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Perception vs Reality: 3 Ideas to Ponder


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As the quote attributed to Edgar Allen Poe says, "Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see." Some think this saying implies we should rely less on our physical senses and more on our intuition. Some argue this saying means that our senses are interpreting what is happening through our own filters of understanding and therefore skew our understanding of what is really happening. It doesn't actually matter which side you're on or if you have another interpretation. There is enough evidence to suggest that even if we see something with our own eyes, we often do not know exactly what is going on. If we are in physical proximity to a person and see what happens beginning to end, we have more information than someone who sees a snippet of what happened, and a lot more information than when someone is told about what happened. And yet, we repeat stories told, things we've heard, and things we've seen as if they are 100% true. We often make interpretations such as, "...and that news report means stay away from that part of town." We do this to ourselves as well. We say things like, "...and since they said that, they must not love me", or "...and that situation shows that I really don't belong here". Can you relate? I can. We all do this to some extent. What I offer below, however, are three things to think about if you indeed want to more closely identify the truth of any matter.


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1) Admit Assumptions Happen. When we can acknowledge that assumptions exist, that stories are retold a little differently each time they are told, and that people often make inferences from what they have seen or heard,

we open ourselves to noticing more accurately what is happening.


2) Admit You Make Assumptions. Yes you. Admitting that you make assumptions helps you more honestly look at what is being said and done. It also helps you not feel pressure or like you have to have an answer to something you don't really know. You don't feel obligated to say anything unless you have real information to give.


3) You Can Challenge Assumptions.


1. Listen and look with your full attention.


When we become very present and attentive to what is being said, what is happening, and to what we are feeling, we are in a much better head space to notice exactly what is being done or said. This can help prevent us from making interpretations or assumptions about a situation or a person.


For example, you could be thinking, "there goes my neighbor yelling again", or you could be feeling scared due to the loud noise. When you stop and listen though, taking deep breaths and breathing through your feelings, you may learn your neighbor is taking care of his father with Alzheimer's disease. Would you think and respond differently with that new information? What if you had not listened and just called the police out of fear, because your neighbor was loud?


2. Ask questions before doing or thinking anything.


Instead of calling the police, in the situation above, you may ask you neighbor, "Is everything okay?" or "Is there anything I can do to help?" That would be quite a different response than calling the police and peeping out of your window.


And when you are paying attention to your own thoughts, stories, or actions, and not someone else's, you can ask yourself questions too. You can ask yourself, "Is what I am telling myself true? Is it really true?" For example you are telling yourself you're a slow-poke, you're going to be late. You are feeling anxious. When you take a deep breath, you realize you are telling yourself something you used to hear you parents say. You look at the clock and realize you have enough time, and you give yourself permission to start to release your anxiety. This was possible by paying attention and noticing, and then asking questions.


3. Breathe through emotional reactions.


As mentioned above, it is important to notice how you are feeling. Notice what is in your head, what you are seeing, and what is happening around you. By noticing how you are feeling, you are able to see if you felt a need to react based on what was actually happening or based on how you were feeling. It is very common that we are feeling something that is not really related to this situation at hand and then, without noticing, we project how we are feeling onto the situation.


For example, you are tired after a long day. You go out to your car and a family is next to your car and is very loud and slow and in your way. You feel yourself start to get irritated at this happy family, because you are inconvenienced. When you take a deep breath, notice you feel tired and have a short temper, and that this family has nothing to do with you being tired, you can relax a little. You can have a more calm interaction with them, ask them for what you need without coming across angry.

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I ask you to consider again the question, "Perception vs Reality"? From this very short reading, it is apparent that how we are feeling, what part we notice and pay attention to, what questions we ask, and many other things affect what we do and how we talk about what happens around us. It affects what we think is happening. This alone is a reason to motivate us to pay attention, and to be more mindful and attentive. It could make or break your day.












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