"We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are"
Reality – what we see and what we experience - is subject to our interpretation. The meaning of an experience depends entirely on our perspective. What determines our perspective? Our prior experience, our state of mind, the state of our health, the conditions or context we’re in, our expectations and, above all, our attention and focus determine our perspective on ‘things’. At the same time, our response to the world around us is, more often than we know, subject to choice. We usually respond -- we react -- unconsciously, automatically, and without awareness regarding the role we play in our interpretation of things.
Is the glass half full or half empty? This is basic CBT really – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Our cognitions – our thoughts – determine our behaviour. Most thoughts are the product of our beliefs. Those beliefs are often automatic and unexamined and
developed out of our past experience. We take on beliefs about the world, via osmosis, from message received from our family of origin, from our social group and from our culture’s view of the world.
Experience also shapes our beliefs about the world. We often come up with our own interpretations of why and how things were as they were and, whether accurate or not, they shape our reality. For example, children will often blame themselves for difficult events, like a divorce. The internal, albeit unrealistic, assumption is, “I’m a bad person and it’s my fault they fight”. This, often unconscious, belief can linger well into adulthood resulting in a basic ‘core’ belief that one is a ‘bad person’. It’s pretty easy to see how that belief would colour lots of interpretations of how things are, e.g., “it’s all my fault”.
Our state of health has a tremendous effect on our state of mind. Research tells us that a depressed person tends to recall mostly negative, unhappy experiences and, in turn, predicts a dismal future. Clearly, our moods colour our interpretation of things. Feeling tired, ill, or in pain affects how things look. Our bodies are the medium through which we interact with ‘reality’ and that medium can be clear and finely tuned or dull and out of synch affecting how we sense and how we interpret the world.
Whether you think you can or think you can't - you are right
We see what we expect to see. We rise to (or lower to) the expectations of others and ourselves. We are particularly vulnerable to lowering our expectations according to any ‘failure programming’ we’ve received from powerful figures in our history: punitive parents, critical and discouraging teachers, terrifying school yard bullies. Feel like a failure, and you are far more likely to fail. Convinced of your own strength and talent, you are more likely to succeed.
“The chains of habit are too light to feel until they are too heavy to break.”
- Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet, speaking at the University of Washington, was clearly referring to the fact that we can get so ingrained in the way we do things, how we see things, and what we expect that we don’t realize our habits have actually narrowed our way of thinking and how we see the world. (from Steve Miller’s account at The Adventure LLC http://www.theadventure.com)
Our interpretation of reality is largely based on what we pay attention to! This is such an important concept re: seeing things how ‘we are’ that it will be the subject of my next post. Please tune in for some real-time examples for you to experiment with regarding how what you focus on and what you pay attention to determine how you ‘are’. Whether you see the glass half full or half empty depends on the kind of glass you’re looking at and the context the glass sits in and the effect all that has on -- your central nervous system. Please, catch my post on Focus and Attention!
Finally, we do have a choice in all this. We can choose to become self-aware, recognizing our role in creating the reality we experience via our beliefs, formed from our history and our experience, coloured by our expectations and fuelled by what we spend our time and energy paying attention to!
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
--Socrates, in Plato, Dialogues, Apology (469 - 399BC)