Ever notice how two or more people experiencing the same event remember some or most of it differently? Why is this?
Today we’re going on an adventure into the land of perception. We'll explore the way perceptions filter our experiences and influence how, and with what, we identify. We'll also examine how the way we identify influences our beliefs, which drive our behaviors and future experiences.
Now I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or anyone all that well-versed on the brain and its inner workings. These are simply musings based on personal observations and insights. I should say, however, that in researching a bit for this post, my observations do have some parallels with actual scientific finding.
Do you see what I see?
There is a term, memory distortion, that has been around for a long time. It basically suggests that our memories of an event are distorted by things such as our personal life experiences and what we believe we know about the world (the linked article might explain some of the issues surrounding Brian Williams’ memory-related issues).
Certain distortions can increase based on context, and those that directly impact us (or our self-image), can lead to the potential for even greater distortions!
Perceptions create reality.
At this point I'm diverging from the research (at least I think I am) by suggesting that we each possess a pretty powerful filtering system that results in the potential for distorted information solidifying as actual memories. This filtering system is our perceptions.
Perceptions tend to be biased, based upon the way we receive the information coming in from whatever experience; good, bad, happy, sad, and so on.
If we’re in a bad mood, for example, the way we receive a particular comment will likely be very different than if we’re in a happy or playful mood. We might get angry, and take a comment as a personal affront one day, and laugh and banter at the same comment the next.
And how we felt when we received this information, then gets logged into our memory banks for future reference and/or cataloguing. When we catalogue information filtered through our perceptions, we first sort it by reinforcing or discounting our perceptions based on our previous, or perhaps, our anticipated, experiences.
So if we were expecting a big raise, and instead received a performance improvement plan, we might discount our boss’ impression of us because we believed we were doing a good job ("Clearly, he has no idea what he's talking about!").
Or we might discount the perception we had of ourselves because of this new information ("I guess I wasn't doing that great of a job after all").
Even this decision of what information we accept or reject, which is usually unconscious, is based on where our heads were at when we received it.
The identity spiral.
All of this leads to how we identify within a given situation.
If we think highly of ourselves, we might decide that even if our boss has legitimate gripes, we are fully capable of bouncing back.
If we already had a less-than-stellar perception of ourselves, however, we might become angry or depressed because of this new information. We might then speak negatively to ourselves if we practice being our own worst critic instead of our own best friend.
If we receive bad information while we are already in a negative mindset, it will likely reinforce negative perceptions and beliefs we have about ourselves, creating a downward spiral of bad feelings. If we receive good information while we are in a positive mindset, an upward spiral of reinforcing perceptions and beliefs can occur.
Mindset frames our identity.
It’s those mindsets that really get at the heart of how we identify with our world and our lives.
How do we think about ourselves? This isn’t the same as how we relate to our outer world, which we’ll discuss in our next post.
How we identify equates to our self-perception. We believe we are a certain type of person, based on perceptions that, in our view, have been reinforced by our experiences.
Perceptions about ourselves are based on a lot of things, including how we receive information from our external or outer world, but also how we talk to and consider ourselves.
If we have befriended ourselves, and treat ourselves with compassion and love, we likely identify in a much more positive way than if we are constantly beating ourselves up because we don’t think we measure up to expectations, whether our own or those of others.
The things we believe about ourselves, how we identify as a person in this world, directly informs our behaviors, which then result in certain experiences, that have a tendency to reinforce our self-perceptions (because one of the types of memory distortion are those that reinforce existing beliefs). I refer to this as the Mindset Feedback Loop.
Creating new identifiers.
The thing is, we have the power to influence the way in which we identify with our world. We can shift the way we talk to, and think about ourselves, and even what we believe. These things are especially beneficial when going through change.
As highlighted in our last post, Vivian experienced a change in weight and appearance, but she hadn’t yet aligned herself internally with that change. She still identified with the person she was before the change, which then bubbled out into her behaviors as a result.
Marcus, on the other hand, made conscious and intentional choices about who he was, which then influenced how he showed up externally. He created a new persona with whom to identify, which then created the framework for how he related to his outer world.
Today's main points.
Here are the main points for today (we'll build upon these in the next several posts):
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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