Perception – Things Are Not Always What They Seem!

Leonardo da Vinci said about perception, that we will always perceive the errors in other people’s work, more than would ever do in our own.

Interesting isn’t it?  It is, of course, because we start from the position that we are right and everyone else is wrong – so naturally there will be more faults in their work than ours.  But where do we get this perception from? And how do we interpret what other people say?

Now, unless you went to a school that taught philosophy then it isnt suprising that most people dont ever think about where their own thoughts, beliefs, perceptions etc come from – we just naturally assume that our view of the world is correct.  We believe it is our own self-will, self-guiding and free will effectively that makes things happen.

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However, over the years what I have found, and nost psychologists agree, is that we are made up of all the various experiences we have had. And not only our own.  Experiences we have been told about, also add to our view of the world – which is crucial – because that experience is told to us FROM THE PERCEPTION of the person telling us.. And all these experiences – ours and other peoples’, create the way that we interpret the world – our perception.

Are we pre-programmed to act and respond?

I can think of no more definite way to reference this external influencing, than if you look over the last couple of centuries and think about whom the establishment has asked us to hate. There is a total parallel between how things happened and how we were programmed to act and respond to them. For example – we go through one war, and we’re expected to hate one side, we go through another war, and they expect us to hate someone else. We go through the third war, and we are supposed to hate yet another side.

Now the fact of the matter is that when one member of one group meets a member of the other group, there is frequently no real animosity between those two individuals. Those individuals are quite happy to share, eat and chat with each other.  The famous example of this is the football match that happens during WW1 trenches on Christmas Day morning in no man’s land.

It’s not the only example though, there are many heart-warming story’s that you can read from journals and letters of people involved in these conflicts. These are heart-warming because they show that the people involved don’t hate each other. It’s the establishment that’s asked them to hate, that has created a certain perception.

Over your life you have been influenced and affected by the will and interpretation of life by others.  Your perception is built by their communication, by the way that others have done things. You are a sum of all the information you have been given. You pick up perceptions, characteristics and habits, so many ways of doing things from people around you, including your family, your teachers and your co-workers. These influences affect your day-to-day being, and there have been many studies of Influence and Cognitive Biases published over the years.

We human beings have developed this great ability to take shortcuts with any information provided to us! Therefore, we don’t need to necessarily know everything that goes on all the time to interpret the world around us.

Information Overload

One good example of this is that you don’t need to think about breathing your body just does it! You don’t need to think about standing because your body has lernt the most efficient way of doing it.

Imagine what it would be like if you had to take in and process every single sensory input your body receives every single second, from what your eyes see, to everything that your fingers feel, all the smells, hearing every sound, everything.  All that information for the brain to process in that single moment of every single day, which it does naturally.  How exhausting wouldit be to be consciously aware of that?

However, your body and your mind take all this information in and then filter it, once filtered only then does your mind display and transmit the bits you need to think about and pay attention to. And it will do that dependant on existing thought patterns and beliefs.  So – if you believe that people are inherently good, you will interpret a situaiton differently than if you think they are bad.

There was an advert – I forget who for – which showed a situation from 2 angles.  First you saw a dodgy looking bloke spot a woman with a posh handbag – he starts running toward her.  your perception is that he is planning on taking the bag.  Then you see the video from a different angle and you can see that something is about to fall off some scafolding and he is trying to save her.  Things can look very different – depending on your programming.  And it is easy to program someone, or yourself.

This underlying principle of influence can be seen all over.  If you go onto YouTube you’ll find videos where people are watching a crowd, but miss someone walking through the crowd wearing a gorilla outfit.  The reason they miss it is they have been told to count how many people have yellow shoes and their attention is drawn to yellow shoes only, thus drawing them away from one crucial or exciting thing.

Where is this happening in your life? What’s happening at work that you may be missing? What dots are you joining or not joining? Whom have you been asked to hate? Once you’re aware of these internal and external influences, you can start to challenge whether your perception is something you want.  Or is it an automatic response to control by others.

And the good news is – that as easy as it is to pick up these unhelpful programs from others, it is also possible to reprogram your own mind and choose your beliefs going forwards.  Just because someone once told you that you couldn’t climb a tree, doesnt mean that it is true, or still true, for you.

I’ll leave you with this thought.  If there’s something you believe with certainty, that’s the first thing to do a reality check on.