My Context uses me.


“For me context is the key- from that comes the understanding of everything.”
– Kenneth Noland, American contemporary artist.

context-img4

Interestingly, my first acquaintance with ‘Context’ was from an experience with something which is opposite, that is ‘Out of Context’. I was in junior school when one of the girls in my class came running to the teacher and exclaimed loudly, “Miss! Miss! Dilip is saying he will kill someone!” When Dilip was called in for his explanation, it transpired that during lunch, he had remarked, “It is so hot. I feel like killing that person and sitting in his place in the air-conditioned school office.” Here was a case of a young mind taking some words out of context. The listener, listening to the specific set of words without the benefit of the context in which they were spoken, however derived a different meaning altogether.

As I go through life, the power of context continues to be revealed to me. I am witness to myriad claims and counterclaims in the realms of politics, media and entertainment in which politicians and celebrities, when confronted with some of their past utterances, resort to saying, “I never said that, I was quoted out of context”. Stating this, the individual is quick to articulate a context which completely shifts the meaning of what he /she had said.

The dictionary meaning of Context is ‘the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement and idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed’.Said another way, Context is something which interweaves into a situation to provide meaning. While we may not be conscious when we look at a situation, there is always a context that we hold that generates for us the sense that we make of what we see. A situation in a vacuum is apt to lose much of what it might mean or imply for us.

How a context can shape the way of being and actions of people is wonderfully portrayed in “The Life of Brian”, the 1979 British Comedy film. Tired of masquerading as a phony messiah, Brian tries to run away from the crowds following him and loses one of his shoes in the process. To the crowd however, the context is one of ‘every word and action of Brian is a point of doctrine’. The accidentally lost shoe of ‘Messiah’ Brian is held up as such. This is humour and satire at its best!

***

As I start distinguishing the contexts in my own life, I see a particular situation playing out repeatedly.

Whenever I notice someone, be it a family member, relative, office colleague etc. not doing it ‘my way’ or voicing disagreement about my way or style of functioning, I feel that the person is actually trying to prove me wrong , undermine me, not giving me the respect which I deserve etc.

I thus see all such situations from a context of ‘Disagreeing with me implies proving me wrong, undermining me, disrespecting me etc’.

As I hold this context, the situations occur for me negatively. This negative occurring impacts my mental state, emotions and thoughts as also the actions I contemplate. So how do I react? I tend to lose sight of the big picture. I justify myself by knit picking on the right or wrong ways of doing things from my perspective. I get down to micromanaging and in my anxiety to enforce, end up in confrontation, acrimony, blame game and what have you. So even though I started trying to get something done, I have really ended up fanning dissent, demotivation and unworkability.

I can see now how my context has been using me. How, time and again, it puts me on rails and makes me react in a predictable, disempowering manner. How my reaction gets based on how the situation, shaped and coloured by my context, shows up for me.

So if my context uses me thus, can I shift away from it to avoid my disempowerment and failure to get the job done?

I am left wondering about what kind of practices I need to adopt to shift away from disempowering contexts to empowering ones for myself……to be continued…….

In learning……… Shakti Ghosal

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24 thoughts on “My Context uses me.

  1. I enjoyed the way you define and describe context in this post along with the undertones of forgiveness, which were implicit there and more specifically in the comments that followed. Here is my contribution to the latter from an unknown author: “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.”

    Thanks for commenting on my post today, Shakti.

    • That’s a lovely contribution my friend. As I think of what you have brought in, I can see the power of what has been said. Seen in this manner, Forgiveness is really nothing about doing something for the other guy but really about doing something for your own self.

      Thank you for bringing this in here. I plan to see how I can internalize and live as per this thought.

      Shakti

  2. Hi Shakti, a provocative post! I really enjoyed reading. What I liked about your explanation is how your humility showed in this context. I agree it is a lot to do with control. I have also found that the listener can also ‘interpret’ your context in the way – they want to control you too. The clip is fabulous. I am glad I visited again. Thank you.

    • Hi TMS,

      Thank you for visiting and your kind words.

      Yes, it really comes down to how the ‘Listener can interpret my context’. This interpretation really arises from how the situation occurs for the listener, based on which how he sees the reality, allowing him to interpret my context.We can truly shift ourselves into an empowering space as we hold the awareness that the listener’s interpretation arises from his occurring.

      Cheers

      Shakti

    • Dear Marylin,

      Glad you liked the post. Yes, Monty Python’s movie excerpt is a hilarious insight into how our context can shape our thoughts and actions.

      I believe we need to practise asking ourself,”What is the context at play here?” every time we are confronted with a major situation. This is a great way how we can gain mastery of shifting our occurrings to empower our actions and performance.

      Thank you for your visit and taking the time to comment.

      Shakti

  3. Shakti!~ What a great post and I love the way you dissected the meaning of the word context in order to apply it to your life… Sometimes certain circumstances might look random… Others the context is hard to change, almost as if it was something related to Fate… Context might be restrictive that’s true!… I think that the context help us define us through these circumstances and finding ourselves is certainly a challenge!… All the best to you ⭐ Happy day! Aquileana 😀

    • Hi Aquileana,

      Thank you.

      Indeed, the context is always there providing meaning for the situation at hand, even though we remain unaware. If I may venture to add, it is the context which solidifies our perception into what we then believe is the reality. This would suggest that the other guy, coming in with a different context, might derive a different sense and meaning of the same situation. This is where the restrictive aspect comes in- my context obviously disallows me from seeing the other guy’s reality and vice versa. A Reality illusion at play!

      You write, ‘Context can help us define our own-selves’. True, but how many of us hold such an awareness and willing to do the practise to become aware of our own contexts? That is hard work indeed! But should we be able to ask and answer the question, “What is my context for myself?” we would truly be on our most self empowering journey in life.

      That was a great comment Aquileana and I would like to acknowledge you for that.

      Shakti

  4. Shakti …

    The video is an excellent example of context and how different people view the same thing – random or otherwise – in different ways. There’s a saying that ‘perception is reality,’ but I’ve found it to be very deceptive as things are not always as they seem.

    When I’ve looked back, and seen something thru a different set of lenses, I see how I might have distorted the original incident because of how I interpreted it. A second- or third-look often has me rethinking how I reacted to something.

    About a week ago, I asked my eldest daughter how I could stop feeling negatively about someone who hurt me years ago – personally and professionally. I forgave that person, but I hadn’t let it go. She said that, according to my faith, I have to forgive so that I can be forgiven. Later, I found a book I bought years earlier on just that topic. “How to Forgive Yourself & Others,” by Father Eamon Tobin (our parish priest). The first chapter opened my eyes: “Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we must forget a hurt or injustice.” So I’m trying to just forgive and move on.

    I hope this didn’t stray too far from your topic, Shakti. This has really given me a real spiritual lift and I wanted to share.

    Judy

    • Judy,

      What you have brought in with your comment is something immensely powerful.The moment we start viewing a situation as an occurring and not reality is when we gain immense power and belief in our own being and actions. And yes, as we gain the perspective of our occurring ( you have used the word Perception) we also realise that we do hold the power to shift that occurring ( by wearing your different set of lenses!).

      In my current post series ( yes, I plan to write a concluding part), I am proposing that an effective way of shifting our occuring, and thereby our thoughts and action, is by changing the context we might unconsciously be holding.

      Thank you Judy for taking the time to bring in this lovely comment.

      Shakti

      • I’m so glad that you liked it, Shakti. For years, I kept a journal. When I saw a situation crop up again and again, I knew I had to learn and benefit from that experience. That ‘learning curve’ was helpful many times over. 😉

        I look forward to your next post.

      • Hi Judy,

        Keeping a journal is such a powerful practise and I would like to acknowledge you for the discipline of maintaining it.

        Cheers

        Shakti

  5. I agree with VK Shakti, You are already half way to understanding how your Context uses you, as you step back to analyse yourself and your reactions to those whose opinions do not match your own..

    Our perception plays a huge part in how we perceive.. And our mind often is in judgement, as we become defensive of our own actions, as we think others are being critical..

    Our thoughts run around our minds often making mountains out of molehills.. I am often guilty of this myself..
    Looking in on ourselves is not an easy thing to do.. When we dig deeper within, we reveal aspects of ourselves that do not always sit comfortably with us. As we remove the layers we begin to see our quirky ways or habits we would sooner have kept hidden… This is often why unknowingly we build up our ‘Outer Masks’.. for our habitual way of thinking often can stem from an early age.. During our upbringing..

    I know you have touched upon this subject before Shakti.. And if we have been criticised in our childhood we then become over-sensitive..

    This journey we are upon is about discovering who we are.. And with each new layer we peel back, we begin to see how and why we are like we are.. And understand that we have partly been ‘Conditioned ‘ by our upbringing and our world around us..
    Our Thoughts are being Conditioned all the time by the Context of what we see and hear… But we are slowly realising by altering our thoughts we then alter our reality .. For what is the world, for has it not been created by Thought!

    Blessings your way my dear Shakti.. and I so thank you for your visit today ..
    Sue

    • Dear Sue,

      What can I say. You have made my day!

      Your comment encapsulates the essence of the current post and beautifully links to the discoveries of some of the previous ones.Indeed, we become conditioned to create a context and interweave it into every situation we confront.The software we use to do that is what is readily available with us- our Worldview
      (our model of reality) and a specific frame of reference (mindset) compatible to the situation at hand. These are intrinsically our network of unexamined ideas, beliefs,biases, prejudices,and taken-for-granted assumptions using which we interpret and interact.

      Interestingly however, for the most part, our context for the situation remains unexamined by us, and given that the context is decisive, is more often than not, the reason for the old French proverb, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” to come true in our lives.

      So what practices could we bring in into our lives to do something about this? This would remain my quest.

      Blessings to you and yours Sue.

      Shakti

  6. Dear Shakti,
    I love this post; and I’m returning to re-read it when I can bring more presence. The title is interesting, indeed! Wise – truthful,
    Thanks! xo Ka
    P.S. Yay! Monty Python 🙂

  7. Thank you for this thoughtful and insightful article Shakti. Your point about context is central to correct understanding of course. Perhaps it is also true to say that in not having knowledge of how our mind’s represent otherness and the world, we presume that those same representations – the endograms of consciousness – are, if not reality itself, then a facsimile of it. This is very far from being the case of course; they rather being at any given moment a highly selective, time-shifted meta-level representation of a myriad lower-level sensory representations.

    • Hi Hariod,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Yes, context is central to our understanding of the situation. Or may I rephrase it to say that it is central to how the situation occurs for us. Why I have rephrased it thus is to highlight that there is no ‘correctness’ in our understanding or anyone else’s’ it is only our own reality. And this reality of ours could differ from yours or someone else’s. Many conflicts in our life occur and exist because of our assumption that what we see as the reality is what everyone else sees. This is when we get trapped into our reality illusion. This is what you have also conjectured.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  8. Hey there friend 🙂 Well it seems to me you are already half way there to winning your battle for you are able to observe yourself in action and give a name to those actions. In many ways it is much like the quote ” Our thoughts create our reality “. Context is in fact how you view something and then form an understanding around those views, whether it is a warped view or not. I know we change our thought process by observing ourselves in action and catching ourselves when negative thoughts come into our heads and changing them to positive ones. I would imagine the same applies to context, no? These are the more difficult tasks in life we must conquer. I have read you for quite a long time now and this comes up from time to time. Seems if you peel the onion back you get to the core called control. Isn’t this really what lies at the heart of the matter? Wanting or needing to be in control? Happy hunting Shakti…Hope the answer comes to you! Sending you blessings….VK

    • Hi VK,

      You seem to have indeed put your finger on the essence. Yes, it is ‘Control’ that we seek as we go along life’s journey. To me, it shows up as the need to control my own reactiveness. To be able to do that, I have striven to gain a better understanding of the person I have wound of being. In this context, I can see that the contexts I hold, influenced by my Worldview and frames of reference, play a very central role to how situations occur for me and the correlated thoughts, mindset and actions that arise.

      Thank you for this empowering share. It gives me some more food for thought.

      Blessings

      Shakti

  9. A good read Shakti……CONTEXT = CONveniece TEXT?? – the text I use to say things/act in a manner that suits my convenience or constraints in a given situation??…. Or is it CONditioned TEXT – a text that my life experience has scripted??…. I wonder though if I am simply indulging in wordplay !!

    • Dada,

      Thank you for bringing in these wordplay options.They do provide an insight into how the word ‘Context’ would have evolved. To me , your second option viz. ‘CONditioned TEXT’ occurs as more appropriate. For our Contexts do get heavily influenced by our life experience and I did refer to these as our ‘Worldview’ and ‘Frames of reference’ in the post.

      To me, the biggest benefit of our becoming aware of the context we hold in any situation is gaining access to changing it in a manner that empowers us in that situation. I propose to delve into and dwell in this aspect in my next post.

      Dada, I appreciate your taking the time to comment here.

      Shakti

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