Perception and Projection



Sometimes I have to remind myself that reality is relative.  Reality usually feels so, I don’t know, real that I often feel like I know what is happening or what just happened.  It only takes one person to disagree with me for me to bring me back down to Earth.

We can have differing perceptions of pretty much everything:  taste, sight, touch, sound.  It’s bitter to me but savory to someone else.  Scratchy to me but not noticeable to someone else.  The incidents where we really can get into trouble are when we are trying to interpret, and agree on, what we see or hear.  I have unfortunately found myself too often arguing way too long about what was said or done.   I can be 100% sure that events unraveled in a certain way only to find I was dead wrong, or that someone else is 100% sure that it didn’t happen the way I remember.

“There is no reality – only perception” – Dr. Phil

I take home a couple of lessons from this.  As with most things I write about, they often fall into the “easier said than done but worth trying” category.

  1.  Futility of arguing – Given that perception is reality, as well as the fact that we can’t change the past, arguing about what happened or he said/she said is pretty much a waste of time at best and damaging at worst.  There are exceptions to this idea, but the vast majority of time we’re arguing to feel right, as opposed to a real need to agree upon what is often a minor distinction.
  2. Dangers of judging/assessing another – It is way too easy to judge others and let ourselves off the hook.  For example, have you ever been accused of being depressed, angry, manipulative (or whatever) but found yourself thinking that the accuser is actually the depressed, angry or manipulative one?  Yep.  I hope you don’t believe that only others are guilty of projection.   I have learned to stop criticizing or complaining about others because the majority of the time, I’m complaining about what I hate in myself but blaming it on another.  That’s not only unfair but hypocritical.

I have had a couple of major Aha moments about projection.  As far back as I can remember, my sisters and I have always joked about who was the favorite daughter.  Of course, it was always ourselves that we proposed to be the favorite, the smartest, the prettiest, etc.  (Recently our uncle said I was the pretty one – ha!)  But in truth, I’ve always believed my eldest sister was the favorite daughter.  One day, we actually had a discussion about this subject.  My eldest sister thought the middle sister was the favorite; the middle sister thought I (the youngest) was the favorite.  Hmm.  Forty years of petty jealousy.  What a stupid waste.

Here is another example.  I’ve posted recently about how my life has a lot going on right now.   I’m very proud to say that despite the chaos, Chris and I have been maintaining equanimity in our relationship.  About a week ago I noticed that his energy seemed different:  a bit of an edge, somewhat cranky and more energy in his words and actions than I’m used to.  Finally I brought it up, asked him if there was something going on with his change in energy.  He responded that he was going to ask the same thing of me as he noticed a change in the quality and quantity of my energy.  Ouch.

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” – Edgar Allan Poe

So, I’m again reminded that my perception is just that, and I am apparently more wrong than right about what I perceive.  So since perception is reality, I might as well choose the most positive and forgiving interpretation of people and events.   After all, why choose discord, smallness, and injustice when you can choose harmony, inclusiveness and generosity?  Why choose silence and recrimination when you can have understanding and affirmation?

So, an exercise in perception: this blog isn’t rambling, it’s….complex.  Have and perceive for yourself a great day!

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