Tag Archives: perception

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

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.

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.

 

 

Perception is Reality….really???

Dr. Ken Larsen

A friend of mine is the news anchor for a Midwest TV station.  She was interviewing me about how our brain processes our sensory experience.  At one point she reported that it is a common understanding that perception is reality.  I think many of us believe that that is true.

A firm grasp on reality is kind of important to be mentally healthy.  However, there was something unsettled in me about simply accepting that “perception is reality.”  What came to mind is the old Philosophy 101 question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, is there a sound?”  The answer of course depends on how you define sound.  That same answer can apply to how we define “reality”.

How much strife and conflict have come to us because of not understanding what this picture illustrates?

Many if not most disagreements are simply the result of “missed understanding.”   See how that applies to this picture.  Each of them is clear on “reality”.  It is the same thing for both of them.  Here’s the rub.  If perception is reality, then there are two “realities” which is clearly nonsense.

perception1What happens when they realize their only difference is point of view.  I can imagine them sharing a laugh together and instead of a conflict, they would come to a deeper understanding of each other.

This is a two minute video I did with some friends a couple of years ago.  It illustrates this point in a light hearted manner.  I have heard reports from people all over our country and from as far away as India and South Africa who have enjoyed this video.

Where are you on the Mental Health & Happiness Scale?

by Dr. Nancy S Buck

We have spoken with many, many people since starting and diving deep into our Mental Health & Happiness project. The stories and responses we receive in return have been enlightening, helpful and thought provoking.

One thing we hear from many who are new to this kind of a journey and new to Dr. Glasser and Choice Theory psychology are questions about mental health and mental illness. How does happiness figure into this?

Here are a few things we believe:

  • We are all in a state of mental health. The common terminology of “mental health issues”is describing someone who is lower on the above continuum.
  • Despite the recent DSM-V, not all human responses and reactions to life’s stressors and upsets are diagnosable disorders.
  • People with a diagnosable disorder will move higher on the above continuum, improving their mental health & happiness when they meet their needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom every day in respectful and responsible ways.
  • Improving the important relationships in our lives will improve our Mental Health & Happiness.  This alone will move us higher on the continuum.
  • Developing, improving and maintaining optimal Mental Health & Happiness is possible to learn and teach. Just as we learned what to do to get into better physical shape, or improve our dental and oral health, the same is true for Mental Health & Happiness.
  • All mental health professionals should have a clear, achievable definition of Mental Health & Happiness. If anyone is presently seeing a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional, ask him or her what his/her working definition of Mental Health & Happiness is. How can you move higher on the above continuum if you don’t know what it looks like and what you need to do to improve?
  • Our emotions are indicators of our emotional and mental state. When we feel glad, happy, hopeful, enthusiastic and positive we are heading in a mentally healthy direction. When we feel sad, angry, hurt, disappointed, frightened or negative we are heading away from what we need and want.
  • Part of normal living includes positive and negative feelings. Negative feelings do not mean we are mentally ill. We are simply lower on the above continuum at that point in time.
  •  Knowing what you can do to improve and move higher on the continuum is the indication of Mental Health & Happiness. Being Mentally Healthy & Happy does not mean that we feel happy and positive all of the time. But when we feel negative we know why and know what to do to improve.

Hope this helps you better understand where you are on your own continuum of Mental Health & Happiness.

Please give us feedback about more questions, discoveries and quandaries as you continue on your journey with us.

Time

by Dr. Nancy Buck

Would you like more time in your day and life? Did you know you could create more time? Or are you one of those people who feels you are always running out of time?

Time is kind of an amazing life benefit. Time is the great equalizer, in that not matter how rich or poor, smart of limited, gregarious or reclusive, each person has exactly the same amount of time in each day. There are only 24 hours in every day.

But each person has the ability to become a time shifter. Take control of time by changing your perception of time. Here’s how.

The next time your toddler asks you to read a book, instead of looking at the clock and telling yourself and your child you don’t have time, smile at your child and say “We have all the time in the world for one story. Let’s choose a really good one.”

As you gather your things and yourself together, dashing out the door to arrive at your next important destination on time, stop in your tracks. Stand tall and still, take a deep breath in and release as you close your eyes and tell yourself you have plenty of time to arrive safely and calmly to your next appointment. Smile and step forward into the rest of your day.

On those mornings when you sleep through your alarm and awaken later than you planned and hoped, smile and tell yourself, “I’m so lucky I got the extra sleep I needed this morning. Now let me move ahead into this fine day.”

Are you getting the idea? You are as late or early as you are. But you can change your attitude about adding plenty of time, just the right amount of time, or scarcity and running out of time simply by what you say, think and tell yourself about time.

You can change your Mental Health & Happiness by adjusting your time attitude.

Instead of falling into your own trap of believing in time poverty, make a shift and embrace the wisdom of time abundance and plenty.