By John Tamiazzo, PhD
(November 2, 2018)
I read a story about a man who was building a home. One day he was nailing two boards together and accidently hit his thumb with the hammer. It was a direct hit and the resultant pain was unbearable. To ease his discomfort, he began to wildly jump up and down as he shouted obscenities. Far in the distance, two elderly women were taking a stroll in the countryside and stopped to watch his antics. One of the women commented, “Look how beautiful he sings and dances,” and then continued on their leisurely walk. As noted by novelist C.S Lewis, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.”
Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is filtered through your perception. In the field of Psychology, perception refers to our interpretation of what we take in through our senses. Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us. What two people see in the same situation can be startlingly different, and that is the beauty and annoyance of perceptions that are at odds.
Some of us perceive any kind of criticism or suggestion as an attack. Those with a glass half-empty perception are critical of what they see and hear; those with a glass half-full perception see tend to see things in a positive light. Perception can literally take you to the heights of heaven or the depths of despair and everywhere in between depending upon how you interpret what you see, what you value and believe to be true, what you hear and understand people are saying, and what you feel as you take it all in.
Different perceptions take us on different paths in life. Mother Teresa saw the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor and spent her entire life working on their behalf. Composer Johann Sebastian Bach said he stumbled over notes everywhere he walked and therefore became a prolific musician and composer. Picasso saw distortions of the human anatomy and his art mirrored his perception. Walt Whitman observed beauty all around him and his poetry reflected what he saw. Gandhi perceived life as an opportunity for greater service to humanity and therefore, spent his entire life dedicated to this principle.
When you read the commentary of movie reviewers, oftentimes you can’t believe that they saw the same movie that you saw! When we see a film, we perceive it in different ways because some of us are more observant of the imagery; some of us are more attentive to the dialogue; some of us are more conscious of the feelings the characters are experiencing; and some of us are more focused on the overall storyline. We are all watching the same film, but seeing, hearing, and feeling it differently.
Spiritual Teacher Sogyal Rinpoche wrote, “Everything we see around us is seen as it is because we have been repeatedly solidifying our experiences of inner and outer reality in the same way, and this has led to the mistaken assumption that what we see is objectively real. As we go further along the spiritual path, we learn how to work directly with our fixed perceptions. All our old concepts of the world or even ourselves are purified and dissolved and an entirely new “heavenly” field of vision and perception opens up.”
John Tamiazzo is the author of two self help books: Love & be Loved: 8 Steps to Creating Intimacy and Finding the Love You Want; Returning to the Land of Oz: Finding Hope, Love, & Courage on Your Yellow Brick Road. Visit his website JohnTamiazzo.com to learn more about his counseling and consulting services. He is the former Executive Director of the Sedona Community Center.