Can We Control How Others Perceive Us?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is an old saying, but can we control how others view us?

The answer is yes, and new research shows how it can happen.  It’s a complex process, but it starts because the brain processes current events to conform to past experiences. This can be good or bad when we are dating since we can go into a new meeting with our emotions set at a hair-trigger level, ready to go off in extremes in an instant. 

Now, adults know this is not the way to judge people, but it takes a strong person to keep these hair-trigger emotions in check when we meet a new potential partner.

These hair-trigger events can be set off by a single word or visual that conveys a negative or positive meaning. As described in a new book, How Emotions Are Made, by Lisa Feldman Barrett, our perceptions of emotions and experiences happen in an instant. We evolved this way as a way of protection and to control our autonomic bodily functions, such as how we breathe and control our immune system and metabolism.

In modern society, these old ways of processing new information can pose a problem because the brain processes new information (such as meeting a new date) by comparing it to old experiences. When the new experience does not conform to the old experiences, the brain has to stimulate neurons in a new way.

This happens all the time. For instance, when a baseball player goes to the plate, his brain has to anticipate where the pitch will pass in front of him because if the body did not prepare in advance, it would not be in a position to hit the ball.

Similarly, we anticipate a sensation in advance of a meeting, but we don’t always feel these internal emotional changes. As a result, the brain helps us determine which resources are needed to respond to these emotional changes. This includes everything from associating queasy feelings after eating bad food to being attracted to a person you meet for the first time.

What makes it easier to connect your mind and body is by exercising and eating right. Having this mind-body balance is a way to controlling your emotions. When you control your emotions, you are in a better position to meet someone new.


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