Category Archives: Perception

Wilson

By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains.  I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement.  They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves; see things that aren’t there.  So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”

Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people.  These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative.  Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.

It is one’s creative ability that leads them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.

castawayI saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000.  Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances but not mental illness in other circumstances.  Allow me to explain:

In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs.  He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to provide shelter, food, and to hydrate.  He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive.  Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.

Chuck’s freedom was now very limited.  He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves.  He was held in solitary confinement.  He certainly was not having any fun.  All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.

The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone.  Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds.  He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost.  He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.

From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness.  In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.

But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal.  He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him.  His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a volley ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane.

He eventually created fire and was so elated that he proclaimed to the sky and the sea of his accomplishment in boisterous pronouncements.  “Look what I have created!  I have made fire!”  His power needs were beginning to be met giving him a better sense of worth and success.

After he had calmed down and successfully created the fire, he began staring at the volley ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face.  Since no one was around to offer a need satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.

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He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the volley ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.”  So far, you may be saying to yourself,  “So . . .  ?  What’s your point?”

Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting.  And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep him from going crazy on a deserted island. . . . to connect with something or someone when no one else was there to connect with”

AHA!

If Chuck behaved like that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave?  One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and in dire need of a psychiatrist.

In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable.  But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances.  The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island.  If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.

The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck.  While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.  They have detached from others and can be alone while around others.  Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a volley ball.

Often, their frustration is the result of wanting to do one thing with their life while others who are important to them want them to do something else.  They may attempt to take both routes and find it impossible to do.  Consequently, they may become so frustrated that they then choose to take neither route and isolate even more, which further destroys their need for love and belonging.  And since love and belonging are basic genetic needs, they create their own people in their mind and imagination like Chuck did.

The only difference is the circumstances.  You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation.  Since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all.  You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”

If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world.  His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him but invisible to you.  Since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe Chuck’s behavior is a mental illness.

When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore.  First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued.  When Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect . . . and it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices.  He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him.  After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness:  Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun.  The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss because he had maintained the picture of her in his Quality World all those years.  But even losing Kelly didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island surviving behaviors.

Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill?  Or would you say they are being really creative?  When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there?”  Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative?  If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake.

In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy due to unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life.

 

What do you see?

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally published November 23, 2013)

The ancient story of the blind men and the elephant is full of wisdom. Let’s apply this wisdom to the ways that we connect with the world around us and the people that share that world with us. We’re realizing that our mental health and happiness depend on loving and being loved in our relationships with others. This fable can give us insights into what can help us connect. It also shows us dramatically one major obstacle to connecting, and that is the assumption that the way I experience the world around me is the same way you experience our world.

elephant

Each blind man had to interpret the information of his senses and construct an image of the elephant from images formed from prior experience. This is understandable. The problem came when each of them assumed that their perception was the only accurate image of the real elephant. What would have happened had they shared their experience, each reporting on the part of the elephant that he could sense, realizing that the others were experiencing something that he could not. By sharing their individual perceptions, they could form a collective composite image of the elephant. This composite image could then be shared and they would all know more about the elephant.

How many conflicts could be prevented if each of us would make the effort to listen to one another to discover how the other “sees” the world that we share. Once we have an understanding of the perceived world of the other, we can make a choice on how to respond.

This seems preferable to reacting to what is assumed to be the point of view of the other.

Choices and Attitudes

By Mona Dunkin, CTRTC/LM

Who has not had an experience when your back was against the wall? What to do?  As with most things in life, the array of choices and attitudes are vast. In a rush-rush, worry-worry world one may become blind to options.

choicesThere is always a choice. Even in extreme limits, one always has a choice and can make things better or can make things worse. I find this insight effective in dealing with the clients at the sanctions center where I work. When they rebel against limits, I ask “Is there anything you can do to make the situation worse?”

Although coming from a negative perspective it seems to empower them to realize they are “in control.”

I continue, “Conversely, is there anything you can do to make the situation better.”

Reluctantly most agree that when their back is against the way they still have the power to make things better or worse.

Attitude is the deal-breaker. So what could possibly make a difficult, unhappy situation a little bit better? The key is attitude. Attitude comprises words used, tone of voice, sounds made, facial expressions, choice of clothing and body language. Without a word being spoken, a simple mental shift from rebellion to resistance is noticeable.  In most cases that shift if visible enough to effect a lowering of defenses so communication/negotiation can be re-established. Relationships are subject to change depending on one’s attitude.

Choices are empowering. When keys are misplaced, an initial response is “No!” That’s what’s known as denial. In a state of denial vision is narrowed, thinking is decreased and stress rises. A seemingly illogical decision to choose to accept the lost keys frees the mind to remember where they might be, activates the eyes to see rather than overlook and releases creativity to solve the problem. The choice of keeping a good attitude in the midst of an inconvenience frees you to have a good day regardless.

Choices can be crippling. Too many choices can have a negative impact. In a study of consumer purchases, a vendor offering six flavors of jam sold to 30% of those who visited his display, whereas the vendor with 24 flavors had only a 3% buy-rate. Too many choices can lead to a stalemate. Too many choices can become no choice.

Make your attitude your ally. This is done through the power of choice; if not of the circumstance, then definitely of your response to the circumstance. In those no-choice-back-to-the-wall situations, attitude can be a lifesaver.

Reflection: Take the First Step – Turn on your Bright Lights

By Debbie Crinzi

Reflection is a critical part of making life better and happier. I compare the process of reflection to using your bright lights when driving. When you have good habits that keep you on track and the world around you is clear and understandable, you don’t feel the need to use your bright lights. However, when problems arise and unhappiness ensues that is the time to turn them on.

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The first step towards reflection involves turning on your bright lights. I often look for a quiet place to be alone where whether sitting, standing, or lying down I can deliberately relax every part of the body – starting with facial muscles, moving to neck, shoulder, neck, arms and hands.  Then I focus on calm, even breathing. Sometimes I have to start counting my breaths before I can just focus on the breath entering and leaving my body.  I have to control the thoughts flooding my mind before I can listen. Emptying my mind of thought, just focusing on breath, is the trigger to turning on bright lights. It is the first step towards self reflection. Try it! Whether indoors, outdoors or just sitting in the car, take a moment to first relax your body and then to clear your mind of its busy thoughts.

What you do a lot you get good at doing. It is easier for me to practice relaxing my body’s muscles and taking calm, even breaths when standing at the kitchen sink or looking out the window. I don’t have to wait until my emotions are choking me to use this skill. Actually, I want to become good at doing it before problems occur. By practicing the relaxing of my body and clearing my mind of anything except for my breathing, I discovered that it becomes easier to use this skill during times of stress and anxiety. After all, what you do a lot, you do become good at doing! Practice this skill at any time of the day for any amount of time. Putting the practice in strengthens your personal mind control and allows you to retrieve the skill when unhappiness pervades your life.

 

Seeing connections between having, doing and being

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… ww.alohafoundation.org

The thirst inside each us for happiness and peace of mind is not a thirst for things, no matter how spectacular they are, and the benefit of the action we take is not so much in what we do as it is the people we are when we are doing it. One person could give $100 to a charity and it might be an act of amazing generosity; a very well-to-do person might give the same $100 and it would be an act of penny-pinching.

“We can never tell what someone is doing by watching what they are doing,” said Bill Powers, and what he meant is that the being dimension of our actions describes us much more accurately than the doing dimension;  they are inextricably linked.

Once we understand that the ultimate goal of a human being is being human, we can connect the “having” and ‘doing” dimensions of our QW pictures to the “being” dimension and discover how all things and actions are reflections of our being human. The significance and the slaking of our psycho/spiritual thirst is in the “being.” As human beings we are given very general instructions: be loving, powerful, playful and free.  The hard part of being human is figuring out how to “be” those things in a world which most generally offers us choices about what we want to do and have.

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It takes work to keep our eye on the prize, the “being” component, but understanding how it connects with our “having” and “doing” choices is a big step. Some people make the connection by asking, “If I “do this” or “have this,” what does that say about me?” Who am I when I have these possessions and take these actions? We know the answer will be different for each person; Internal Control Theory teaches us that “nothing has meaning until we give it meaning.” Nothing makes us feel that we are a specific kind of person; we are the ones who ultimately make that decision for ourselves. Others can impose their values on our choices, but our mental health and happiness will be the result of the meaning and values we ascribe to our actions and possessions. If we search honestly and openly for the “being dimension” in our possessing and acting, we will ultimately be the creator of our own happiness and the arbiter of whether we are being loving, powerful, playful, and free.

“Would the loving person I say I want to be be doing what I am doing right now?”

“I say I want to be worthy; would a worthy person take the action I am about to take?

“Is buying this hat an act of playfulness or an act of fearing peer pressure?”

“The person I want to be knows that I need to spend more time on my paperwork.

If I don’t make that time, knowing what I know, what kind of person will I be?

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience,
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Types of Quality World Pictures

by        Barnes Boffey, Ed.D; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

 

 At this point it will probably be pretty obvious what I mean when I refer to types of Quality World pictures. I think there are two basic types: a) “Pictures of how I want the world to be which will still allow me to be who I am today,” and b) “Pictures of me being the person I want to be (probably involving changing who I am today) when the situation does not match what I want.”

canstockphoto12163361

Based on experiences in our lives, we select from all that we have seen certain of those that represent to us the highest quality that we can imagine at that moment. We choose, both consciously and unconsciously, pictures of people, places, things, activities and qualities which we believe are both our ideals and our best chance of being loving, powerful, playful and free. Implied in these pictures is the basic belief that we can actualize these blueprints without having to change much about who we are.  I call these “Ideal World – Actual Me pictures. Because we live in a world dominated by the thinking of external control psychology, we may also ascribe the things we choose with the supposed power to “make“ us happy. The underlying assumption is that if I can get what I have selected as my ideal pictures, I will definitely be happy. The reality is that no external picture can “make” us happy, but the road we follow to achieve it may lead to our being happy when we get there.

As I have mentioned, we often put too much energy into pictures of the way we want the world to be. If those are the predominant pictures we create, we actually reduce our chances of mental health and happiness. To open the doors to mental health and happiness, we need to have a lot more pictures of us being the people we want to be regardless of whether we get what we want or not. We should develop pictures of both what our ideal job looks like as well as pictures of how we can be happy in a less than ideal job. We can have pictures of the college we want our kids to go to, but we should also have pictures about how to be supportive parents if our children choose another direction. I call these pictures “Actual World – Ideal Me” pictures. If we don’t have them, we get too attached to specific outcomes and we start having to exert varying degrees of control over the people in our lives to guarantee those outcomes; that coercion often leads to the destruction of relationships.

To maintain a healthy balance between both types of pictures, we should constantly be asking ourselves, “What would I ideally like to see happen in this situation?” AND “If I were the person I wanted to be, how I would handle it if this situation does not turn out as I hope it will? We are then free to live our lives without fear of reality… we can imagine being happy with the outcomes we want, and we can imagine being happy if things don’t turn out our way.

How to Love Yourself

Contributed by Denise Daub

How to Start Loving Yourself When You Don’t
by Michele Lian

“How did you start loving yourself?”

I was recently asked this question by someone who’s been struggling to feel happy in her body for long time, and the first thought that came to mind after reading her email was this: “I know exactly how you feel, because I used to be you.”

I know because I struggled with my own body for a long, long time.

Throughout a 10-year period, almost everything about how I looked felt wrong and deeply disappointing to me: My chubby face and arms, protruding belly, the cellulite on my butt (yes, it’s still there), and how none of the clothes I wanted to wear didn’t fit or look ‘good’ on me. I wished that I could slice off all the extra layers of fat that were stopping me from zipping up my jeans. My physical self and how I wanted to feel on the inside just didn’t align.

I loathed myself.

I knew that I had a lot of work to do when it came to what and how I ate, but I also knew that how I felt about myself was going to have to change if I wanted to break free from the vicious cycle of constant bingeing that I was stuck in, so I started experimenting with a couple of things that I instinctively felt would help me get there.

The Blind Leading the Blind (and they all fall down)

by Mona Dunkin

You’ve heard the story of the blind men describing an elephant.  Each man was exposed to a different part of the elephant and each man described that part of the elephant in keeping with something he was familiar with.  The leg was ‘kinda like’ a tree. The tail was ‘kinda like’ a rope.  According to the poem by John Sykes, each of the blind men were “partly right, yet all of them were wrong.”

Blindness is equated with ignorance; not to be stupid, but something you don’t know. All we have in life is our experiences, beliefs, faith and encounters with things we don’t understand.  Everything we know comes through filters and when our filters are clogged that is just another form of darkness, or ignorance.

One only knows what one knows. Conversely, we don’t know what we don’t know.

In keeping with the Law of Attraction, the blind men married blind wives. The blind wives bought into the perception of the blind husbands. Whether it was genetic disposition or cultural hangover, the blind men and the blind wives produced blind children – and grandchildren who blindly bought into the ‘kinda-like-common-sense” concepts. They believed, bought into and passed on to future generations the distortion of what the elephant looked like and/or who he was.

All of us blindly carry cultural conditionings with us. Not that that is wrong, it’s just limiting.

Although we live in an expanding universe, our day-to-day exposure is mostly confined to the familiar.

perceptionOur comparing place is always working – whether to accurately interpret or to distort. It happens as we try to see what we want to see.  All of our senses bring experiences into our world. We believe what we believe until we believe something different. Or until we see differently.

All we can get from the real world (people, places, things) is information. Information itself is not the problem. How we handle it may be. Same information: one chooses anger, one chooses indifference and one chooses acceptance.  Whether it is a 6 or a 9 depends on one’s point of view. It’s nothing to go to war over.

The moral of this little tale is this. We may unknowingly damage our own health and limit our own happiness by blindly assuming what something (or someone) else is like.

The way we challenge our perceptions is through more information; outward as well as inward. Hearing another’s point of view as well as examining our own wisdom-heart for truth. Look into the mysteries of the universe. Adopt an air of curiosity with no judgment. Push self beyond limited boundaries. Find beauty in life and growth through difficult circumstances. Engage in an empty, hungry, patient outward gaze into the ordinary. And discover there is no such thing as an ordinary day.

Levitation For Improved Mental Health & Happiness

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you know the expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” It suggests that when you are too close to the situation, it is difficult to see it as it is. Each person’s perception is biased and inaccurate from each individuals point of view alone.

canstockphoto0512675Have you ever noticed when you are in a difficult situation with someone, you frequently jump to conclusions because you are telling yourself a story about the situation and the other person? Although this process is human it just doesn’t help. In fact it often makes the situation worse.

Essentially you are looking at your own tree in the forest while the other is looking in the same forest but at a different tree. Or perhaps the other is looking at the same tree but from a different angle.

Here’s an idea from Buddhism that just might help. This process just might help you levitate above the situation to change your perspective. This suggestion is based on a brief YouTube interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He was answering a teenager’s question where she stated she felt sad because her friends didn’t seem to like her. This is what he said:

Oh, that’s just a feeling. And this feeling is based on a misperception.

          Ask yourself, “What am I misperceiving? How can I perceive it differently?

Here’s the process:

Once you recognize that you are feeling sad, bad, angry, dissatisfied or any other uncomfortable or negative feeling STOP.

Tell yourself that this is just a feeling. Remind yourself that this feeling is based on a misperception (your own alone).

Now ask yourself what you might be misperceiving.

Ask yourself how you might perceive things differently

Essentially this process allows you to look down at the problem from a distance, a different point of view. With this change in position you may see how much of the problem is of your own making. You will get a new perspective on the issue. This may allow you to rectify your part of the problem.

Since I heard this simple process explained by Nhat Hanh I have been practicing this process regularly. I’m amazed how powerful and effective it is.

Give it a try. As you levitate over your current life’s challenges you just may  understand how much easier it becomes to improve your mental health and happiness by putting it in a new perspective.

Your Choice

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posed 1/13/14)

perceptionOur perceptions are what shape our responses to life.  It is important to remember that our perceptions are not photographs of the reality outside of ourselves.  They are more like drawings that we construct in our mind.  We have some choices in how our perceptions are formed, and in turn those perceptions have a lot to do with our mental health and happiness.

I remember the 1964 movie “The Outrage”.   Paul Newman plays a Mexican bandit who performs an “outrage” on the female lead.  This incident was witnessed by four different people.  When asked to testify to what they saw, each reported a totally different incident.

We contact the world around us through our senses.  The data that is fed into our brain from our five senses is filtered through our past experiences, what we have learned, what we remember, what we believe, and our values.   Each of these filters Is unique to each of us so that even when two people experience the same situation the perceptions that are formed will not be the same.  When we realize this and engage in dialogue with others, we can share our perceptions to arrive at a deeper understanding of reality.  We can also fall prey to the folly of the six blind men who fought over their perceptions of the different parts of the elephant and never did learn much about the elephant beyond their own limited perception.

We have all heard the question “Is the glass half full or half empty”?  The quantity of water in the glass is the same in either case, even though an engineer would say the glass is too big.  Aside from that, the perception of the glass being half full or half empty is a matter of choice.   Dr. Glasser has pointed out that we choose our own misery.  This is one way that illustrates the truth of his wisdom.

In my dental practice I would occasionally have a patient who was nearly paralyzed with fear.  If I could establish a trusting rapport, I would help them come to the realization that their fear was a response to an internal perception and not to the present reality. If I could help them “be here now” the fear was dissipated and they would be able to manage their experience in a much better way.

There is a way that we can sort of step back from what is going on in our perceived world to evaluate our perceptions to see if they are helping us get our needs met.  We can then make choices in how we are going to handle not only our existing perceptions, but how our perceptions are formed.

Dr. Glasser’s book, Stations of the Mind, is very helpful with what I am discussing here.  Especially Chapter 7 “The Orders of Perception”.  What we learn about how we process our life experience can and will help us make the choices that lead to better mental health and more happiness.