Perception and Reality

This morning as I drove my kids to school, I noticed that there weren’t all the usual students walking to school along our route there would normally be.
I noticed this small fact then my mind set to work creating a story around it.
Perhaps the first day back after school holidays was a curriculum day and I’d missed it? A very easy thing to do as I am absolutely terrible at reading the school newsletter.
​Then my mind went down that path of chastising me for never reading the newsletter.
Then I started thinking how I was going to rearrange my day because I was sure now I would have to find someone to look after my kids at late notice.
A veritable cascade of thoughts and worries all stemming from that split second observation- “gee, there don’t seem to be any kids walking to school this morning”.
Now I’m not sure about you, but my mind is actually VERY good at doing this. Creating stories out of tidbits of information and observations about the world around me.
No doubt this skill would have stood me in good stead had I been born tens of thousands of years earlier and I was reliant on this ability to stay safe in a world full of predators and dangers.
My nervous system has evolved to be perfectly wired to perceive small bits of information so that I can kick my early warning system into gear and respond appropriately.

The problem with this however is that this early warning system is often subject to distortion.
The apparent reality I feel I’m working within is in fact just my perception of it.

Well, as it turned out, it was the first day of school camp today so many of the students had been driven to school laden down with suitcases, sleeping bags and pillows (hence the paucity of late primary aged children walking themselves to school this morning).
Never in a million years would that have been the conclusion that my brain took me to today.
Yes, I probably should start reading the school newsletter. But notwithstanding that minor point, my brain would simply not have connected that innocuous observation I made with school camp as my children are much younger and school camp is just not in my perceptual sphere at this point in time.
So how can I believe anything that my brain tells me, if I am so obviously capable of creating a ‘truth’ based simply on a combination of what I observe and the many experiences that my mind has encountered before?

Well the great thing is that we don’t HAVE to believe everything our brain tells us.
The input of our brain is simply another input source to the input of our senses (except our senses are much less likely to skew the truth than our brain does). We can choose whether or not we follow our brain down that perception pathway.
​The alternate option being that we mindfully step back from the workings of our brain and see this delicate interplay between what happens to us, how we interpret that and then ultimately how we act on that interpretation.
And yes, perhaps I also start reading the school newsletter…

by Emily Amos

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