“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau
Do you see what is front of you or do you see what you want to see? How accurate is your perception of things? Do you seek out information on a topic before forming a judgement?
Look at the picture above. What do you see? It appears that the woman is balanced on the edge of a log, but living intimately with gravity, as we all do, is what we see here really possible? What is really happening? Did the camera simply catch her in the split second she touched the log before falling forward to the ground?
My first perception is that she is off balance and will fall. On the other hand, maybe she is leaning back far enough to balance on the edge. Or perhaps the picture was photo shopped. What do you see?
We Constantly Interpret What We See
On a daily basis, we are faced with situations that are not clear, and we have to interpret what we see or hear. The conclusion we reach is very much based on our previous life experience. For example, my first response to the above pictures is based on having been a dancer and dealt with balance, weight, and movement. As a result, I believe that the picture was taken a split-second before she would fall.
Gustave Flaubert said, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” We can collect facts about any topic, but what we experience usually affects how we think and feel about that experience. For example, since the last U.S. election, we never know when we can trust the president’s comments because they are often his emotional response to a situation not based on facts or reality.
He sees virtually everything in relation to how it makes him look powerful or weak and ignores the way his actions affect many of the people who voted for him. Twisting facts to support one’s political agenda is not unusual, but it is clear he cannot see beyond his own emotional needs, and they are based in his fear of not being powerful.
Negative Thinking Is the Result of Fear
Negative thinking is created by underlying fears and may cause us to think that we are facing a problem when it is simply a challenge that can be easily solved. If we choose to see it as a serious problem, we create an emotional block that may prevent us from seeing a simple or easy solution. Realizing that fear is getting in the way and letting it go will help us see the solution.
Look at this the picture above: rose petals on a keyboard. What do you think has happened here? When I first saw it, I thought of the roses I’ve received from my love on Valentine’s Day and how reluctant I often am to throw them out even when the dry petals begin to fall.
As I continued to gaze at the picture, I thought of other scenarios. A couple had a fit and someone threw a rose at the other and it hit the piano instead. Or the couple has broken up and the roses have been left to die like the relationship. Or the rose is lying there because it fell from the vase on the piano and no one has picked it up because the pianist is no longer in that house.
What We See Is Based On How Carefully We Look
How we see a situation is often based on our past experiences. It is also based on how carefully we explore what has happened. Look at the following nature photo. Glance at it quickly, then away.
Now go back and study it for a moment. Do you see more than you did with a glance?
This is a bit like reading articles on Facebook. If you only skim the titles of articles, you may have missed the real point of the writing because most titles on Facebook are created to catch attention, not to inform. So the topic that you see in the title may have little resemblance to the information in the article. This is why it is important to fact check our own perceptions. Is what we see at first really the story?
Informing ourselves about major issues that affect us can shift our perceptions to what is real rather than just what feels good. For example, why did people think Trump would help those most in need just because he said it. There was no history to support these promises, but so many people trusted what he said without looking further. They never looked beyond the surface.
Knowing Ourselves Helps Us See More Clearly
When we develop the consciousness to look at our own perceptions and prejudices and be aware of what they are, we are able to make better choices. If a friend makes a comment that reminds us of our mother’s criticism when we were young, we can think, “Ah ha,” and choose not to lash out at that person because we know the anger we feel arises from the past, not the moment.
So, were there moments in your day when the past or your predictable thoughts side-tracked an exchange with another? Did you “blow off” reading an article because it was written by a journalist you label as too liberal or too conservative? Did you discount your teenagers ranting about the unfairness of a teacher because the kid is always too emotional?
Getting more information and looking deeper helps us see more clearly. What have you seen today in a new way?
© 2017 Georganne Spruce
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