Do You Really Understand? – Alternative Shrink


Everyone speaks a unique language and perceives others through personalized perceptual filters; unless they are as one through a spiritual connection, within which they naturally share an awareness of each other intuitively; or unless they have reached a level of spiritual awareness that allows them to perceive truth through non-material means. Otherwise, when attempting to make sense of the words and actions of others, there’s at best an approximation of understanding, based on the degree of overlap of our definitions of words and concepts, life experiences, familial, cultural, and religious precepts; self awareness; and level of awareness of spiritual things. We just think we understand what others mean, or what their actions represent. But do we? Or are we just basing our perception on what it would mean if we ourselves were saying or doing the same things, or the degree to which they are doing/giving us what we want? When we really know and understand someone, there is a natural openness, a peaceful acceptance, a quiet confidence that requires no words. It is just naturally there — like a rainbow painting hope across the morning, or a sunset splashing fire across the surging, foaming corduroy swells.

When you say or think the words “love,” “chocolate,” “anger,” or “car.” What words begin forming in your thoughts? What pictures in your head? What emotions? What memory sequences? What other words or concepts by association? It’s different with every single person. Pick a word. What about “cockroach,” “peanut butter,” “sex,” or “god?” Any word. How about “house,” “fairness,” “beautiful,” or “success?” Even when we take the time to clarify, in depth and detail, what someone means; it’s still, at best, an approximate understanding. And this occurs regardless of education, socioeconomic status, age, race, national origin, etc. More of what we think they mean usually comes from what it means to us — what it would mean if we ourselves were saying or doing the same things — than from what they really mean. In my opinion, most of the world’s social problems grow out of simple misunderstandings, followed by the human ego twisting the truth to justify our doing whatever we need to do to get what we want and believe that we’re “right” and not “wrong.”

The Influence Of The Human Ego On Our Perception Of Ourselves And The World

What I mean by ego is incorporated into the concepts of devil/demon, darkness, or illusion within religious and spiritual traditions. It twists the truth to help us avoid, deny, or justify wrongdoing. Through fabricating illusion to replace truth, the ego can help us feel self-righteously justified in doing anything that brings us what we want or makes us feel like we are “right.” When the truth is twisted to fit our ego needs, our perceptions are correspondingly distorted. For a deeper understanding of ego, in this sense, please check out Eckhardt Tolle’s “A New Earth.”
For example, if Luke has a terrible insecurity in relationships, always desperately afraid that his partner will leave him, cheat on him, or grow tired of him; then his ego could temporarily soothe these inadequacy, trust, and abandonment issues by creating fiction in his head to make him feel justified in having had these perceptions and having taken whatever actions he might have taken in response to them (e.g. accusing, blaming, defending, attacking, etc.). To the degree to which our perceptions are being determined by our ego our understanding is based on illusion. Many have chronic and pervasive ego issues (e.g. feeling like they’re not good enough, fears of losing control, fairness, trust, abandonment, etc.); and most occasionally have situational reactions colored by the ego’s desire to get what it wants and be “right.” Again, to the degree to which our perceptions are being determined by our ego our understanding is based on illusion. 

Perceptual Filters Created From Trauma, Fear, And Other Negative Emotions

As discussed in “Breaking Free From Trauma Ties,” “Facing Fears Of Change,” and “Stress No More;” trauma triggers and negative emotions dramatically change how we perceive ourselves and the world — reducing everything down to a specific trauma re-enactment, or the more generalized fight-or-flight response; both shifting the brain into survival mode. When trauma or negative emotions are involved, then everything is perceived through this black-and-white, narrowly focused filter. So everything seems like something we need to either fight against in some way (attitudinally, verbally, behaviorally/controlling, dominating, angry, aggressive, adversarial) or run away from (attitudinally, verbally, behaviorally/avoid, deny, shut down, change the subject, or physically leave). When this happens, our understanding is no longer based on truth. It is based on perceptions that are extremely distorted by the narrowed focus of survival mode. 

The Combined Effect Of The Ego And Survival Mode On Our Perceptions

When the ego is influencing our perceptions by twisting the truth to help us feel justified in doing whatever we need to do to get what we want and feel “right,” and when survival mode has been activated by trauma triggers and/or negative emotions; our understanding of a person or situation will likely be extremely inaccurate, while we will probably feel self righteously justified in our perceptions — and those words and actions that reflect them.
And even in the absence of ego influences or survival mode triggers — unless we are connected to a person or situation through higher consciousness — we will reach at best a marginal understanding of their words and actions. Realizing this may inspire us to seek deeper meaning, focus more on resolving our personal issues, drop something instead of persisting to prove our point, spend more time in meditation, prayer, and reflection; focus on humility rather than pride; focus on acceptance over resistance, and/or focus on forgiveness instead of judging. What do you think?

Photo credit: Alternative Shrink

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