The word ‘Recognition’ means to re – cognate. So what is cognition? Cognition infers the mental (not emotional) action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought. The word thought is important here. We need to distinguish thought or cognition from feelings or emotions. Cognitions are not emotions – thoughts are not feelings. Yet, attached to thoughts are feelings. It is as though the thoughts are the structure or skeleton and the emotions are the covering or flesh of the cognition.
In psychotherapy we seek to enable change. Cognitions are structural and mainly fixed. Some might use the word factual. What that really means is that in therapy we do not change the structural or factual nature of the experienced self, or the recalled memory. What we change is the emotional connections to those cognitions; we change what we feel about our thoughts.
If a cognition is a thought or a memory then when we re-cognate (recognise) it is the thought plus the added current emotional interpretation that we put upon it. When I see your face I search my cognitive filing cabinet to re-cognate who you are, we call this recognition. I recognise you.
The emotions that I relate to that cognition may vary or even be inaccurate. Let’s say that I saw you last on Friday. At that point I have an emotional experience of you. I had feelings about you that told me how I feel about who you are. Now, today is Monday and I see you again. When I search my filing cabinet to re-cognate you I assume that the feelings I had about you on Friday still apply now on Monday. Though they may not be accurate because you may have had experiences over the weekend that have changed you in fundamental ways so that my feelings about you are no longer accurate or appropriate.
I guess that the bottom line is that we each create a structure in our minds of how we see the world that we use to make sense of what we experience. We then assume that the way that we see the world is the way that it is, it becomes our known facts. Yet, the world is always changing, nothing ever stays the same, everything changes, everything moves on.
When we re-cognate or recognise something we assume that we know what it is. We believe that we know it, that our feelings and beliefs about it are real, permanent and fixed. Those that are mindfully aware realise that every time we experience anything it is a new experience. We call this “beginners mind”. Then we meet every experience as though we have never had it, seen it, or been it before. The experience in this present moment is unique. To be unique means that no two experiences of the same thing could ever be the same thing. Change will always make them different.
Let me be clear. It might be that cognitively they may be or appear the same. Emotionally they are never the same because emotions can change, develop and grow.
At the outset the difference between what I think and what I feel may not be clear. We can confuse thoughts and feelings. Yet, they are fundamentally different. You could not measure a colour with a ruler because length and colour are totally different things. You cannot measure a thought with a feeling or a feeling with a thought. You can observe what you feel about your thoughts and observe what you think about your feelings.
This magic mix of thought and feeling gives us the wonder of our senses, perceptions, discernments, awareness, apprehension, anxieties, fears, learning, understanding, comprehension, enlightenment, insight, intelligence, joys, happiness, reason, reasoning, thinking, feeling and even consciousness.
To truly understand our recognition we need to be able to mindfully observer the interplay between our thoughts and our feelings. Then we need to observe these recognitions with beginners mind and question why we feel the way that we do.
This will relate to all external experiences but more importantly our experience of our self. When you look at you, when you recognise or re-cognate what are the feelings that you put on those cognitions? How do you feel about you?
If you do not like what you are feeling it is time to change it. That is mindfulness.
Be happy and recognise the good stuff