My best friend often reminds me that perceptions are real. Recently, I have been reflecting on this and questioning this, well, perception, on a number of fronts.
Firstly, our perceptions are really just thoughts, our thoughts about reality. They don’t represent reality itself, they only represent our experience of reality.
Secondly, and following from that, our reality isn’t what is happening outside of us; our reality is what is happening inside of us. After all, we know that our respective experiences all differ. What we think about what’s happening outside of us differs from person to person. That explains why we have different views about a painting in front of us. It explains why we have different worldviews and different opinions on everything from politics to organisational strategies to the problem we are collectively trying to solve to the quality of the food at a given restaurant – in fact, why we have our own preferences for different dishes at that restaurant.
Thirdly, we all experience emotions – emotions, like opinions, are our responses to particular stimuli. We all respond differently to the same stimulus. I guess you’re going to tell me that we all feel sad at a funeral, and that’s a good example. Yes, you would be right, but how do I know that your sad is the same as my sad and the same sad as the grieving family is experiencing? We talk of emotions as if we know what happiness, frustration, heartbreak, disappointment etc feels like for the other person because we think they feel these things the same way we do – yet we have no idea what they are feeling, how they are experiencing the external stimulus. Ah, again, it is our perception, our thoughts of what reality is in these circumstances.
So, in my view, it all comes down to our thoughts. Perception is not reality – it is only our perception of reality, and our perception is only our thoughts about that reality. We weave our thoughts together in a story that we use to explain our current (external) circumstances. Who is the author of that story? Who is the author of our thoughts? That’s the easy question, it’s US! We are the author of our thoughts and, if we write our scripts, our stories, then why can’t we edit them and even re-write them when we need to.
Bear that in mind the next time you take something personally, or get angry at someone or are anxious, sad, disappointed etc. No one can make you these things without your permission – that is, without you writing that script – so rewrite your response, your reality, to serve you more compassionately, so that you are kinder to yourself; in fact, so you don’t get in your own way so much (as we all do!)
For the truth is, as Michael Neill puts it: “YOU DON’T HAVE TO THINK THAT!”
Think about that!
I am looking forward to my next great discussion (and drink) with my friend! It’s going to be fun sharing our (different) thoughts about our respective realities.