17 August, 2009

Perceptions – Part II

For the past couple of days I’ve been blogging about how we, as humans, have a propensity to make up explanatory stories about ourselves and others. So, along that vein, I wanted to write a second part to my previous blog on “Perceptions.”

As a quick refresher for those who have already read that blog, I’ve posted bits and pieces from my previous blog below:

We all have powers of perception when it comes to “reading” others. We perceive people to be upset, to be dangerous, to be lighthearted and fun to be around, and to be serious and void of humor.

While perception is a valuable tool for us to use in our communications with others, there is a particular trap we often fall into when it comes to perception. This trap, of “preconceived notions” isn’t reserved for people we’ve just met. It also interferes with people we’ve known for a long time.

If we only relate to others as we “know” them to be, we never leave room for them to change, grow, or transform. They can only “be” who we perceived them to be. And, in our worlds, once they do change, we don’t see it because we’re never looking for it. We’re only looking for the evidence of what we “know” to be true about them. And, we will always find the evidence we are looking for to support our assumptions / perceptions about others.

So, today’s blog is really a simple exercise that will move you into a place of letting go of what you “know” about another. If you’re anything like me, when you see an exercise, you’re probably tempted to just read it and see what you glean from it. But, I promise you, that the value of this exercise is in actually doing it.

So, please grab a clean piece of paper and write down the name of the individual you want to use for this exercise. I would recommend using a spouse or partner or a family member – someone to whom you are very close and have daily interaction.

Now, take as much time as you need and write down the answers to the following questions as related to the person whose name you wrote down:

What is it that I already know about this person?

What opinions do I have about this person?

What judgments do I have about this person?

What are his or her strongest attributes?

What’s wrong with him or her?

What decisions have you made about this person?

What true about this person?

What does this person think about me?

What is this person's relationship to money?

What is this person's relationship to sex?

What is this person's relationship to communication?

What is this person's relationship to intimacy?

What is this person's relationship with me?

Whew! You’re finished with that part; now for the fun part:

Look over your lists of the things you think about this person and the things you believe that he or she thinks about you. Where did all of those ideas come from?

I’m guessing that you didn’t write down how you see this person in the future.

And, the present is happening now, and now, and now, and now. So, you couldn’t have gotten your notions from the present because each present moment quickly becomes the past moment.

So, I believe that you’ll agree with me that everything you believe to be true about this person came from your past experiences of this person. Could this person have changed and you have not recognized it?

I wrote in my previous blog that “In order to compensate for this ‘trap of perception’, we must give up, anew, our previous perceptions about a person each time that we interact with him or her. Only then, do we allow another the space s/he needs to be fully self-expressed as who s/he is, in the present.”

Consider that your intimacy with a person is directly related to your ability to be with who he or she is in the moment. We’ve always looked at intimacy as something that we feel, based on the happenings or events of our past. But, really, intimacy is being able to share exactly who you are at any given moment and the person with whom you are sharing being able to understand that and not let past interactions interfere with his or her perceptions of you in the present moment……and, vice-versa.

Now, look at the list of things you wrote down once more and ask your self these questions:

What would be possible with this person if I could give up knowing all of this stuff, and could discover him or her newly?

What would be possible if I engaged with him or her as if each time we met it was new and I would look for what’s present instead of what’s missing?

What would be possible in our relationship if she or he listened to me newly each time? Would he or she discover things about me that he or she didn’t already know?

Task yourself this week with discovering the people around you, newly, as if you were meeting them for the first time and see what a difference in makes in your affinity for them.

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