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Monday, November 23, 2009

Perception and Reality

I had the pleasure of discussing the saying "perception is reality" with a friend of mine today. My friend and I didn't completely agree.

It can be considered trite and naive to believe that reality is up for grabs. As far as people, people management, people science, and all that are concerned, there are typically some, at least, socially acceptable truths. Someone's reality might be based on bigotry and this person might foster the belief that all short people are somehow inadequate, for example. There is no basis in conventional wisdom for that belief so one might say that this person's perception is not, in actuality, reality even though the person believes it. Norms of reality exist, huh?

So, we're comfortable with the idea that reality does exist. Great. The rub comes, however, when we get too wrapped up in what we call reality as opposed to what others call reality. We all have filters through which we look at life (see my post here on Reality Filters). These filters are often composed of our experiences both as children and as adults, as well as what we've been taught by people who have been influential in our lives. These filters are really powerful and can help us shape our personal reality. They can even help us slant the "conventional wisdom" realities to where they fit better into our beliefs. The bigot I mentioned above most certainly used filters to shape his "short hate"., reality exists, but we have trouble pinning it down. Or, perhaps we have NO trouble pinning it down ourselves, but everyone around us just does a lot of head scratching, wondering what the heck we're thinking.

Perhaps the best thing we can hope to do is have faith. For me, that means faith in God. It also means that, except when I'm being really cynical, I have faith that people are basically decent, as a group. Other than that, we should look really hard at what our reality is and try to help it align (I didn't say agree) with those who are important in our lives.

The other thing we can to do is try to have empathetic spirits. We can to try to understand the reality of those around us. We don't have to agree with those realities, but we can to try to understand them so we can use what we've learned to better interact with others. We can be willing to accept (gulp...) that our ideas might be wrong or, at least, not necessarily the best ideas around. Since many of us have pretty strong beliefs, we should to try to temporarily "suspend" our assumptions (see my post on that here) and beliefs on a subject to help us better listen to other ideas and perceptions. Maybe the group will agree that I am right, that someone else is right, or that we both are (we can have multiple ideas, can't we?).

What about you? How do you handle the idea of reality and your views on it?