We wake up every morning and open our groggy eyes. Slowly and sometimes with the aid of coffee, our brains turn on and we start to see and perceive the world around us. It seems so straightforward. So simple. We look. Our brains process. We internalize and react.
So, how is it so many people can look at the same thing but internalize very different realities?
The truth is, seeing things for what they are is much more challenging, illusive, and mysterious than we give it credit for.
When we perceive the world around us, we start with a premise. The premise is that what we perceived yesterday (and all the days before) is true. We assume we are right, in other words. And as our day goes on, the first thing our brain does is search for things that validate that assumption. We find what we are looking for. And if we are looking for people to be nice or terrible, we will find it and focus on it. We will perceive a reality based on those biased observations and internalize a narrative around it.
The trouble is that we were not completely right yesterday (or the days before) and so we are not completely right today. We are limited and biased. Our experiences change our perception.
The result is that we (and I mean ALL of us) have adopted a false reality. We think the world works a certain way. We think we have a pretty good grasp on the way people are, not to mention who I am as a person. And we’re wrong. We just are.
We’re not entirely wrong, of course. And some people are more aware of reality than others. But every single person is wrong about something. One hundred percent of humans are missing something about reality.
Another way of saying this is that truth is elusive. Sure it screams directly into our faces all day every day, but so do our own predispositions and personal assumptive narratives.
The result is we live in a world where everyone is so sure they are mostly right, although they are more wrong than they would like to admit. The effect here is a fake world. A reality that each of us is responsible for where we have given ourselves more grace than we give others, where the people who agree with us are “good” and those who don’t are “bad”.
We are losing our grip on reality. We are playing little narratives in our head, casting the people around us as heroes or villains, regurgitating what we believed yesterday (and all the days before that). We call learning an “epiphany” or a “breakthrough”. Those are powerful words. It is when reality breaks our house of cards and forces us to reconsider.
It is almost impossible for people to stop seeing things for what they want them to be and start perceiving them for what they truly are. We are just too biased, too limited.
Perhaps a starting point is accepting the reality that we have a hard time perceiving reality. Taking a posture of humility. Becoming more aware of our filters and how they sometimes distort the truth. We can never master or control reality. The truth is bigger than we are, which is why we have such a difficult time grasping it. Accepting this reality will help us to perceive more accurately.