Perception is reality: Understanding other points of view

j0387501.7100031_stdSeveral weeks ago when I wrote my piece called “Don’t get lost in the monotony of your life,” I originally intended that to be about what I was learning as I was starting to see my own clients, but I got caught up on the gratitude of it and thought it might make its own topic. But now I’ll catch up from where I originally intended.

For me, I’ve always found Marriage and Family therapy the most intriguing. I’ve always loved relational dynamics and how we interact with friends, family, husbands/wives, children, etc. Well with classes just having started again, I recently read an article about beginning couples therapy that included some of the intricacies of working with couples as opposed to individuals. For example, there are a lot more dynamics going on in the room because it’s not just a one-on-one session. I, as a therapist, could say something to 2 people and they could both perceive it differently. Furthermore, I could say something to one of them directly by saying something like “he needs to take more responsibility for X, Y, and Z,” but the partner could hear that as an indirect message that she should back-off with X, Y, and Z. It totally makes sense, but I’ve just never thought of it that way. It’s totally true though…how often do we get into arguments with friends, family, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends because they don’t get what we’re going through. How often do we say “You don’t get it!” This reminds me of a quote I heard recently:

Perception is reality.

What this really should say though is that our individual perceptions create our individual realities. We all hear, see, and experience different things throughout the day, so when we input information we make interpretations and often assumptions about any given event. These interpretations and assumptions are based on our perception of everything else that has happened thus far. It’s almost as if we’ve been primed to feel a certain way. However, the point is to understand that when someone is not getting your point, it’s because they have had their own experiences that have created a different reality for themselves. The goal is not necessarily to get them to experience it the way you do, but instead to understand how it is that you got to your experience and visa versa. This, in turn, will foster a greater sense of empathy.

There is a kernel of truth to all of our experiences that led us to where we are. There is something we’ve told ourselves or something we’ve seen or heard that have led us to make each and every decision we’ve made in our life. This is even true for those with more severe mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia) – there is a kernel of truth to their story. If I believed the things that the voices were telling me, I too would probably feel and do what they’ve done. It’s natural! We all have stories we’ve told ourselves or things we’ve heard that have shaped our future directions, so the key is in recognizing those stories and having a greater understanding for others’ stories.

Share your thoughts…How has your perceptions impacted your life? Have you found a way of talking about your perception

Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

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Categories: Blogs by Rubin, Relationships, Therapy

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8 replies


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