Category Archives: Perception

I can choose to see clearly…

by Dr. Ken Larsen

focus1I can choose to see clearly.  I do this by how I focus my attention.  To focus is to see clearly.  When you look at these pictures you can see that the only thing that changes is how the picture is focused. 

All the pieces are there in each picture.  The pieces might represent our experience of life and our memories and perceptions.  They are all there.  It is important to recognize that we can choose which of those perceptions or memories we bring into the focus of our attention.

This shift in focus is a very important component of maintaining our mental health and happiness.

focus2We carry fearful images of what has happened or what we fear might happen.  Those images become part of our present perceived world which tells us how to interpret what is presently happening.  Here again it is a matter of focus.  We can focus on the fear driven images and produce more fear.  Or we can focus on what is actually going on and choose to respond to what is real rather than what is feared.

In my dental practice I would use this insight to help patients deal with their anticipated fears.  If I could get the patient to focus on what was really happening and report to me what they were experiencing, this shift in focus could override the anxiety producing anticipation of an experience that didn’t happen.

The first time I saw this shift in focus at work was when my young wife was in labor with our firstborn.   She gripped my hand and looked at me.  “What’s going to happen is going to happen.  The only choice I have is how I deal with it.”  That lovingly courageous insight deeply impressed me.

One bad habit that I continually am working to change is how I “pre-interpret” a present experience or an upcoming event.  It is easy for me to “awfulize” and anticipate a not so good outcome.  What I’ve learned to do is to shift my focus, realizing that there are no future facts, and “be here now” with curiosity and attention to my present experience of life, which in reality is all I have.  I can’t live in the past or the future.  All any of us have is the present fleeting moment. 

 

Who built the world you live in?

Dr. Ken Larsen

We live in a world of our perceptions.  Our encounter with the real world outside of ourselves is filtered through our total knowledge, our values, our experience and what we have learned.  All these things are held in memory and shape how we relate to the real world as we journey through life.  Our mental health and happiness are largely dependent on how effectively our perceptions enable us to meet our needs.

Our perceptions are formed by what we learn about life and our place in it.  I’m going to draw a quick comparison between two ways that we learn.

Indoctrination is one way we learn.  The definition I am using for “indoctrination” is “To teach someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.”  When we learn by indoctrination our world is interpreted for us by some external source.  We are enjoined to conform to this externally interpreted world and to avoid exploring alternative ways of thinking, often going so far as to threaten sanctions for “stepping out of line.” One such sanction was the practice in the middle ages to burn those whose beliefs and behaviors were inconsistent with the predominant “doctrine”.

group

Another way we learn is by education.  I am going to define education as an “enlightening experience.”  The way I see it is that education enables us to interpret our world for ourselves; learning, evaluating and comparing what we experience in the real world with our own system of values and beliefs.  Education is a quest for truth and applying that truth to knowing ourselves and knowing others and to apply that knowledge to meeting our needs and living together in harmony with others.  My personal experience of “education” is that it is a process that works best when linked in some way to a respected someone older and wiser.  Someone whose values, beliefs and world view have demonstrated a nobility shaped by growing in truth, goodness and beauty.  For me, and for many of us, Dr. Glasser has been that older and wiser influence in our education.

It seems to me that we are in a struggle between indoctrination and education in the ways we think and live our lives in today’s world.   Can you identify places in your life where your experience of indoctrination (political, religious, philosophical) are in conflict with what you have learned through your “enlightening experience” of education?    Does this conflict affect your mental health and happiness?  How do you resolve this conflict?       

 

 

When a tree falls…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear, does it make a sound? This question has been posed to countless students in Philosophy 101 through the years.

It points us to the distinction between what Dr. Glasser calls the “real world” and the “perceived world”.  Having a “sound” grasp of the difference between these two is a big part of mental health and happiness.

The real world is where the tree falls and generates a moving molecular wave through the air.

When that wave strikes the auditory apparatus of a person it is perceived as a sound.  If there is no person to hear, the wave still happens.  So the question is answered by how we define “sound”.  Is it the wave or the perception of the wave?  This is the way that I suggest we think about the often repeated statement that “perception is reality.”

Let’s say that we agree that what we call “sound” is the perception of the wave moving through the air.  The person does not respond to the sound wave, but to the way that sound wave is interpreted by the brain as a perception.    This is what is “real” to the person.  The recognition of that sensory stimulus as a sound is the reality that enables the person to choose what to do about the sound of a falling tree.

Let’s use another sensory example.

eye

We know that our visual perceptions are an adapted interpretation of what our eye registers.  The lens of the eye follows the laws of optics and inverts the image of what the eye is seeing.   We don’t “see” the inverted image do we?  The wonderful apparatus we carry in our skulls adapts the sensory data to a perception that more closely represents the image in the real world.  We “see” the candle upright as it is.

A perception is what our brain tells us about the information gathered through our senses.  It is an interpretation of the real world.  It is a constructed representation of what the senses pick up.  If we remember that my perception is a different interpreted construction than what your brain has constructed, we might take a step toward overcoming the conflicts that lessen our mental health and happiness.  It’s good to understand that many of these conflicts arise from assuming that we all experience the world in the same way.

Every Point of View is a view from one point…

Dr. Ken Larsen

Life and relationships are multi-dimensional.  If we limit our experience of life to a single point of view, our experience will be significantly less that it could be.

Mike Rice recently published a blog where he described the importance of sharing our experience of life with another.  I recall that he went so far as to state that happiness is elusive unless we are connected and sharing with another.

I use this prop as a simple way to visualize the limits of a single point of view.  I wonder how the meaning of much of life is lost because we haven’t shared those experiences with another and “seen” the world through someone’s eyes other than our own.

box1If we just see the box, we miss the beauty within. box2 If we experience only one dimension of the many that make up life, our experience of mental health and happiness is less than it could be.

Dialogue is one way to experience more than one point of view.  In his book “The Miracle of Dialogue” Reuel Howe makes this opening statement:

“Every man [person] is a potential adversary, even those whom we love.  Only through dialogue are we saved from this enmity toward one another.  Dialogue is to love, what blood is to the body.  When the flow of blood stops, the body dies.  When dialogue stops, love dies and resentment and hate are born.”

Sadly, when we are faced with a point of view other than our own, we often tend to judge and discount the other in favor of that internal conviction that the way we see things is the right way to see things.

I am color blind, so getting the point of view of another is helpful and possibly necessary.  Especially when I am getting dressed up.  I once put on what I thought was a blue shirt, only to have Sheren, my wife, gently tell me that it was pale purple.  Sigh.

Just as getting a different perspective on the box is going to give us a more complete picture, being open to the point of view of others can expand, deepen and enrich our own experience of mental health and happiness.

 

 

 

The Mirror… Friend or Foe?

Contributed by Denise Daub

weightlossWhen you view yourself in a full length mirror, what do you see?   Do you embrace your body with all your perceived flaws or do you look at yourself with disgust?  Do you take that image of what you see in the mirror with you and let it influence  your choices, your day or your life?  Do you judge who you are by what you see in the mirror?

Maybe you need a judgment-free zone, maybe you need to get rid of the mirror?

Read more…

http://www.refinery29.com/mirrors-self-esteem?utm_source=huffpostlifestyle&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=blog

 

I was born in a dysfunctional family

by  Dr. Ken Larsen

It was in Nashville.  I was in my Practicum Supervisor certification group.  Dr. Bob Wubbolding, director of Training for the Wm. Glasser Institute,  came striding into our

dysfunction

room, looked around, and then stated, “Let’s get it over with.  We ALL come from dysfunctional families!” We all laughed, sensing immediately the truth in that proclamation.  We all carry unpleasant memories, even scars, from our growing up.  Some are worse than others.  Many of us just carry on, having adjusted to the ways we think about those memories.  Some of us, however, have difficult memories that have become a part of our perceptions in how we see the world.  These memories intrude on our present experiences and can even have an undesirable impact on the ways we relate to others and deal with the normal challenges of life.

Dr. Glasser has made the point clearly that while past events affect our present lives, all we can work with is what is happening now.  We cannot go back to fix the past.

Does that mean we are stuck with the perceptions and memories of past scars that affect our present behavior?

I think these memories will always be with us.  What we can do is shift our focus.  This takes some effort based on insights we can gain from the wisdom of “Choice Theory” and “Reality Therapy”.

This shift involves movement.  Movement toward what we want, and away from what we don’t want.

What we don’t want is to be trapped in maladaptive patterns from our past.

What we do want is the mental health and happiness that comes from making choices that help us get our needs met.

I think our primary need is to be connected to others in caring, life giving relationships.  Some of us have discovered that making those connections requires a certain amount of skill.  Skill in noticing and responding appropriately to social cues.  Sensitivity to what is appropriate and what is not.  If we recognize that we are lacking in some of those skills, we can learn.

Most of us know the story of Temple Grandin.  I read one account of how she worked to learn a basic social skill.  It seems that she did not have a good sense of comfortable social space.  She would sometimes make people uncomfortable by moving too close.  What she did to learn how to maintain a comfortable interpersonal space was to go to the local supermarket where they had doors that opened automatically.  As you approached the door, the door would open when you got within a certain distance.  She learned that the distance required to open the door was just the right distance to maintain an appropriate space between her and others in a social setting.  So she practiced and practiced opening the door until she was able to reproduce that distance in her contacts with others.

The point here is that we can learn what we need to know to move toward what we want in life.

We know that we are influenced by our past, but we also know that there are no future facts.  We are free to make choices that will take us toward the life that we want.

And we can look at our dysfunctional family with an understanding and forgiving point of view, realizing that all of us only do what seems to be the right thing to do at the time.   We are free to shape our future with new choices, having learned the lessons of our past.

Blind Men and the Elephant

By Dr. Ken Larsen

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.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters

Dr. Ken Larsen

In our efforts to maintain or regain mental health and happiness I believe it is important to understand the internal processes that influence why we do what we do and why we feel what we feel.

A cornerstone of understanding ourselves is to study the differences between “sensations “and the subsequent “perceptions” that guide our choices in behavior.

William James, recognized as the father of American Psychology, devoted three chapters of his monumental book, “The Principles of Psychology”, (first published in 1890.) to what he described as the functions of sensations and perceptions and how they are different, and why it is important to understand the difference.

Most succinctly we can describe sensations as the data gathered from the real world outside ourselves through our senses.  Sensations are what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch.

whatconcernsme

The information from our senses is then interpreted by what we already know about the world around us, and by what we value and believe about that world.  This interpreted data is what we call “perceptions”.  What is most important to know and remember about perceptions is that we put them together ourselves, we construct them in our mind to form what Dr. Glasser called “the perceived world.”

It is this perceived world that is more real to us than the real world because it is what guides our choices as we relate to our external world and all that this world contains, especially our relationships.  We’ve heard the expression “stinkin thinkin”.  This is a way for us to sabotage ourselves with our own thinking.

If this is true, the good news is that we can change our “stinkin thinkin” by changing what is going on in my personally constructed perceived world.

I experienced a major “Aha!” in my life when I first saw that our perceived world was an internal construction based on my past experiences, what I have learned, what I value and believe.  The corollary to this insight is that if my learning or my values or my beliefs are shaping perceptions that are not needs satisfying, I can change.  Changing my perceptions changes my behavioral choices, and changes my experience of the world I live in.

An example of how wrong perceptions can lead to tragic consequences is the death of George Washington.  He had what started out as a sore throat.   Physicians were brought in to treat the sore throat.  One common treatment option in those days was bloodletting.  “Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were regarded as “humors” that had to remain in proper balance to maintain health.”  In Washington’s case, this bloodletting killed him.

Physicians saw the symptoms.  They then formed a perception of the cause of those symptoms, which led to an ineffective, even disastrous, treatment.

The lesson for all of us is that if what we are doing is not getting us what we want, we can pause, step back and evaluate how our internal beliefs about reality are influencing our choices.  Based on new insights, we can change our behavior to more effectively get what we want.  Or we can change what we want, based on a new understanding of what is motivating us.

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.  Tony Robbins

 

You Made Me Do It

By Mike Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

If it rains, will the rain have an emotional effect on you?

Some of you may say, “Yes” and others may say, “No.”

Some may show emotions of anger, depression, disappointment, or even anxiety.  Others may welcome the rain and be happy, smile, or even be joyful over it.

Why the two different reactions?  It’s the same rain in the same city.

The difference lies with your perception of how the rain affects your plans or needs.  Personally, I love when it rains.  We get so little of it here in Arizona and it turns many things green and smells nice afterwards.

If your phone rings and you answer it, did the ringing make you say, “Hello?”  Have you ever not answered a phone when it rang?

When driving and you come to a stop sign or a red traffic light, did that sign or light make you stop?  Have you ever purposely run a red light or stop sign?

If you said “no” the phone didn’t make me answer it  and the stop sign/light didn’t make me stop, then you might be inclined to say that you were not controlled by those outside stimuli because you chose not to answer or stop . . . because you didn’t want to and you were aware of the possible consequences if you didn’t.  Your decision was a choice.

So why is it that when someone says something or does something that you DON’T agree with or like that you blame them for “making” you feel angry, disappointed, sad, or even fearful?  Conversely, why is it that when someone says or does something that you DO like you may react with laughter, happiness, or pleasure?  It all comes from within yourself based upon how you perceive the situation.  Is it meeting your wants and needs . . . or not?  If not, then you want to do something that will make the situation meet your wants or needs.  You take measures to control and change someone to do or believe what you want done or believe.  The other person didn’t “MAKE” you to try to control or change them.  You chose to do so.

How do you usually react when someone tries to blame, change, or control you?  Do you like it when that happens?  No?  Then what makes you think others will like it when you do it to them?

choice

When we get outside stimuli that matches what we want, need, or believe, we choose to react in a positive and cheerful manner.  I use the word “choose” because what some people may react to with positive cheerful behaviors may find others choosing negative and unhappy behaviors even though the outside stimuli is the same for both.  The only difference is the perception each person has about the outside information they received.  People can choose how they will respond.  If they want to feel miserable and unhappy and/or want you to know just how miserable and unhappy they are, they will show you with their behavior just as the happy and pleasant people would do with their different perception.

You, and only you, are the master of your emotions.  If you believe that others can control your emotions by the things they may say or do, you are actually giving up your own emotional control to someone else and giving them your power to control your emotions and behavior.

If you don’t want to feel angry or tense, or any other negative emotion, why would you choose to do so?  Choosing to remain happy or content is as easy as refusing to accept one’s offer for another cup of coffee when you don’t want any more.  It’s a choice.  No one is forcing you to have another cup just as no one is ever making you react in an unhappy manner except you.

We live in a world of criticism and judgment as well as those who will coerce us to do things we may not like or want to do.  They do so because they know we will give them our control.  If we don’t relinquish it, then they go away.  As the saying goes:  No one can walk over you if you don’t lie down.  You can’t control them and they cannot control you.  Allow others who think and behave differently than you to do and think as they please.  It is not your responsibility to change and control others to your way of thinking and doing nor is it the responsibility of others to, blame, change, or control you to their way of thinking and doing.

None of us can be all things to all people.  We cannot please everyone because we all have different wants and needs.  When someone blames, criticizes, or judges you without really knowing you, or if they don’t have all of the facts, their words and behavior are based on no more than their short-sighted perception and/or lack of information.  You will always have a choice on how to react to them.

Several years ago, when I was a married man, I had moved our family to AZ.  We purchased a home and bought a luxury car.  My wife wanted to drive the new car to the store so she asked me if there was anything that I wanted as long as she was out and about.  I requested that she get a jug of muriatic acid for the pool.  When she returned, I helped bring the groceries in and noticed the absence of the acid.  When I asked about it, she informed me that she had placed it  on the floorboard, behind the driver’s seat.

I shuddered to think what could have happened.  As I opened the back door of the car, my fears were confirmed.  The bottle of acid had fallen over and acid leaked out and had dissolved the carpet down to the bare metal of the floorboard.  When I asked her why she would place a bottle of acid in such a position as to ruin the carpet, she replied, “It’s your fault, not mine.”  Astonished, I repeated, “My fault?  How is it MY fault?”  She answered, “If you hadn’t asked me to get it, it wouldn’t have happened.”

In my dumbfounded expression to her response, I had a split moment to process what she had said.  It became clear to me, in that moment, that she was indeed correct.  Silly me for expecting her to have known better.

Before reacting to others, you may choose to give them more information and if this doesn’t work, you can always  (reframe your perception) decide that arguing or getting upset over the other person’s behavior or words are just not worth the effort or unhappiness and walk away or change the subject.  When discussing differences, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do going to bring me closer to agreement with this person or will it drive us further apart?”  One doesn’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to come up with the correct answer that will result in the least resistance and unhappiness.

If someone were to call you a horse’s ass . . . that is merely their opinion.  However, if three or more people call you a horse’s ass, you may want to start shopping around for a saddle.  If this offends you, I hope you didn’t hurt your feelings.

 

 

Lessons from the garden

By Bette Blance, M.Ed Studies

About eighteen months ago we had a very large copper beech tree cut down.  It was a heart- breaking decision but it had been planted 40 years previously too close to the house.  Being a deciduous tree it lost its leaves every winter and during the year, several other ‘drops’ of  calyces and hard seed pods added to the clogging of the gutters and a roof that  was deteriorating.

I had always loved the view of the copper beech tree as the lower branches framed our bedroom window.  It was picture postcard view in all seasons.

Several things happened as a result of removing the tree.  A bed of roses alongside the house have now flourished and flowered magnificently during the spring and summer.

A large camellia tree came into full view and as the flowering season continued, it spread a carpet of bright pink petals below it.  I had not appreciated how beautiful this tree was until it stood there alone and proud, not crowded out by the copper beech. I had just not seen it. garden-bette

We sometimes focus on what we have lost and don’t see the other things that are already in our lives.  The lesson of letting go the copper beech was that the view changed and was replaced, when I chose to see it, by something equally as beautiful.

In life there are so many examples of how we cling to old things, hanker after things in the past and fail to notice what is good around us. We can spend a lot of time wanting something that no longer exists, whether it be a relationship or a that dream job, when we could be asking ourselves what is the miracle of what we have now.

In the words of Jeffrey McDaniel “I realise there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.”