Sunday, November 21, 2021

Are You Sure of Your Perception?

Are you sure of your perception? I love this question. Sometimes I ask it of myself, and occasionally I ask it to someone close to me. I borrow it from Thich Nhat Hanh. The question is in the "Wrong Perceptions" portion of The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh. In this story, he tells of a man who had to leave home for a long time, unaware his wife was pregnant. Upon his return was a boy, whom he suspected was not his: "He hated him. He saw the neighbor's face in the little boys face." Years later, the man's brother visited and clearly saw his brother's face in his nephew's face. The man felt better about his wrong perception. But only after years of suffering. "We have to be very careful with our perceptions, otherwise we will suffer." 

It's a great reminder to check ourselves, and to check each other. If I text someone and don't hear back, why assume the person is mad at me? There could be another explanation. Maybe I run into someone at a store and I perceive they are cold to me. But how do I know what is going on in their day? 

Thinking about the power of perceptions reminds me, of course, of The Thomas Theorem. If we define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. Rather than run with a wrong perception, it's best to slow down until we are sure about what we think and what we believe.

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