Thursday, February 16, 2012

Testing perceptions

Perceptions can help you navigate the world around you; they are necessary when you don't otherwise have access to, or time to gather, all the information necessary to draw conclusions based on fact. 

But how often do we remember to test the accuracy of our perceptions?  How often do we allow our trust in our perceptions to become so habitual that we:

- Share our perceptions with others as fact?
- Act on them before we've tested them?
- Use them in place of facts we should have gathered?
- Forget to replace them when better information becomes available?

When any of these things happen, we allow ourselves to behave in ways we would not have been proud of if we had seen the full picture.  This is, of course, easier to see and acknowledge when we are victims of other people's perceptions.  The more often we see it happen to us, and the larger the scale of the consequences, the easier it is to become paranoid about, or overly sensitive to, the perceptions of others.  Because this sensitivity is based on real experience, it often leads to fears that are unfortunately at least somewhat logical to harbor.  The fact that they are even remotely factually based (in a way our mind's eye can trace back and remind itself of) makes these fears very difficult to let go of.

In order to let go of these fears, even when we've identified them, we need to test conclusions we've drawn and cemented subconsciously.  Concusions based on fact and based on painful experiences we can replay to remind ourselves that we have a solid foundation for these fears.
But it we play devils' advocate and defend our minds eyes' fears, supporting the notion that these perceptions are every bit as dangerous to us as they seem, what can we do about the imminent threat they (hypothetically) pose to us?

I would argue that in the rare instance that something can be done, it is typically much, much less than we convince ourselves we could do when we are desperately searching and churning and using valuable mental and physical energy that we need for other things.

In the rare instance that something can be done, the opportunity will virtually never come fast enough to give us the relief we are churning and searching for.

This blog post (How to Overcome Perceptions) is a great reminder that the route to changing perceptions is not (or at least is very seldom) through offering further facts, since the perception is feeling, rather than fact based, and because the person has very likely already subconsciously opted not to consider different facts associated with a perception they've already adopted.

Attempting to change perceptions through actions takes a great deal of patience and does not offer short term protections.  So I would argue that one should be seeking change in themselves where perceptions they don't like carry some element of truth, plus changing the perception through action if it is a perceptions worth changing, while questioning your assumptions about the real risks other people's perceptions pose (and the actual potential of changing them) as often as we can remember to do so.

Optimally, we can figure out next how to assess the right amount of effort to expend and the right amount of value to ascribe to chaning the perceptions we think we can change. 

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