"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Friday, 4 November 2016

Perception and Perspective: How You Can Alter How You See Things

Image of a curved red rock face and it's reflection in water running at its base with the text: The power of change comes from the ability to look at things differentlyHave you ever experienced the same moment as someone, but what they saw, heard and felt was completely different?

Did they find it positive when you found it negative, or vice versa? 

When something isn’t how you imagine it to be, are you let down, disappointed, and frustrated? 

Perception is how we understand or interpret something. Perspective is our attitude and view point on how we regard it.

How we perceive something is affected by how we think. Whether we see a situation as positive or negative depends on our perception of it. And that perception is set by our expectations and assumptions, which supply our perspective on any given subject. 

Everything we hear is an opinion not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."- Marcus Aurelius 

As discussed in Reducing Expectations, we can change our perspective by not having a preconceived idea about how something is going to go, or desire a specific outcome. 

Assumptions and expectations are fed by information either from previous situations - or hearing about them from others. Often how we expect something to be is not actually how it is. We can end up disappointed, disillusioned, even hurt and upset if it doesn’t go as we thought it would.

What screws us up the most in life is the picture we have of how it is supposed to be.

To change that, we need to change our perspective. We need to realise we have a choice in how we see, hear, and view things. 

This was first brought to my attention when I expressed my upset about something my mother had said, when I was first in therapy. They asked me:

“If your brother had been in the room would he have been upset by it too?” 

It made me stop and think and realise that he wouldn’t; his internal dialogue and relationship with my mother was different to mine, thus the content of my mother’s dialogue would have had a different meaning. He would receive what she said in a totally different way. 

My perception of her and the things she said depended on my history and relationship with her and affected my expectations from her, even giving another meaning to her words. In some ways I had already decided her meaning before she spoke, and my reaction was based off that rather than what she actually said. 

We see things not as they are, but as we are. Our perception is shaped by our previous experience. - Dennis Kimbro

Our perceptions are based off established ideas and thoughts we have about all the things around us. We learnt them from our parents, friends, teachers, work colleagues, newspapers, textbooks, television - everything has an input, but we can alter our view at any time. 

And how we continue to filter that information and react to it is also a choice. 

If you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things change. - Wayne Dyer

And this extends into the outside world. If we only focus on the negatives in the world and all the bad things that happen that is all we see, and our perception becomes negative. It doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen, but if we aren’t seeing the good things, we aren’t leaving room for them to filter in and bring a more balanced perspective on the world.

Without that balanced view we risk becoming overwhelmed, and this can lead to anxiety and depression, conditions which are fed by a mindset based on how we perceive things.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” - Eckhart Tolle

So how do we change it? By recognising that our perception of any given thing might not be how it actually is, or the same as another person’s, thus realising that it is possible to see it differently. And if we want to change it we can - it’s a choice.

“When you observe rather than react, you claim your power.” - Denise Linn
It may not be possible with everything, but allowing the possibility makes us more flexible, and releases us from the potential shackles of a fixed mindset, opening us up to opportunities we might not have had before. 

Ask yourself how you would like to perceive something: What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel? And what is stopping you from feeling this way?

Once we are able to understand that we have a choice we return a sense of power, which gives us a sense of control. We can return to an event or situation that we previously viewed as negative and experience it differently, through fresh eyes. 

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