In the Eye of the Beholder

Have you heard the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?” Many of us have heard that one, as well as, “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” Both expressions have something to do with the fact that what we see with our eyes is subjective or filtered in some way, by our own opinions or beliefs or ideals. For example, some people don’t like the color green, while others don’t see “green” the same way you do, and they may not even be colorblind.

When you are in a discussion with someone about a particular topic and it becomes clear that you are both seeing the same situation differently, what comes to mind or how does that make you feel? I know some people who are so set in their ways and feel so strongly about their own beliefs and opinions that it is nearly impossible for them to even consider someone else’s point of view. I have great compassion for them, because I think they are missing out on learning and growing and actually becoming happier people. Wouldn’t it be awful to be so boxed in to a set of ideas that you felt alone because you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see others’ points of view?

A word I use often is “perception,” because it is important to our understanding of the world, and more specifically, of our own world. When you observe something, is your observation the truth? When you hear a story, do your interpret that story the same way someone else does? When you hear music or look at a painting, do you hear or see what your neighbor hears or sees? It isn’t a matter of who or what is right. The way you perceive something is your truth, and the way the others perceive something is their truth.

Lord Thomas Dewar said, “Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open.”  If it could be possible that there might even be the slightest difference in perception and ones truth, would it make sense to compare, to share the experience with another while keeping an open mind? By doing so, you just might broaden your own view, and at the same time, you might just broaden the horizon and view of the other person, too. How cool is that?

A Lesson in Understanding

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone and they disagreed with your point of view or didn’t even understand how you could have the opinion that you held? Have you ever had someone angry with you and all they could say was that they didn’t understand how you could have said or done what you did? How did that make you feel?

To “understand,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, means to perceive the intended meaning, significance, explanation, or cause of something. When someone says they don’t understand something you’ve said (or done), do they simply mean they don’t perceive your intended meaning, or are they saying more than that? Might they mean that it doesn’t make sense, based on their model of the world, and that since they don’t understand you from your perspective, you are wrong and they are right? Might it mean, especially if they are angry, that they believe you must have intended something else, something that you did not intend, perhaps even something unkind or hurtful? When someone is angry with you because they don’t understand what you have said or done, the underlying cause is fear. They are afraid of something that is based on a belief (possibly, even likely one that is unconscious), about themselves or others and, therefore, about how they are going to be treated.

What I believe to be vital is to recognize that our beliefs can and often will actually have us believing things that are not true. In NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), one of the presuppositions is, “The map is not the territory.” What that means is that our perceptions (the map) are not the reality. They feel like it and appear to be so, but they are based on many things that actually mask reality. My perceptions are based on my experiences, my beliefs, my filters, my model of the world, my state at the instant moment, and more. All of those are different than yours, and therefore my perception of the same event, phrase, discussion, article, color, and so on will be different than yours. That does not make mine any more right or wrong than yours, just different. Since our beliefs and where we direct our attention will create our reality, it is also likely that if we are concentrating on something, we will bring it into our being. For example, if I am looking for something to go wrong, for there to be something negative about another person, I will bring that into being. But, since “the map is not the territory,” I will only be perceiving it to be so.

Imagine that you have green-colored lenses on your glasses and your friend has rose-colored lenses. Are you going to see the same thing? Will you perceive a flower or the grass the same? No, and that is how we see the world: in our own way, from our own point of view, through our own filters, based on our own experiences and beliefs. What is important to remember is that we see things differently, and different is just that, different. If I don’t understand what you mean, it doesn’t mean you are wrong, it simply means that what you see or hear is different from what I see or hear. If we trust each other and ourselves, then there is no cause for anger, because we know that the other person only means well and isn’t out to hurt us.

Remember to not take anything personally. If you have read “The Four Agreements,” you recognize that. If you haven’t, remember to never take anything personally. A friend and teacher, Helene Rothschild, wrote, “The truth is that no matter what anyone else says or does, you are okay, worthy, loveable, attractive, intelligent, and good enough….” By allowing yourself to understand this truth and to see what is new, what is different, and what is possible, you open up to a whole new world.

“In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities.” ~ Janos Arnay

How cool is that?