Perceptions: Road Blocks or Stepping Stones

Stepping StonesThe recent global events as well as a blog post from Dr. Milton Bennett about tolerance makes me think along the following lines: all humans have an automatic tendency to judge their own experiences.

Instead of simply noticing what is there in the present moment, unfolding and happening, we think about what needs to be changed, how things could or should be different. Something is not quite right in a way, not good enough, not what we had expected and wanted.

Often these thoughts will take us, quite automatically, down on some fairly well-worn paths in our minds. In this way, we lose awareness of the present moment and the ability to freely choose if and how to react. We  jump quickly on to conclusions, which seem to be the right ones and by doing so, trigger behaviors and actions from ourselves and others around us.

Relating to the idea of tolerance we might want to ask ourselves where our threshold lies.

  • How do we really feel deep inside us?
  • What type of experiences deplete us and which ones make us happy?
  • Where do we feel comfortable and where uncomfortable?

We can regain our freedom from automatic thoughts and reactions, if as a first step we simply acknowledge the actuality of the situation we find ourselves in, without being automatically hooked into tendencies to judge, fix, or want things to be different from the way they are.

How do we do this?

  1. Notice what is going on
  • How did your body feel in detail during the experience?
  • What thoughts and images accompanied the experience?
  • What moods, feelings and emotions accompanied the event?
  1. Explore the effects of bringing awareness to the direct experience
  • What do you notice?
  • Is your mind wandering away?
  • Is bringing awareness to the experience affecting it in a way? If so, how?
  1. Accept what is there without wanting to change anything
  2. Let go and simply acknowledge the arising and passing of emotions and thoughts without becoming entangled in the content of it.

Next time you’re confronted with a pleasant or unpleasant experience, try writing down what happened especially in steps 1 and 2. Exploring our own sensations, limits, beliefs, emotions, moods and thoughts is not easy and change doesn’t come over night. It comes with a lot of training and attention.

And of course, change starts with yourself and with how you experience and react to a situation and not with other people around you!





Reality versus Perception: Our Brain at Work


Lately I came across a very nice quote referring to the differences that exist between beliefs and reality:

“The map is not the territory” from Alfred Korzybski

This quote illustrates very nicely that your reality (what you believe is true and objective, thus your ‘world’), is nothing else than an inner representation of the external realities and the world that you are observing and living in. Your perceptions create the “map of the world”. This map helps you navigate in the “real world”, through daily experiences and impressions. Like a road map it gives you landmarks for moving forward towards your destination and various codes and rules let you interpret and understand what is happening, what you can do and what you cannot.

Thus, there is “your” reality (the map) and the outside world (the territory) and there will always be differences between the two. Our human brain notices what is happening around us (in the territory) through our senses and then proceeds to filtering the received information in order to be able to use them and not to create an ‘overflow’ of stimuli.

Let me give you an example: Imagine your manager comes in and sees you sitting at your desk which is overflowing with paper and other things. He or she simply says: “You have a full desk”. Depending on your background, education, culture, previous experiences etc. you might be thinking: “Oh, he/she said that I am not organized”; or you might think something like “Oh, he/she notices that I have a lot on my plate” or anything in between. There are many different ways of interpreting what has been said and whatever you might have understood will trigger your reactions and your thoughts after that. Somebody observing the scene on the other hand, might interpret something completely different as he/she would have a very different view on the world. So, what is “real” and what not?

As you can see, there is only one situation happened: one territory. The possible representation hereof (the maps) however, i.e. how people perceive this situation can have many different facets and aspects.

Next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, you might want to think about what “really” happened (the facts) and what your interpretation, your judgment and your subjective view of the event was. You might even want to seek clarification from the person involved in the action clearly asking what was meant (if at all possible). The important thing to remember here is that you choose how you react and if at all… opening up to what really happened and what you saw, heard, felt, might help you change your behavior over time, which will in turn change the way others react upon you.

Thanks for reading! Jenny