Control Your Emotions with Contrast

Contrast, as it is in the dictionary, is ‘the act of calling attention to notable differences’ and ‘juxtapose so as to bring out differences’ and comes from the Latin contra- ‘against’ + stare ‘stand’.

So when you stand one thing against another and note the differences, you are in the act of contrasting them.

The starker the contrast, the more notable the differences.

Contrast is a great tool for creating clarity.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you have until you contrast it with (stand it against) something else that is different – in this case, contrasting what you have with what you don’t have.

Contrast can also account for emotional intensity, as we’ll soon see.

It’s like a waveform. Imagine a wave with the crests and troughs being quite small and the overall line of waves looking almost straight – the differences between the ups and the downs are negligible. In this scenario, there is very little energy being expressed with very little intensity.

Now imagine a waveform where the crests and troughs are very high and very low. There is a lot of energy being expressed here with great intensity. The contrast between the highs and the lows is greater.

Increased contrast = increased intensity.

In every person’s mind are two imaginary boxes.
In the first box is their image of what they expect to see.
In the second box is the image of what they actually see.

The greater the contrast between these two boxes, the greater the intensity of the emotions felt.

The types of differences noted due to the contrast determine the types of emotions felt.

For example, you expect to see your loved one arrive at the airport at a certain time. This is contrasted by the fact that the flight has been delayed. This unmet expectation causes a feeling of disappointment. If the contrast is low, like the flight is only delayed by 15 minutes, there is little amplitude, meaning that the disappointment is not that intense. However, if the flight has been delayed by 2 days, the contrast between your expectation and the reality is stark and the disappointment is more intense. (The way out of disappointment here is to consciously create a new comparison to contrast in favour of gain rather than loss.)

When you are unclear about where to go or what to do; when you are feeling rather blasé about life, it is a good time to consciously bring in contrast as a tool to help you feel better.

For example, let’s say you feel tired and generally unhappy/unsatisfied with your life and you would like to feel better, you could contrast what you currently have in your life that makes it comfortable with what it would be like NOT to have it.

What if you didn’t have a bed to sleep in?
What if you didn’t have running water?
What if you didn’t have electricity?
What is you didn’t have that loved-one (spouse, child, pet) anymore?

How would these situations change your daily routine?
How would  these situations change your priorities?
How would these situations change your feelings about what you DO have in life right now?

When you contrast what you have with NOT having it and begin to vividly note the consequences of not having those things, you begin to feel Appreciation and Love for what you have because the contrast allows you to more clearly see how rich your life is with them and how poor it would be without them. Lack of contrast causes you to take things for granted and is the force behind the popular expression, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

Boredom, Listlessness, Indifference, Apathy, Confusion, Taking Things for Granted, Uncertainty, Lethargy, and Dissatisfaction all arise from a lack of contrast.

High Contrast moments act as a spark to awaken one’s Conscious Recognition of value and importance.

For example, imagine you were out in the freezing cold weather and became so chilled that it was beginning to threaten your well-being and then you go inside to sit by a fire with a blanket around you. In that moment by the fire, you would recognize the value of the fire and the important role it plays in your well-being because of the stark contrast of the bitter cold you felt outside (and still feel) against the fire’s warmth you are now enjoying.

The short time between extreme cold and warm creates the intensity of contrast needed to awaken the recognition (become conscious) of the heat’s value to you and the result is a feeling of Appreciation. “Mmmm, this fire feels so good!”

Now imagine that you get so hot sitting by the fire that you begin to sweat and feel faint. It is at this point that the heat from the fire is no longer helping you – rather it is beginning to do harm (threaten your well-being).  Now you would gladly step outside into the freezing cold, and for a short time, you’d Appreciate the cold for its ability to help you cool down and restore your well-being.

Isn’t is strange in a way that, at one point, you could have hated the cold and now you love it.

Your natural tendency is to love that which contributes to your well-being. Contrast helps to intensify this love.

This is why there can be so much passion in the beginning of a loving relationship – there is the contrast of the joy of being together against each other’s freedom to leave at any time.

The contrast here is between the fact that this person does not have to be with you and yet …they are. This is a demonstration of their desire for You. When you feel desired, it can be intoxicating because there is the added contrast of having recently been alone and unwanted with being together and desired. It’s like coming in from out of the cold.

This is the reason some people don’t want to get married. They don’t want to turn a “want to” into a “have to” – they fear the commitment would take away their desire, passion and the emotional intensity.

Couples who maintain their passion for one another have a habit of creating the contrast in their minds that allow them to desire one another. These people remain in touch with what they appreciate about being together and acknowledge their togetherness as a choice they freely make every day. They stay in touch with how their lives are better together than they are apart. This contrast (comparison) brings them joy.

Contrast is the power to clarify and intensify.

It is always available to you as a conscious choice.

Use it consciously and use it wisely …to help you create a life you Love.

© 2014 Trent Janisch –

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