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Can technology guide us in our self-exploration?

One of the things that we do when we face difficult situations, is look inward. This is intuitive. But then, how we navigate our inner self in different life situations defines how we act and behave.

Difficult situations are like a stormy night. Even if we have been living in the same place for years, it might be difficult to find our road back home amidst all the darkness and chaos.

Self-exploration is not something we need to learn. It comes naturally to us. But, during difficult times, we might not be able to see the road forward. We might be lost in the middle with nothing to protect us. We need a guide during such times — a co-creator who helps us understand and derive new experiences from our emotions.

Self-exploration when done right can open up our minds and help us grow in paths we have not seen before. When done wrong, it can result in worry and negative loops that trigger anxiety and depression.

Emotions are reactions to sensory data from the outside. We know this. But emotions are also co-creative experiences. Our past self and our current personality collide with sensory data from the world to co-create emotions in us. Unfortunately, a lot of such collisions create chaos within us. Our emotions are filters through which we see the world. Knowing when and how to change the filters is a key part of our emotional wellbeing.

We all do look into ourselves during difficult times for answers. But how we explore ourselves, the meaning we derive, the labels we assign to our emotions — makes a difference between feeling inspired and feeling stuck.

Let’s say you have a terrible work problem. You have been trying to crack it but you are not able to. You then happen to have a chance encounter with a colleague and something that she says triggers an idea. Suddenly there seems to be a path that can be pursued. Your problem doesn’t seem terrible anymore.

You have a personal life crisis. You go on solo travel to a distant place. Something about the place and the journey changes how you perceive the problem. You come back home with an elevated sense of appreciation for life and your ability to tackle your challenges.

What’s happening here?

In both cases, you had it in you to break out of difficult life situations. But it had to be triggered by an external stimulus. You had the wherewithal to solve the problem, but you needed a co-creator — a human, nature, etc. to bring that energy to act.

In many life situations, we have what psychologists call the “orientation” problem. We have the skills and experiences to achieve something. But when we orient ourselves in directions that are not bringing our strengths and energy together. We are unable to move forward. We are stuck. Unfortunately, such mind states have become more common for many of us with covid-19 induced lockdowns and isolation.

We co-create our emotions by interacting with people around us and with the spaces we live in. When we don’t have much control over this process, we end up not having a choice over the emotions we experience as a result. Can technology take this space? Can technology be a co-creator in our daily lives, triggering our minds in ways to bring out the potential in us?

In some ways, this is happening already. When we explore different worlds in our minds through a book or a movie, we are actively engaging in emotional processing, aided by technology. The challenge is that there is a high barrier to making a movie or writing a book that affects people despite individual differences. What if technology can reduce this barrier? Internet-driven devices, be it mobile or VR headsets, can interact with us during difficult life situations and enable us to see the world in colors we were blind to.

Co-creating meaningful emotional experiences require us to interact with an external identity in unique ways. While this has been coincidental so far, technology can give us more control in creating such meaningful experiences. Since mobile phones have become a core part of our worldly interactions, they have the capability to filter data in ways that can help us co-create more meaningful emotional experiences.

We all look inwards when we go through struggling times. This is intuitive. The intensity of this “looking inside” changes based on our life experiences. When we do something wrong, we regret it. When we do the same mistake multiple times we feel guilt. Regret is an emotion that helps us see what we could have done better. Guilt as emotions prods us to see if there is a deeper reason within us that’s giving rise to certain situations.

The challenge today is that we get stuck with these emotions. We are so encompassed by strong negative emotions, that they have become the only way to see the world. Emotional resilience is defined as our ability to adapt to stressful situations. And a key part of this is our ability to see the world through the lens of different emotions. Technology has always helped us when we can’t rely on structures we depended on earlier. Our mental fabric is decaying in recent years because of a pandemic-induced attack on our social structures. If we have to not just survive through this decay but flourish — we need technology to take a much more active part in our emotional processing.


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