Bridging the gap between perception and reality
Ever felt anxious about the future? Or experienced difficulty understanding and accepting the past? Do these thoughts make your chest feel tight? Let me help you understand what you are going through better.
“The map is not the territory, the word is not the thing it describes. Whenever the map is confused with the territory, a ‘semantic disturbance’ is set up in the organism. The disturbance continues until the limitation of the map is realised.” - Alfred Korzybski
We often react to our assumptions and our incorrect perceptions. The larger the gap between what we think we know and what really is, the more unhappy we feel. The more incorrect our perception is about something, the more emotionally unstable we are.
All of what is happening around us is objective. Everything that happens is a neutral event. From watching a sunset, to flying for a holiday, to failing an exam. These are simply events that take place within a period of time.
But as human beings, we assign meanings to them all the time. Different people assign different meanings to the same event, which means that the same objective event can evoke different emotions from different people.
When we think about school, one can think of dread and frustrations, because based on past experience, he learned that learning is not fun. On the other hand, another student can feel excited for school because he loves studying.
This elaborates how 2 people in the same circumstances can feel 2 totally different emotions despite being in the exact same situation.
This means that as long as we change the meaning that we assign to anything in life, we can make our lives better. We need to assign “better” meanings, meaning that aligns with our goals, meaning that serve us to become happier and more optimistic people.
What if the event is in the past or future?
Sometimes, the event is blurry and far into the distance. We can’t make out the event, maybe because it was so far back in the past or away in the unpredictable future. When we are not able to see the picture, we tend to patch the unknown up with our imagination. We don’t have enough memory or evidence to fill up the gaps that we do not know.
Then, the further our perception becomes from reality.
Soon we realise that we start emotionally reacting from something completely false and made-up in our own imagination. We can even imagine how things will turn out and actually live them out as a result, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Overthinking tends to aggravate this, because the more that we think, the more meaning you assign to something you don’t know for sure. The “semantic disturbance” becomes greater. You might find yourself in so much emotional turbulence that it is hard to even do anything.
How do we bridge the gap between perception and reality?
1. Find out the truth
This can only be done if you are able to do so. If you have a misunderstanding with someone, speak to the person in a respectful and compassionate manner to clear things up. Make sure that the situation is understood clearly by both parties. It requires courage and maturity to do so.
2. Bring your attention to something challenging
Our mind loves challenges. When we think about something we are passionate about intensely, when we struggle to succeed and to learn something new, it brings our attention to something productive, fun and engaging. It leaves less space for us to ruminate and overthink. It can make us a stronger and happier person as a result, and give us the courage to accept things as they are.
Acceptance is a valuable skill that everyone should learn. Some things have to be left as they are, with peace and with no desire to change them. Bad experiences can help to shape us to become better people, should we reflect and learn the lessons from them. Acceptance requires courage because it is not easy to know that some things cannot be changed. We all need to leave aside negative experiences and memories that don’t build us up anymore.
Most times, the reality is far from as bad as we imagine it to be. Our minds have a tendency to tilt towards the negative. Reality is often easy to cope with and to accept. Always have faith, and believe that things will work out no matter what.
Have a great week ahead!