At any point in time, we hold concepts or beliefs about our self and our world. For example, we hold notions about who and what we are, our attributes and assets, our purpose and ethic. We hold notions about our bodies, emotions, thoughts and behavior. We hold notions about all that constitutes the world around us, including the people in it. The notions we hold of our self and of the world may relate to the past, present and future.
These notions may or may not be well formulated and clear. They may be based on solid observations and reflections about yourself and your world, or they may be formed without sufficient consideration. They may be conscious or unconscious. Also, they may be transient and fluid or fixed and constant.
Furthermore, a notion may be conducive or non-conducive to happiness. Thus, it is often useful to discover notions we hold about our self and our world and understand how they impact our experiences and how they may be conducive or non-conducive to happiness—and how we may want to modify them accordingly.
Let’s look at notions more concretely by using as an example an asset such as intelligence or kindness. One may hold a notion related to one’s self: “I am intelligent,” “I am kind” or “I am not intelligent,” “I am not kind” or “I should be more intelligent,” “I should be kinder,” etc. Likewise, one may hold a notion related to the world and to others: “Intelligence is important in this world,” “kindness is important in this world,” or “this person thinks I am intelligent, or not intelligent,” “this person thinks I am kind or unkind” or “this person is intelligent or not,” “this person is kind or unkind,” etc.
Now that you have come to understand mechanisms, you could see that some notions may be the result of supporting mechanisms on attributes like intelligence or kindness, or the result of opposing mechanisms or additionally the result of compensating mechanisms applied over opposing mechanisms. Accordingly, the resulting experience from using these different mechanisms may be pleasant and harmonious, or unpleasant and conflictual, well compensated or not well compensated for. It may be conducive or non-conducive to happiness.
We can extend the examples about notions of an element or dimension of our self to those related to other people, or to simple everyday things or actions in our world, or to more complex matters like social organisation, politics or religion. Likewise, any mechanism may be used to produce these notions, and the effect on your experiences may be pleasant or unpleasant, harmonious or conflictual, conscious or unconscious and conducive or nonconductive to happiness.
A notion is not an exact algorithm that directly controls your life, but it impacts your experience. You could imagine that someone holding a negative, unpleasant notion of him/herself or of the world would have a different experience in a given situation than someone who holds a positive, favorable notion of oneself or the world.
For example, when a problem arises at work, a pessimistic person would view it as evidence of failure, while a positive person might view it as a challenge to overcome and an opportunity to learn. Therefore, it is useful to observe and reflect on your notions and see their impact on your experiences of yourself, of your world and of your happiness. One tool to do this is to write sentences that describe what you believe about yourself, element by element, and dimension by dimension.
For example, write, “I am _____,” “I have_____” or “I am not____,” “I do not have____” and add the appropriate nuances: “I am _____only when or if _____” or “I am or have ____only when or if____,” etc. You may want to use template 3b and write these notions next to the mechanisms involved in the corresponding boxes.
The sentences are meant to be useful as a starting point for your reflection. They should, however, be built upon and modified to depict more closely what the notion may actually be.
For example, “I do not have intelligence” may evolve into “I have intelligent only if…” and then into “I have intelligent only when others tell me so” and finally to “I have intelligence when others believe in me,” etc.
Likewise, write out sentences to discover notions about other people: “S/he is____” or “ S/he has____,” “S/he is not____” or “S/he does not have____”. In addition, use sentences to depict ideas and beliefs you hold about anything in the world—from simple to complex issues, and then do the same exercise about social organisation, politics, religion, etc. So far, we have dealt with notions by representing and formulating them in sentences.
However, notions can also be represented by images or pictures (we have discussed images earlier in the discussion of the thought dimension). For example, an image may represent one as intelligent or unintelligent, kind or unkind, confident or insecure, etc. Images are like visual representation of notions we uphold about ourselves or our world. They are also linked to mechanisms and can be fleeting and inconstant or enduring and fixed. They can be conscious or unconscious. They are just another way of representing notions.
Experiment with notions, constructed from elements and dimensions, of yourself and about the world. Once you have done this with some proficiency, move on to the last part of dimensions—their interactions between themselves. To do so, choose a moment of any situation you have been in and use template 3a to describe what you experienced at each and every dimension. Then draw arrows from one dimension to another to look at the arrow’s effect on that dimension and on the others. Look at all possible effects between dimensions by drawing arrows as illustrated below.
After you have done this, look at the effect of one dimension on all the other dimensions by changing a dimension, one at a time. For example, if you change the soma experience from tired to energized, what would be the effect on all other dimensions? Examine what happens if you change an emotion from fear to anger, a thought from pessimist to optimist, an action from assertive to avoidant, etc.