Looking at the mind's three distinctive functions which describe the inter-relatedness of thinking, feeling, and wanting.  Use the concept of the "American Dream" to illustrate the...

Looking at the mind's three distinctive functions which describe the inter-relatedness of thinking, feeling, and wanting.  Use the concept of the "American Dream" to illustrate the inter-relatedness of thinking, feeling, and wanting.  Basically, as you see it, how do thinking, feeling, and wanting all work together to shape our experience of the "American Dream"?

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of the American Dream, it can be roughly summarized to include: a) the desire for the freedom to pursue one's passions, b) the desire for economic security and well being, and c) the desire for hope and progress in one's life.

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The relationship of thoughts, feelings and desires or wants is complex and dynamic and, according to at least one analysis, cyclical (see “A Critical Odyssey: Thinking, Feeling, and Wanting,” http://acriticalodyssey.blogspot.com/2008/11/thinking-feeling-and-wanting.html).  Thoughts are how one perceives a given situation or object, how one considers or analyzes that situation or object, and how one thinks about it in comparative terms.  Feelings or emotions result directly from thoughts.  How one views or perceives a situation or object translates into how one feels about that situation or object.  A certain individual can see a gun on a counter and immediately begin to think about it.  How that gun is perceived influences how that person’s emotions are affected.  The gun can be viewed as inherently threatening, triggering feelings of insecurity or fear, or it can be viewed as a novelty or object of interest, leading to feelings of excitement or simply curiosity.  Those feelings, in turn, affect desire, whether to create separation with the gun, or, conversely, to approach it, pick it up and experiment with it (e.g., is it loaded, is the safety on, is it heavy).  Does the presence of the gun spur a desire to purchase one or to move it to another location so that it will no longer be visible?  This dynamic is applicable to virtually every aspect of life. 

People are continuously observing images and responding emotionally, with a suitable course of action derived from those feelings.  Applying this model to the concept of the “American Dream,” then, involves defining that dream and assessing an individual’s perception of it.  Historically, the American Dream has revolved around the pursuit of material wealth and the freedom of action such wealth provides.  The United States is a nation of immigrants, and tens of millions of those immigrants have been motivated by that concept of a better life with the freedom to choose one’s occupation, how one raises one’s children, and where one can live within the boundaries of the country.  The mythical “streets paved with gold” propelled untold millions to leave their countries of origin and emigrate to the United States where a better life awaited.  Freedom of opportunity and the notion that, with hard work, anyone can rise to the top, has historically been a powerful motivator. 

Having established some parameters defining the “American Dream,” we can now apply the “mind’s three distinctive functions” model (see the diagram the URL link to which is provided below). Perceptions of the American Dream are, by definition, positive.  The American Dream is a positive image of freedom and opportunity.  It is the American family in the single-family home with two late-model cars in the garage and happy, healthy children.  There is no negative to how it is perceived; that’s the whole point of this dream.  The feelings it evokes, then, follow logically from those positive or optimistic perceptions, and include anticipation, excitement, perhaps a little trepidation about the unknown, and maybe a little greed.  These feelings, then, lead to wants, including the aforementioned home in a good community with security and affluence; in short, an ideal environment in which to raise children.  I see that image; I feel excited about that image; I want the component parts of that image.  The symbol of American affluence could be a large home in a well-to-do neighborhood with quality schools.  We see it; we are excited about it; we want it. 

This model is limited in its scope.  It’s illustrative of a certain psychological phenomenon.  Taken to an extreme, it leads to maxed-out credit cards, anxiety about paying bills, stress on the job, and other negative results.  That’s not to say the dream is out of reach; many have attained it.  It is to say, however, that actions derived principally from observations and feelings can lead to seriously bad results.  This, however, is getting off-track.  The American Dream is an amorphous concept.  It doesn’t have to lead to excesses of materialistic acquisitions.  It’s simply that the model omits the next steps in the process, and that’s where the problems lie.

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