By Dana Smith
Perception is a powerful thing. Our perceptions have the power to start wars, or end famine. They have the power to fuel the accomplishment of new feats, or depress us into a pit of despair. They have the ability to push back the door of possibility, or stagnate human progress. They can steer the human endeavor into a self destructive stupor, or land it safely in the fantastically unreal.
Our personal perceptions of the world influence us on many levels. Our perceptions mandate our expectations, thoughts, emotional reactions, and even the physical terrain of our nervous system. Our perceptions therefore shape the person we are when are are alone and with a group.
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Before we go too much further lets define perception. Your overall perception of the world and everything in it is synonymous with the terms “world view”, “mental filter”, or the more Learian “reality tunnel”. An infinite amount of perceptions form together and create a tapestry (personal world view). These perceptions are countless. It includes what comes to your mind when you see a tree; the thoughts that manifest when thinking about Africa; the emotions that unfold when confronted with new ideas, and so on. You understand the world through your perceptions of it. The way your world view, reality tunnel, mental filter, or perception is constructed has been theorized on for years, and it is closely related to the nature vs nurture debate. Of course there are many things that influence the way you see and feel the world. Our childhood, home-life, genetics, governments, schooling, and media are just a few financiers to the mental constructs we have of reality.
Perhaps one of the most invasive contributors to perception is culture. When I say culture I’m simply referring to the collectively accepted beliefs, norms, behaviors, and ideals of a particular society. You see, its the dominant perceptual lens in a societal ecosystem. Cultures all over the world are full of ideas. Ideas and ideals on what makes individuals happy, what kind of life to live, what’s right and wrong, how to raise a child, what’s worth spending money on, what’s cool and what’s to be shunned. Culture is always peddling this information as if it were a matter of fact. When an individual does not logically discern and examine the ideas being distributed by culture (or anything else) their world view is open to notions that are arbitrary. We can see this with consumerism, materialism, nationalism, and money fetishes.
(Related: Helping people is logical)
Behind all these behaviors and mindsets are value systems. When people adopt and believe things without bringing a conscious mind to the subject, they give up their individuality. They let others do their own thinking for them, and in the case of culture, essentially adopt a kind of religion. Rules of thumb, age old “knowledge”, morals, laws, customs, manners, political organizations – all of these things are backed by value systems, and before we adopt them they must undergo heavy logical examination if we wish to progress both as individuals and society.
It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be able to let go of old beliefs. We tend to fuse our identity with our beliefs and this causes emotional tension when we try to change and grow. When we accept ideas without conscious thought we are distanced from ourselves. We cheat ourselves out of personal growth. Asking yourself questions is a great way to understand and tweak your perspective.
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What situations make me uncomfortable? Why?
What situations make me comfortable? Why?
Are my actions complimentary to my goals?
Are my priorities and values in sync?
Do I seek out convenience or truth?
Regularly self reflecting, asking questions, and having an open mind act as a pick that chips away at hardwired belief systems, perceptions, and thought patterns. It promotes conscious thinking, awareness, and carries a value system that holds truth and understanding at its pinnacle. But of course don’t take my word for it, think about it for yourself.
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Dana is our second intern at Team Good Sign. He will be blogging about emotional, spiritual, and physical evolution, in addition to hosting podcast and Good Sign TV. Dana is 18 and a resident of Austin, Texas. Check out his blog, WanderGrowth where he will be exploring various topics such as morality, honesty, obedience, perception, self-improvement, imagination, logic, curiosity, questioning, passion, humility, diet, stress, & self-education. “My hope is to inspire and ultimately empower the reader.”