|Posted on September 10, 2012 at 7:20 PM|
We cannot see the world as it really is. This is partly a result of the way our bodies are designed to perceive the world. We can't see anything in the infrared spectrum and our ears can only detect a very limited range of sounds. And what we do receive needs to be sorted and filtered to prevent it from overloading us.
There are three processes involved in this because we delete, distort and generalize. This is both basic linguistic theory and and one of the basic tenants of NLP. The difference between the two sentences “You stop” and “Stop” is that the “you” has been deleted from the second sentence. However, it hasn’t gone away. It still exists in the deep structure of the sentence. This is analogous to the fact that as you read these words you probably didn't even notice their colour, shape or font - because you filtered out, or deleted, this information because it wasn’t necessary. It didn`t mean it wasn`t there, you just didn’t need to be aware of it.
We generalize whenever we walk into a room and see a chair because the 'chair' doesn't really exist in the room but in our mind. You only think you see a chair because a part of your brain was so fast and it had already generalized from past experiences and imposed the meaning of 'chair' and all this entails on objects of a certain form and shape. Someone who had never seen a chair, sat in one, or seen anyone else sitting in one would see something; it just wouldn't be a ‘chair’.
It's like we have a little flashlight that shines maps out onto the world. And this happens so fast we are not even aware that our brain is really imposing meaning.
Just like these words. You can point to these words, shake your arm and say “look it says so right here” - and even though you think you see the words on this screen, your brain is really superimposing the meaning onto these forms and shapes. These words only exist as ‘words’ in your mind and if you didn’t know how to read them, or if they were represented by a script you couldn’t read such a Greek or Cyrillic, they would appear as a series of lines and squiggles.
We don’t just have perceptual filters, we also have behavioural filters and programs and subconscious subroutines that shape and guide our understanding and interaction with the world.
Emotional maps and filters are also very important. Unfortunately, sometimes these maps and filters, which should help us, hurt us instead. Especially if we have ever suffered from an emotional problem such as anxiety, borderline personality, depression, an eating disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, or a social phobia.
Having experienced depression, I know what it is like to wake-up and only see darkness. To have an internal, emotional/perceptual filter that prevented me from seeing things as they really were. It was like wearing dark emotional glasses that prevented any light from entering. It coloured the way I thought and perceived, something they call emotional reasoning.
As a Gurdjieffian I couldn't think of a better term to describe one type of wrong of centres than: emotional reasoning - when feelings distort thoughts and the heart does a task better suited to the head.
Another distorted filter involves black-and-white thinking and feeling which can follow the lines that if we don't do things perfectly, then we must be a total failure. Or if someone forgets to do something everything will be ruined. This is also another example of wrong work of centres where thinking is again being led by feeling.
There are many occasions when we need to filter our experiences through generalizations. The problem arises when we overgeneralize. When take a throw-away sentence as evidence of a major conspiracy against us and make mountains out of molehills and jump to conclusions before we have all of the evidence.
Another internal filter is to look for the worst. This should really be a binary setting so that we can also look, or sort, for the best. However, it has gotten stuck in the denying position and makes us always look for the negative and the worst in things. It can even make us outright deny, discount or dismiss anything positive. So we always see the glass as half empty.
We can also jump to conclusions rather than taking the time to see what is really going on. Taking a throw-away line tossed out in a conversation as evidence that we are complete and abject failures and nothing ever goes right. Overgeneralizing to the extreme.
This can even take the form of mind-reading: “I could just tell from the way they looked at my shoes that they didn't like me” or fortune-telling “the second I spilled my coffee I just knew it was going to be a bad day” and then pigeonholing our experiences to fit these interpretations. Something that to use the terminology of Gurdjieff Teachings, is a form of Internally Considering.
We can also take things far too personally. Allowing events such as the weather or the bus being late to hijack our mood. If you hate winter and you live in a northern region, you are setting yourself up to feeling miserable twenty-five percent of the time. This is another form of Internally Considering.
The good news is that even though these filters and switches, these subconscious subroutines can get stuck, they are not set in stone. We can change. And we do this by ‘working on ourselves’. By figuring out how things are supposed to work and fixing broken switches.
Categories: Thoughts and Reflections