The concept of perception and how we perceive the world around us is fascinating. How we see things can have a huge bearing on our mental well-being and unless we become aware of this, our perceptions can have a negative effect on our thoughts and feelings, causing us distress and causing us to see the world and the people we interact with in a negative light.
Human beings are born with what is called a negativity bias. That is, we tend to see the negative things more easily than we do the positive. This developed through our need to survive and has helped keep humans alive. However these days we have less use for this negativity bias than our ancestors did, so we need to become aware that we see things in a negative way more easily than we do a positive way and train ourselves to look at each scenario we encounter individually, seeing it for what it is rather than immediately looking for the negatives.
So, how we perceive things, people and situations we encounter in our lives has a huge bearing on how we think and feel. Our perceptions are the unique lens through which each one of us see the world. No two people have exactly the same lens, as each of our lenses is made up of all of the thoughts, feelings and experiences we have encountered throughout our lives. For example children who regularly experience success in school would see school through a positive lens. This positive view of education is then passed down to their children and this becomes evident when you meet the parents of children who flourish in school.
Of course the opposite is often, but not always true. People who didn’t experience much success in school and felt punished and afraid, may pass on this view of education, often unconsciously down to their children. So the lens through which we perceive the world is made up of so many experiences, beliefs and value systems, that they become very complex and unique to each one of us.
We encounter a huge amount of information in our daily lives, most of which we simply disregard as it is not important to us, i.e. it doesn’t have anything to do with what we are interested in or match our belief system. We tend to only let information in through our perception lens when it is valued by us. However, we also allow information in through our lens when it goes against what we value or what we believe. We see things on the news every day for example which disgusts us, as it goes against what we believe in like murder, violence and terrorism to name just a few.
We need to be careful of how we naturally perceive things as it becomes a habit that we don’t even notice and can have a negative effect on our mental well-being. If we immediately judge and criticise anyone or anything that goes even slightly against what we perceive as being acceptable, we begin to enter into a negative cycle of thought that can quickly bring us down. We all know people who seem to love complaining. Every time you meet these people they will quickly tell you about all the negative things that are happening to them. Of course all of these things are because of someone and something else and outside of their control. These people can be draining and I find that after such an interaction, I feel a little negative myself.
By being aware that each of us have a unique way of perceiving the world around us and that each of our lenses are made up of complex beliefs, values and life experiences, we can begin to learn how we can take control of our thoughts and feeling to improve our mental well-being. Just because someone in our lives chooses to do something in a different way to what we would do it, does it mean they are doing it wrong? Just because someone lives their life in a way that we don’t value or believe in, does it make it a bad way to live? And just because someone views the world in a different way to us, does it mean that we should criticise them?
Remember, how you see things is only one complex perspective unique to you. Be careful of limiting how you see the world through narrow, black and white beliefs and values. Try to be more open and accepting of both your own and others views and you will begin to see how freeing this can be.