Is Perception Reality?


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Your Unique Perspective

Perspective:
1) the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.
2) the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship: Your data is admirably detailed but it lacks perspective.
“perspective.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 08 Jan. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perspective>.

One Perspective

Imagine a world where everyone shared the same perspective. We would truly see things through the same set of eyes. We would all agree that black is black, white is white and grey is grey in every situation. We would universally agree on right and wrong. There would be no need to argue. We would all agree on everything. Heaven or Hell? Utopia or boring beyond belief? The totalitarian and fascist track records are not pretty on this account.

I don’t believe we have any chance of a universal perspective sweeping like a virus through humanity any time soon.

Your State of Mind

We each experience a unique state of mind or perspective. Let’s begin with a closer examination of our first definition of perspective, “the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship.” When we try to blend our ideas and what we know as “facts,” we risk forming  mis-perceptions.  Are our ideas really valid? Are our facts truthful? Do we have enough information to have confidence in our conclusions?  Can we trust our perspective? Flat-eathers, conspiracy theorists, and UFO-fringers come to mind as possible candidates for mis-perception.  But who really can tell?

Is Perception Reality?

Is one’s perception one’s reality?  I would tend to say that yes it is from the perspective of the person experiencing the situation as real.  How we experience a moment is what allows us to process our sensations and manufacture ideas about the situation and blend it with what we believe factual in our situation.  A difficult question to answer is, what really is reality? Is so-called reality separate from one’s perception? A psychotic person experiences a much different reality than the non-psychotic person and the non-psychotic community judges the psychotic’s perceived reality as fictional.  But does this non-psychotic judgement make the psychotic’s perceived, even if delusional, reality any less real to him/her? 

Our perceived definition of reality is formed when two or more people can agree that their perceptions of a moment are similar. The more similar their perceptions, the more real they will judge their experience of the moment.  They confirm their ideas and facts against the other people’s ideas and facts and begin to trust their perceptions as reality.

Is Perception Relevant?

Our second definition of perception, “the faculty of seeing all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship” is also problematic.  Is it ever possible for someone to see all the relevant data in a meaningful relationship prior to forming a perception?  Who can objectively and accurately decide what qualifies as relevant data in a given moment?  Yet we all do it all the time without giving it much thought. We know what we saw.  We believe it when we see it. It just sounds right to me. These are the things we tell ourselves to make a judgement on our perception and to move on.

Living In Our Own World

I have come to understand that we each live in our own world of our uniquely created perceptions. Our ideas, facts, experiences, emotions, senses, and even biological makeup all contribute to how we perceive each moment we live. I do not believe that any two people process all of the inputs that are generated by experiencing a moment in the same way, so it is nearly impossible to expect that any two people will perceive a moment totally the same way.  We might agree on some similarities between our perception, but on close examination, there would be differences as well.

Different=Bad, Wrong and Crazy

Our innate need to feel connected to others and to confirm our sanity, drives us to form relationships with like-minded people.  Spend anytime on any online discussion board and you can experience this natural phenomenon in action. We validate each other’s perceptions and then happily live our lives viewing each moment as a true reading of reality based on the fact that others share a similar perception, so ours is correct. 
A potentially dangerous environment is created when we come across someone with a different perspective. We are  immediately shocked that someone could hold a different perspective than our own. (We are totally right afterall.) In trying to support our sense of correctness and sanity, we immediately judge and dismiss the other person’s different perspective as being bad, wrong and possibly crazy.  Afterall, how could any rational thinking human being perceive something differently than me we think.  It’s fight or flight time. Let the arguments, coercion, influencing and preaching begin…

My Way or the Highway!

Our judgements of other’s perceptions are lightning fast. When other’s perceptions conflict directly with our cherished perceptions called beliefs and values, we tend to react on a more emotional level than in a logical way.  We defend our perception and try to persuade the other person to see things our way or prove ourself to be right and them wrong.  If that doesn’t work and we believe our way of thinking is threatened, we can become frightened, frustrated and angry.  This is a toxic emotional cocktail that we instantly drink and can result in pronouncements such as “I cannot believe you feel that way!” We issue ultimatums such as, “it’s my way or the highway,” “damn you to Hell,” or worse, “condemn you to death.”  Our response to a radically different perspective that we judge as threatening to our perceptions becomes a battle of wills or a war for mental self-preservation.

Different is Different, Not Bad by Definition

One short line of logic has the power to form a mental circuit breaker that can keep us from drinking our toxic judgment cocktail.  That statement is: “Different is by definition different and is not automatically bad.”  Difference has no innate evaluation of good or bad.  Difference requires a judgement of our perceptions for us to think of a difference as being bad or wrong for our existence and perceived reality.  Me must accept as fact that people perceive reality differently than we do, because we have enough evidence to suggest that it is fact.

If we can add this mental circuit breaker to our rational, logical thinking process, then we have to potential to deploy our most powerful weapon in our intellectual arsenal, our curiosity.

Curiosity as a Safety Valve

If one can learn to become masters of one’s  curiosity, then one can subdue one’s natural, emotional tendency to leap to conclusions and quickly  judge other perceptions.  Curiosity has the power to defuse potentially explosive perceptual differences.  If one can view perceptual differences as opportunities to learn something new or as positive challenges to solidify and confirm our own perceptions, then one does not have a need to judge others’ perceptions as invalid or wrong.  One can disagree with a different perception, but one can stay curious to try to decide what differences exist in how the other person has processed information, formed values, ideas and beliefs that resulted in a perception that is different than one’s own.  In short, one might learn something beneficial and learn to appreciate a different perception, even if one disagrees with it.   Since we all have  evidence that we have made mistakes in our perceptions, why not always assume that our perceptions are incomplete and subject to change with more information?  By asking oneself, “what if I’m wrong?” one can stay curious and at least attempt to fully understand a different perspective without rushing to judgement.  One can use one’s curiosity as a safety valve to diffuse one’s own visceral response to a difference and seek first to understand the difference before trying to become understood for maintaining one’s true perspective.

One can adjust one’s intellectual honesty by asking oneself, “Do I really have enough true information to be 100% confident in my perception?”  If one can imagine a single potential piece of  information that might change one’s perception, then one must logically conclude that one does not have enough information to be certain of one’s perceived conclusion.

All Perceptions Are Subject to Change With New Information

If all of our perceptions are subject to change with other information, how can one function? As one remains curious to the potential revisions to one’s perceptions, one tests one’s perceptions more often and can decide that they are true or false from one’s perspective.  The more often one confirms one’s perceptions, the more one can increase one’s confidence in them.  Confidence and certainty are not the same thing much like faith and fact are not the same.  By remaining open to at least evaluating different perspectives by using one’s curiosity, one can avoid many fears, frustrations and angry or violent conclusions. Why fight over something that there is a good chance that one holds an inaccurate perception about it?

Time Will Tell

Which perceptions are right and wrong?  Time will tell. Additional experience is the magnifying lens that allows one to see 20/20 in hindsight if one is willing to reflect and to revise one’s perceptions. By learning to stay curious, one increases the chances of a much more interesting and rich journey through this series of experiences called life.

There are some truths that I believe have withstood the test of time. When in doubt, I have my faith.

My perceptions may ultimately prove to have been totally wrong, but in the end, I will have lived a better life as a result of my faith either way.  Time will tell if I was correct.  I am confident in my faith enough to live on curiously.

Seeking and finding truth is not easy and may be a major purpose of our life’s journey.

Time will tell. One must wait and see for oneself.

 I wish you a wonderful adventure!

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About Andrew W Dix, M.S.
Author, Motivational Speaker, Performance Improvement Specialist, Executive Coach, Trainer, Reiss Motivation Profile Master and Private Pilot. Expertise in motivation, leadership, strengths, management, coaching, advertising and sales.

5 Responses to Is Perception Reality?

  1. Hi Andy! I totally agree that “we each live in our own world of our uniquely created perceptions.” In addition, our perceptions change as we grown and change ourselves. There is really no point trying to figure out who has the right perception. I find it best to agree that we just have different perceptions. And that’s ok. 🙂
    Thanks for you clear perception. Loving blessings!

    • Andrew W Dix says:

      Thanks for the kind words Andrea. Different is OK with me 🙂

      Best,
      Andy

  2. Hi Andrew, hope you don’t mind me posting a link here but I wrote a piece about this some years ago and had some quite good discussion to go along with it… – http://www.unlimitedchoice.org/blog/meditations/perception-vs-reality/

    My perception is my reality based on my beliefs and I understand exactly where you’re coming from. Great piece!

    • Andrew W Dix says:

      Amit,

      Thank you for your feedback. Your article is an excellent addition! I hope this is a concept that many people can come to understand and adopt.

      Best Wishes,

      Andy

      • Thanks Andy and likewise! 🙂

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