Nothing was going right. Everything was off. And you just were hanging out in depression, sadness, or worry. Perhaps even crying. Maybe even feeling a bit insane.

Heavy, right?

It feels enormous. You wonder when it will end.

But……you do know it will end, right?

This cycle of life we go through feels SO big and real. The experiences, the circumstances, the relationships. They consume us at times. They feel HUGE.

We make them that way. With our mind drama, we make them as BIG as they feel.

Well…………in reality, they are not as BIG as we make them out to be.

It’s the mind drama, and the meaning we put to the things going on and going wrong.

We sit in the negative feeling. And we sit. And sit. And sit.

And then we may throw a little extra helping of self-loathing or self-bashing on top of it all……..

………until we feel utterly hopeless and helpless.

There is another way, friends.

Things DO happen to us. Sometimes really bad things. Sometimes really big and bad things.

But we have in us this amazing capability and capacity to feel our feelings and then choose to move on.

Feeling feelings is a process. When we feel sadness, for example, we may feel a heaviness in our chest or a welling up of tears in our eyes.

These are just sensations or vibrations in our body. That is ALL that is happening when we feel a negative feeling.

So, we get the choice to sit with the sensation, the sadness. Sit with it, close our eyes for 60-90 seconds and really really feel the sadness and feel it in our body.

That is ALL that is going on. When we feel sadness, no buildings are falling down, and no one is dying. We are JUST FEELING A STRONG NEGATIVE EMOTION OR AN UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING.

When we process this feeling, for the 60-90 seconds (or longer, if needed), the negative feeling dissipates. It gently subsides and slowly goes away and lifts. When it does that, we are just left with ourselves.

What we tend to do, though, is perpetuate the negative feeling by thinking and thinking and thinking about it and what caused it and how awful it feels. And then we talk about it with others and get their sympathy and their consoling. And then we blog about it or post it on social media and get other’s thoughts and comments about it.

We create such a huge drama, that the negative feeling lasts and lasts and lasts.  It becomes even bigger and consumes our days.

So rather than just processing through it and allowing ourselves to feel it with love and calm, and then moving on, we keep it. It’s almost like a prize we wear.

“Here I am feeling this negative feeling and please feel sorry for me and show me you love because in this moment, I have chosen not to show love to myself.”

It is always our choice regarding how to work through our emotions. And ALL emotions are good. But we don’t want to dwell in the negative because in that moment, we strip ourselves of our own beautiful power and give it over to drama. We present ourselves as weak, and needy, and unable to handle it ourselves. We tell ourselves we NEED others to talk to and we NEED others to feel sorry for us.

And then we may even overeat and overdrink or take naps because it numbs the negative feeling so we don’t have to feel it at all.

SO MUCH DRAMA and so much time focusing on a negative emotion.

When in an instant, we can, ourselves, because we are so powerful on our own, work through it and process it. Or have a friend or a life coach, coach you through it.

Bam done!! Gone!!

It’s the difference between staying calm in the storm and staying sane, or getting all worked up and a little crazy.  We create the experience we choose to focus on.

How do you process your emotions? I’d love to hear from you and discuss this.

Feel free to set up a FREE 45-minute mini session with me at this link: https://calendly.com/lisachristycalendar/free45minuteminisession or email me at coachincouragelifecoaching@gmail.com.

It’s always your choice, folks. 

E-MOTION is energy in motion. One takes you forward and one keeps you stuck. So which do you prefer?

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