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What do you like? Why do you like it?


This weeks blog is about our likes and dislikes.  How they define us and can control us.  And what we can learn from them….It takes five minutes to read……

Why do we like things?  Is it because…

  • the thing stimulates our senses – we like beautiful things, taste etc
  • it feeds our basic need for love and to be nurtured
  • it validates our sense of self
  • it enables us to fit in with others

Why do we dislike things? Is it to avoid pain?  Is it to avoid the things we have learnt to dislike?  Is it to protect our physical essence?  Is it to protect our sense of self?

Some of our likes and dislikes are needed to keep us feeling warmed and loved and to protect us from pain.  But some of likes and dislikes are learnt.  And where do we learn this information from?  And is it to be trusted?

Attract and repel

Our basic mechanism of attract or repel is often submerged. Some of it is a hard wired reaction, which helps us move towards things that nurture and away from things that cause us pain. Some of our likes or dislikes may be learnt from parents, peers, society, social norms etc. Quite often these likes/ dislikes are also submerged and can go unexamined.

When they remain unexamined we often find it hard to understand our reaction to people and events. We may also have a gut instinct view about situations and we simply don’t know the basis for that view. That unexamined interpretation of the world around us can sometimes lead us into conflict. We may find it difficult to appreciate that another persons likes and dislikes may be very different to our own. We may find it difficult to understand and explain other people’s actions and we may form hardened and judgmental views.

A core element of a mindfulness course is to start to examine our own likes and dislikes. We begin to explore whether they serve us or are merely conditioned behaviours. Our hedonic (pleasure seeking and fleeting) “likes” may mask our need for deeper more sustainable things which bring us meaning – such as working for our community, developing close bonds with family and friends, enjoying a connection to nature, fully honouring our body through health and fitness etc

The power of submerged likes and dislikes has the power to make us less mindful – certainly less mindful of difference and less mindful of the impact of our behaviour on others. Submerged likes and dislikes have a powerful ally these days – instant gratification.

I want it now

The improvement in the delivery of services and the democratisation of information means that these likes can be satiated in seconds. This re enforces our reward networks and makes us less tolerant of delay. We may become upset easily by a minor disruption in the flow of good service. A small disruption, such as a delayed tube, can make us feel frustrated and angry (our reward network has not been satiated instantly). Technology, distraction and the non-examination of submerged likes and dislikes may be making us more fragile and less resilient than previous generations. We want it now and we usually get it now. But what is it? Merely fleeting flickers of dopamine as we excite the same reward networks again and again?

Mindfulness is not about completely  unravelling our likes and dislikes but through mindful practices we become more aware of our habitual ways of being. In order to become less judgmental and rigid in our thinking we need to appreciate that other people’s learnt likes and dislikes lead them to a world view that may be very different to our own. This appreciation and celebration of difference allows us to be live more harmoniously and cohesively with the people around us. We may also become more resilient as we learn to focus our attention on exploring new things and investing in activities which deliver long term meaning rather than merely satiating instant desire.

The key to this examination is to take it slowly. We are not trying to dismantle our personality! Our friends like us and love us for who we are and who we are becoming. As we investigate the way we are in the world we need to do it with fun, curiosity and a light heart. Taking mindfulness too seriously takes us away from mindfulness rather than towards it. We are trying to uncover some simple truths – the things that enrich our lives and bring it meaning are often the simplest and are usually right in front of us already. We just need to be still and observe them a little more.

Our next mindfulness course is in London on Sept 11th Mindfulness at work