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How Our Conception of Perception is a Deception

Our perception of the world is essentially a set of eyeglasses that we choose to place on our heads. These glasses predefine the meaning of everything that we see, hear, and experience. We have a different set of glasses for each experience.

For example, if there is a person in your life that you do not like or approve of, that is because of the glasses that you have chosen to put on, which predefines the meaning of their actions and words. Because of this, these glasses prevent a clear understanding of the other person’s behavior.

Whenever you think of a particular person, good or bad, you have put on the set of glasses that are made exclusively for that person. These glasses contain the perception of that person that you currently have. This perception might as well be written in stone. It doesn’t allow you to see the person for who they really are.

Having a preset perception is in essence you being right about your experience. If you get offended by this person in any way it is because you have chosen that response for that type of trigger or for that type of personality. If a person dresses a certain way it will have a certain meaning to you. Think about the responses you have to someone who is well dressed versus someone who is sloppily dressed.

The same goes for people’s personalities. For most of you readers, there will be certain people that you feel that you can trust right from the start and others that you feel unsafe being around. Is it your intuition or is it the glasses that you have on? How do you tell the difference?

When we see somebody clearly, there is an absence of judgment and an absence of emotional reaction. We stop perceiving the person as being right or wrong, or good or bad. We just see them in totality. We can see their fears. We can see their emotional needs. We can understand what is motivating them in that moment to act the way they do without any additional meaning.

The power the non-judgmental observer gains is that others actions or words do not affect them. Even if somebody is responding negatively or in a way that would normally irritate you, seeing somebody clearly allows you to observe the other person without getting emotionally involved.

So how do we actually “take off the glasses” as we interact with others? First you need to acknowledge that you have them on. This requires letting go of your ego and the need to be right. This is an exercise of being willing to let go of your judgment of others.

I recommend that you start with easy situations where your emotional attachment is at its weakest. Family (parents, siblings, children) probably creates the strongest emotional reactions, our partners the second strongest ones. The middle level would be coworkers and friends, then acquaintances and strangers. This is a loosely organized list that will always have exceptions, as we will come across the odd person who will trigger a strong subconscious emotional response for us.

So start with a person that you encounter in a public place or perhaps somebody that you just met. Place your focus on someone who is in emotional reaction themselves, or who just has a habit that annoys you. First do a quick rundown of what is happening inside of you. What is your emotional reaction to what you are observing? What are the judgments you have? Clarify how you feel and what you are thinking so that you can separate yourself from them by setting them aside so that you can clearly observe what is happening for that other person.

Why is that person acting the way the do? Why are they really saying what they are saying? You can filter out about 75% of their reaction by knowing that that is what they learned form their parents. This is the behavior that they saw as a child and learned how to mimic without being aware of how automatic their response is.

Another 25% can be attributed to that person trying to get their emotional needs met outside of themselves. They may have a need to fit in, to be accepted, to be liked by others. Perhaps they have a strong need to be loved, as they have not learned to fully love themselves. Se if you can identify what need is fueling their behavior. If you can’t, just acknowledge that there is a need there.

The last 25% can be attributed primarily to fear. That person that you are observing is trying to cope, sometimes successfully, most times not (though they think they are!), with a fear that they are not aware of. Most people try to hide what is really going on inside of them. There are different ways in which people hide and it is good to be aware of as many as you can.

Some people hide who they really are by being people pleasers, by being ingratiating. Others may put up a defensive system that any military would be proud of. These types of people will put up such a strong offensive that it will not occur to you that their true motivation is protect themselves from potential hurt by going on this offense.

Yet others hide simply because they have so much self loathing that if you really saw them for who they are, their fear is that you would instantly reject them. That is by far the most common behavior. The bottom line is that fear is a strong driver of people’s behavior.

As you begin to practice moving yourself out of the way to observe others, you may or may not “see” the specifics of what is going on for the other person. You really don’t need to. The initial part of your self training is to just be aware of the possibilities. As you practice more and more, you will start to “see” or just “know” something about the other person. Most times that knowing will be there in a vague sort of way. Other times you will sense things about another person.

Over time you will develop this ability to see others clearly and be able to apply it to tougher situations. The key is to have patience with yourself. It takes time and practice. Consider all personal growth to be the equivalent of learning a new language. You need to first grasp the new alphabet, some basic words, and grammar. You then try to string together the little bit of knowledge that you do have to form some simple thoughts.

As you practice and learn more, your ability slowly increases. There are moments of frustration, eureka moments, and every moment in between. Changing your behavior is not any different. You are learning a new language, a new form of communication for which there are few role models. You are all pioneers in your own way. By bettering yourselves and increasing your knowledge of human behavior, including your own, you become role models for others to learn from.

So, try taking those glasses off to see what other people are really about. Changing your perception of others goes hand in hand with changing your perception of yourself and creates a better life experience for everyone.

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Thank you for your continued support.


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