Because in Life Perception is Everything

Perception is Everything — because we are trained to not look at how we are framing our reality, we set ourselves up to have limited options. Once we see this, we can learn to perceive differently, and we suddenly have choice.


Perception is Everything

A book I was reading mentioned how our eyes perceive. Turns out that only a few percent of the data our eyes send to the brain is actually used. Mostly, there’s a bit of data, and our minds filling in the rest.

This also how we perceive our choices — through filters.

All that you are is a product of what you have thought. The Buddha

First of all, let’s get this out of the way early — shit does happen. Bad situations happen and people get injured or killed. People do abusive things — physically, emotionally, sexually.

Perception is Everything
I’m just going to eat one… do you think it will go to my hips?

Beyond that, in what we might think of as “normal reality,” almost everyone receives varying levels of bad parenting, bad advice, bad teachings.

All of us are conditioned — by the time we reach adulthood, most are conditioned to fit in — this does not celebrate our uniqueness, but rather the opposite — we are almost driven to conform.

For many, the people who tell us they love us attempt to manipulate us, and we manipulate right back.

The programming creates a perspective frame, and we view our reality through it. Thus, the world is exactly as you perceive it to be.

In other words, the world you think you see is the one you expect to see, because perception is everything. The way you picture “life” is just that — a picture. It’s like painting a painting. There is “who I paint,” and “how I choose to paint.” The two are not the same. The palate, the technique, the “angle,” even the size and shapes, are all devised by me, and create a finished product that may not even resemble “reality.”.

I take what is in front of me, modify it by filtering out what I do not want, choosing what to emphasize, and then, only then, I create “reality.”

There is something vaguely unsettling about the notion that there is nothing “real” about the world you create for yourself. Because we are caught within the system that is doing the creating, we have to step out somehow in order to see what is happening.

As Einstein put it, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Just to be clear, we’re talking about how we manipulate our story about reality to fit our preconceived notions. Thus, while you can close your eyes and fantasize flying, the rules of physics preclude you actually doing it. The laws of the physical world are “real,” and we can’t perceive away how the laws function.

A photo of a wallet?

That aside, the rest of life is a game of naming and claiming, of making sense of our experience according to the categories and descriptions we create.

For example, if I believe that “I am a helpless victim and I can’t do anything about my situation,” then this is “true.”

If I choose to describe myself in this way, if I choose to frame my reality as being a helpless victim, endlessly enacted upon and punished and mistreated by the people and situations I engage with, then again and again I will be proven right. And even more significant, it won’t matter what others are actually doing.

What we think we’re going to see is what we see, until we wake up.

There was a comment on the blog a few weeks back:

…My desire to take responsibility meant I didn’t share in an adult way my concerns. So taking responsibility for fixing me ended up with me stuffing my emotions. I know this isn’t what you recommend but I have trouble knowing how I engage my wife if I can only work on myself.

Here’s the thing: you work on yourself by learning to communicate who you are and where you are. It doesn’t mean “run away and hide.” The writer answers his own question, twice. He needs to:

  1. share in an adult way his concerns (use the Communication Model.)
  2. un-stuff his emotions

If you re-read what he wrote, you see that he answered his own concern, but didn’t see that he had, because he chooses only to see his powerlessness, in all situations.

No matter what happens, I have a moment of choosing how I will categorize it. If my default position is helpless victim, and I do not choose differently, I leave myself with only two choices: I’ll take each event and make it about my victim-hood, or I’ll attempt to ignore it.

But… he likes me this way!

Some weeks ago I was speaking with a woman about sex. She told me that she believed that in order to keep a man, she had to do whatever he wanted her to do, sexually. I went a bit deeper — I asked her to imagine that a man asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, and that she did it anyway.

She readily imagined just that, and she explained that she did this all the time. I then asked her how she worked with this contradiction.

She said, “I either pretend it didn’t happen, or I tell myself I enjoyed it.”

Her default view regarding sexual requests (her Governing Premise) is, “I have no choice, no vote. Others make decisions for me.”

From within that belief system, she has three choices -

  • go along, and discover she likes it,
  • go along, hate it and pretend it didn’t happen, or
  • go along, and lie that she likes it.

Do you see my point? These three choices fall within the Governing Premise, “Others make choices for me.”

Within the premise, she has pretty much covered her options. What she misses, however, is that she really has only one option: to go along with whatever is requested of her. How she explains her “going along” is the illusion of choice.

The problem, however, (and it’s a big however): her Governing Premise doesn’t allow for the option to say “no.”

Another example: Let’s say the person has a Governing Premise of, “I’m miserable because can’t get what I want from my partner.”

From within that belief system, there are three choices -

  • be miserable, and blame one’s partner,
  • be miserable, and blame oneself, or
  • be miserable, sigh, and pretend it’s OK.

Within the premise, all evidence to the contrary is discounted. If her partner brings roses, she’ll think, “See? He’s setting me up. If I act all appreciative, he’ll never bring them, again. So, rather than be disappointed in the future, I’ll not bother to enjoy them now.”

I watched one client do a similar thing. In counselling, she asked her husband if they could do something he wasn’t particularly interested in doing. To my surprise, he agreed. So, she upped the ante. He agreed. She did it 3 more times, and each time, he agreed. Finally, she asked for something obscure, yet related, and he said, “No way!” She turned to me, produced the requisite and immediate pout and tears, and wailed, “See! He never does what I want!”

The way out of each and every predicament we place ourselves in is this:

the world is exactly as you perceive it to be. To change your world, you have to change your perception.

In our first example, the young woman needs to change her governing premise to:

I have infinite choice. I make decisions for me.”

If she does this, a range of options opens up for her. The most significant is that she can say “no” to what she doesn’t want to do. Equally significantly: she could actually begin to ask for what she wants.

Now, clearly, some of the people in her life might not like this, especially the guy who is presently getting what she doesn’t what to give. He may very well try to guilt her back into doing what she is told.

Often, when we change a Governing Premise, we end up also having to change “partners!”

Similarly, in example 2, the governing principle shifts to:

I can ask for what I want from my partner, and if (s)he is unwilling, I can get what I want elsewhere.”

The only reason people stay in relationships that do not meet their needs and wants is because they want to feel hard done by. As soon is I shift my pronoun to “I,” I have created for myself the mindset to live my life as I choose.

A new client has spent 7 years trying to act as her partner wanted her to. She told me that she thought that (Governing Premise) “If I give him what he wants, he’ll give me what I want.” They’ve broken up several times, and in each case, he says it’s because she’s too clingy.

His definition of clingy is she keeps showing up and doing things for him, and then acting sad because he doesn’t respond.

Her body is one tight knot. When I asked her what she’d stuffed away, she said, “My joy, my sense of humour, my sarcasm.” I added, “And your passion?” She nodded.

I suggested she shift her Governing Premise shift to, “I will be me, and will engage intimately only with those who appreciate me (all of me) for who I am.” She thought this was a very good idea.

All that there is, is perception.

You are exactly and precisely the story you tell yourself. If you want to be special, you’ll spend your life wanting, and playing games to get others to tell you what you don’t believe yourself. If you believe you are not worth of happiness and a healthy relationship, guess what? You’ll be right.

If you don’t like the way you are living your life, look at how you are living it; how you are describing what you are doing. I guarantee you’ll find a “broken perception.”

Will you have the courage to repair it?

Because perception is everything!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

3 thoughts on “Because in Life Perception is Everything”

  1. When my ex and my grown kids get together, and I live 700 miles away, I experience regret–not over not being with my wife, but not being the good dad I’ve always been, who is there for the family. Since they get together a lot, my regret keeps showing up and naturally this regret over the past takes me out of the joy of my present life. I see I am doing this to myself yet the regret is strong and the desire to imagine a different past is strong. My default perception is the self-image of the good dad so I worked hard at fulfilling it for 26 years. Now entering a deeper space to be an authentic human being is the challenge. Your articles speak directly to that work–so thanks for taking the time to write. Peace–

    • The question is, why experience regret over something moving 700 miles can change?
      You do have an attraction for stories that support emotions that you create, like regret or disappointment or sadness.
      That’s what the article was about — this is simply an issue you could choose to do something about, but you miss that the regret is the filter you choose to look through…

  2. Wow! Great article Wayne. I have nothing any more meaningful to say at this moment, but I’m sure I’ll “mine” this one pretty good!


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