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Seeing Can Be Deceiving

Amazing Mirror Maze at the Mall of America

Photo courtesy of Amazing Mirror Maze - Mall of America

We have all heard the phrase "Seeing is Believing." What that phrase means is that something must be seen before it can be accepted as true or believing that it exists. It means relying on your perception, on what you see with your physical eyes, and accepting what you see as the ultimate truth of a situation. But, what if what you see is really an illusion?

Boston has an exhibit called "Seeing is Deceiving" at the Museum of Science. This exhibit contains dozens of images that, upon closer inspection, are really not what they appear to be. An optical illusion occurs when the way you see something is different from what it actually is. Optical illusions are proof that our perspective of reality can be flawed. They reveal that there can be errors with our perception.

Photo Credit: Akiyoshi Kitaoka This image appears to be moving and multi-dimensional. It is really a single-layered image. Staring straight into the center will cause the image to stop moving.

Photo Credit: Akiyoshi Kitaoka

This image appears to be moving and multi-dimensional. It is really a single-layered image. Staring straight into the center will cause the image to stop moving.

When we look at an image, such as this optical illusion, our eyes will send a signal to the brain, and triggers the brain to process what is seen. Visual perception is the brain's ability to receive, interpret, and respond to what we see. It affects how we view and respond to our surroundings and circumstances.

Our perception refers to our ability to interpret and analyze what we see. The interpretation we come up with, or the conclusion that we reach based on what we perceive, will determine our response. How we analyze a situation is determined by many factors. Our emotions play a huge role in our ability to accurately interpret what we see.

The perception of our reality controls our perspective. Our perception is influenced by our beliefs, which determines our perspective – our point of view, the way we regard something. Here's an simple example of two individuals who find themselves in the same situation yet respond differently. This example can help us better understand how perception affects our perspective, which influences our response.

These two individuals have been approached by a homeless person asking for food.

The first person believes that those who are better off in life should help those in need if they are in a position that allows them to do so. This belief affects how they view the current situation, or their perception. They see a person in need, which they can help. Their perspective allows them to look at the homeless person's situation in a different light. Their mind processes possible scenarios of how this person may have gotten to that place of homelessness, and they understand themselves what it's like, having experienced homelessness. Their experience provides that foundational belief that sometimes, everyone needs a helping hand. They see this person through the lens of compassion, and as a result, offers their help.

The second person is also approached by a homeless person asking for food. This person believes that people who are down in life are in that position for a reason and it is not their responsibility to help them because they need to learn from their mistakes. This belief affects how they view the person who is approaching them, asking for their help. They see a person who can work yet chooses to rely on the help of others. They have been taught not to rely on anyone and if you find yourself in a tough situation, you pick yourself up. This belief is reflected in this situation, and they view this person through the lens of indifference and as a result, informs the homeless person that they cannot help. They made an assumption based off of their belief. But the truth of the matter could have been that this person became homeless due to a fire, and life circumastances were difficult, leading them along a difficult path in which they struggled to recover from.

These two situations started off the same, yet ended very differently because of the completely different responses. The way we perceive something will determine our reaction towards what we have assessed. It can determine our attitude, or our perspective, and affects how we respond. Our beliefs play a huge role in how we perceive (or see) the world around us.

Living in fear is an example of how our perception can be impacted negatively. Fear heightens our awareness and an unhealthy fear can actually magnify the situation making it seem worse than what it appears to be. Fear can prevent us from seeing the true nature of a situation. I would also like to mention that fear can be a good thing as it can allow us to approach a situation with caution. But to be overly fearful, can cause more harm than good.

Let's say you are a timid person. You are in a relationship with someone who is angry and controlling. They're not very pleasant to be around and can be quite triggering. They constantly degrade you and make you feel worthless. Your natural response is to be fearful of them. You are scared to leave because you had been led to believe that you have no other options. You feel the need to constantly placate them so they will leave you in peace. This leaves you stuck in a feeling of hopelessness with no way out.

But what if the truth of the situation is that they are actually extremely insecure. Their tactics to make you feel worthless is their attempt to keep you stuck in the cycle of shame to boost their own confidence because they want you dependent on them. They use their words to paint an illusion.

The word truth is the quality or state of being true. The word true means in accordance with fact or reality. See, their intimidation tactics and attempts to make you feel ashamed is meant to create an illusion to cause you to be fearful and to believe that without them you will fail. An illusion can be defined as a deceptive appearance/impression or a false idea or belief. Therefore, their words paint this picture that you receive in your mind, and if accepted as truth, becomes a belief. Yet, it is only an illusion that is meant to keep you in bondage to them, which allows them to exert a form of dominance over their ability to have control over you and your emotions. (Note: This is just can example of a situation. Many situations may be similar, yet different).

So, we can see here how beliefs and emotions can shape our perception. Our emotions can deceive us and create illusions. People can also use our fears and insecurities against us and create illusions to manipulate our perception. In order to disentangle ourselves from difficult situations like the one described above requires a shift in perspective first which involves taking a step back - removing your emotions from the equations and assessing all the facts. We need the correct understanding to have a different perspective. Understanding correctly is key. Where there is confusion and chaos, there is no peace. And the lack of peace usually means the presence of fear which can lead to reckless decisions.

Perception involves organizing, identifying, and interpreting the environment or situation around is. This process allows us to make judgements and decisions based on our assessment. The ability to make wise decisions is dependent upon taking the facts of a situation, without allowing our emotions to guide us, identifying the best decision that needs to be made, and determining the best option as we weigh them considering short and long-term consequences. It allows us to remain strategic and realistic, while setting achievable goals.

One of the tactics of a manipulator is to cause confusion, which is also known as gaslighting. They attempt to cause a person to question reality, sowing seeds of self-doubt. They will use your words against you, twist the facts, and even outright lie. They can even cause you to question your own sanity. It is usually best to keep a record of conversations and incidents that occur so that if the time comes to confront the situation, you will have the facts. This allows you to keep track of what is going on and can refer back to it as needed. Practicing self-care and establishing boundaries is important, also.

This allows you to remain clear-headed and protect your peace. Guard your heart from those who seek to draw you away from reality into an illusion because this can easily become a snare. Stay focused and remain sober-minded. The eye is the lamp of the body, so we guard our hearts and souls by guarding the gateways of our eyes, which spiritually speaking are the things we meditate and focus on. When we establish a habit of doing this, we will not be easily deceived.

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