Tag Archives: perceptions

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. 

 

Stress Management

Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Today there is much written and blamed on stress, stressors, and stress management.

angrywomanIs your health less than optimal? Perhaps too much stress is to blame? Are your relationships suffering? Could it be that you and your partner are both experiencing too much stress and stressors? Could this stress be interfering with the joyful expression of your love for one another? There are more than a few people who complain regularly about all of the present work stresses they must deal with.

There seems to be an equal amount of solutions being advertised to relieve the stress we each experience in our every day lives. You can sip a hot cup of herbal tea while sitting quietly in nature. Or you can indulge in the latest cocktail made from the finest liquor while enjoying the convivial company of friends. Or you can choose from any of the wide range of “medications” each advertised to bring the relief you seek from the diagnosed problem the ad teaches you is your problem. What all of these solutions have in common is their attempt to eliminate the feeling associated with stress but most do little to actually deal with stress.

What exactly is stress? Is it some unknown overhead cloud that follows some people around? Or perhaps stress is some internal knot that some people tie themselves into? Rather than reaching for the latest remedy advertised to obliterate the feelings of stress would you find it useful to actually understand where stress comes from?

Whenever there is a difference between what you want and what you perceive you are getting you experience stress.

With this understanding and definition, there are several solutions for eliminating stress:

1. Get more of what you want. If you can manage to change your perception of the world to match what you want then you will have eliminated stress. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is a successful stress management strategy.

2. Change what you want. When you accept and perceive that what you are presently getting matches what you want you will have eliminated stress.

3. Change your perception of the world. When you focus your attention on all that you are getting that matches what you want even though your present primary want may not be matching your world perception you will decrease your stress. This is the goal of attitude adjustment practices as well as cultivating gratitude — being grateful for what you do have.

4. Learn more effective behaviors and strategies to increase your chances of getting what you want thus eliminating stress.

And you can keep reading Mental Health & Happiness blogs. You can sign up for the free 21-day challenges to help you deal more effectively with feelings of stress. Both will help you learn and practice specific strategies to eliminate stress and improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

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

 

The Glad Game

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

It ain’t a ball or a strike until I call it, says the umpire.

If you’re a baseball fan you are familiar with that expression. There may be plenty of fans and players who might call the pitch a ball or a strike, but the umpire gets the final say.

Did you know that you are the umpire in your own perceptions of your life with these same kinds powers? You’re making your own calls all day long. Your judgment calls declare the world to be a good or bad place, your temporary hotel room ugly or beautiful, or the President’s or Congressional decisions to be moral or immoral, right or wrong.

Just as there are players and fans at a baseball game who disagree with the umpires calls there are others in your life that may disagree with your “call.” But you still have the ability and power to make the call.

In fact, it is very difficult to STOP judging the world. Our brains are hard wired for a negative bias. This biological function enables us to quickly assess a predatory animal, a dangerous path or a poisonous food. Without this function our species would have perished a long time ago. I wouldn’t be here writing and you wouldn’t reading this blog without our valuing filters that lead to our judgements, actions, opinions and corrections.

That also means that we are not hard wired for a positive bias. We must learn and practice over and over again in order to notice and celebrate all that is good, in balance and life sustaining.

PollyAnna, the overly nice, sweet and optimistic heroine in the 1913 Eleanor Porter novel by the same name can be our teacher here. She was taught by her pastor father to always find the silver lining in every cloud. PollyAnna developed this skill so proficiently that she was able to discover what was good about receiving crutches as the charitable Christmas gift instead of the doll she was hoping for from the generous parishioners. What was good? At least she didn’t need them.

This skill is referred to as the Glad Game. And as simperingly simple and sugary sweet as you may imagine it, developing and regularly practicing the Glad Game can actually improve your Mental Health & Happiness.

Remember, what you perceive and judge as unfair, ugly, mean, or too hard can be changed by you. Look for the fair and equitable in what you are calling unfair. See if you can find the handsome or unusual in what you are declaring as ugly. Is there any justifiable or understandable aspect in what you now declare mean? Can you discover the challenge and stretch to pursuing what you called too hard?

Simply by reviewing a circumstance, action or object you can usually find the good as well as the not good. It is our brain’s hard wiring that has us rushing to the negative judgement. But with practice and effort, we can change the automatic negative call into a neutral or even positive assessment.

Turning OH NO! into OH BOY!

By Dr. Nancy Buck

There aren’t many people in my life and my world who bug me. How lucky am I to be in that state of grace! So when I encounter a person who really “rubs me the wrong way” it feels even more annoying and upsetting.

I fully realize that this person is just being herself. It is my expectation and perception of her that creates my own disturbance. In fact, she can say the exact same words as a friend, but coming out of her mouth it’s annoying, unkind and just more evidence for what a jerk she is!

As I sit here writing this story I know how absurd I’m being. If the words are the same and the only difference is the messenger then doesn’t that indicate a faulty receiver? That would be me. I put on a different filter when hearing these words from the annoying person than I do from my friend.

Hmm, I seem to be interfering with my own Mental Health & Happiness.

I’m determined to change! I know I have a much greater chance of succeeding if I work to change me rather than waiting for her to change!

I’ve decided I’m going to look forward to the GLO whenever she speaks. It’s possible that everything in life is offered to me as GLO if I choose to see it that way. What is GLO?

 G – a gift
L  – a lesson
O – an opportunity

It is up to me to make the shift of receiving everything this woman has to offer as my GLO. In fact, just thinking about this now has already shifted my thinking.

Here is my plan. Every time I’m in her company I will enter thinking “I look forward to all the GLO that is coming my way!” Every time she speaks I will silently ask myself Where is the GLO?I might even say out loud, if it’s appropriate and can be said without sarcasm, “I’m trying to understand and find the GLO here. Can you say that differently please?” And every time she does or says something I don’t like or approve of, I will write it down to be GLO’d upon later. She is not annoying. I’m annoying myself. And I have something I can learn here so don’t miss the opportunity she is giving me for more GLO in my life.

Great plan! Already I feel less anger and hostility toward this person. The GLO that she’s offering me right now is my ability to shift my perceptions so I can still be the open, curious, engaging and kind person I want to be. What someone else says, asks or the way they behave does not need to alter who I am, as long as I look for the GLO. 

And just to create my own safety net, I’m going to approach every interaction I have with all of the people in my life the same way. That means I can practice and be more of an expert on finding the GLO when I’m faced with challenging people. Plus, I don’t want you, my friends, to be thinking you are “that”person if I happen to ask you “Where is the GLO?