I sure hope some sections of this post aren’t too dry; there really is a method to my ‘madness of short lists’! Understanding how perception actually works was a very important step in my being able to comprehend what I could actually do to break free from negativity. I’m hoping I can break it down in a simple way that makes it easy for you to understand the value I got from more intense study, because I feel it was a big piece of the puzzle for me.
Okay, first a quick definition of perception (often confused with perspective, so I’ll clarify perspective’s definition too, in the manner it applies to this topic.) Perception is a process in which you become aware of what your senses are relaying to you; then translate that information into your beliefs.[The definition of perspective, as related to this post, is what you end up believing/acting on, based on your perception.]
An oversimplified look at the basic order in which perception is created:
Your senses take in information (stimuli) through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, balance, body position, movement, pain, and temperature.
This information is relayed to your brain.
Your brain first identifies the information (based on what you already know or assume) and sorts it into categories.
Next, it deciphers what the information means based on comparisons.
Finally, your brain concludes how you personally interpret it.
You base your expectations, opinions, actions, attitude and general outlook on these conclusions.
Here’s the important part: While it’s true your brain deciphers and translates what you sense automatically, there are processes connected to this automatic function which you can consciously influence. When you focus on the processes that you have a conscious choice in, you can sway your perceptions toward positivity.
In this post, I’ll explain how I influenced one of these processes, which is: How much attention I pay to the stimuli my senses pick up. I chose “Attention” because I’ve had considerable success with it, I hope you do too!
3 WAYS I INFLUENCE MY PERCEPTION:
Direct my Intentions [i.e. what I am looking to find; what I purposefully intend to pay attention to]
Choose the Stimuli (I pay attention to)
Repetition [i.e. choosing to sense the same stimuli over and over... or choose “not” to sense over and over, depending on it’s positive or negative effect on me.]
(See ‘Understand More’ and ‘Anti-Challenge Reframing’ for detail)
(About Perception/Influencing Your Attention)
Once the brain has made a rough translation of the incoming information and sorts it into groups, it then deciphers what the information means to you individually.
In this deciphering process, some of the comparisons that your brain uses to examine the incoming information and make determinations are:
Learning (comparing the new
information with pre-established conclusions/opinions you’ve gathered)
Memory (comparing personal or
learned experience from a group/cultural)
Additional factors influencing the deciphering process are:
How frequent your attention (and how much of your attention) has been focused on what your senses are picking up
What your intentions were before encountering stimuli (what you intended to pay attention to)
The intensityof the incoming stimuli (i.e. you will pay attention to a shout quicker than you will a whisper, if you are not already intending to listen for a whisper)
Your current motivation and emotions.
As I mentioned in ‘Sneak Peek’, while the task of constructing perceptions is automatic, there are influencing factors I do consciously have a say in. One that gets great results for me is: How much ATTENTION I Pay to the STIMULI my senses pick up.
If you are easily distracted by what usually catches your attention, there are specific suggestions addressed below, in the “Anti-Challenge Reframing” section.
Take a closer look at the 3 ways I influence my attention:
1.Intentions [i.e. what I purposefully intend to pay attention to; what I am looking to find.]
A simile would be: Let’s say you have a light bulb burn out in your home. You determine you must now purchase a bulb from a store to replace it, and you’ve arrived at the entry to the store.
Now, you have already determined you intend to purchase this specific item, before you even walk into the store, correct? Stop and think for a moment: Do you believe you are more likely to find the replacement lightbulb you need if you walk into the store with the thought in your mind, “I need to buy a light bulb”? What If you enter the store and are only thinking ‘I need something’, with no specific thought of the item you need? If you did not have in your mind that you needed a light bulb, you could try walking up and down every isle attempting to remember; though as you walk, your eyes would be scanning many items, trying to process and consider whether or not everything you see is what you need to purchase. Focusing on every item in your line of sight is likely to distracted you from remembering the lightbulb. The lightbulb is like the positive stimuli I seek out in situations, and everything else in the store is like negative stimuli; easy to be distracted by. Being focused on what you intend to look for, results in much better chances that you will find what you want.
2.Choose which stimuliI paying attention to
My initial reaction to this instruction was, “Oh no, this sounds hard.” That is, until I realized I already do this all the time, as do you. How many times have you been in an area with multiple sounds (people talking, a TV or music on, traffic noise, the sounds of nature, etc.) and “somehow” you’re able to immediately single out the sound of a notification on your phone, or someone calling your name? We single out stimuli we want to notice all the time, even if surrounded by a multitude of distracting and competing stimuli. So, we can reasonably say we already know a little bit about choosing the stimuli we want to pay attention to, while at the same time, choosing to filter out others stimuli that surround us. The task now becomes to narrow down the matter of focusing enough to choose the “positive”. The bottom line: The effort here, for the most part, will be something you're already familiar with. Now, it is more a matter of learning additional awareness skills and practicing focus.
3.Repetition [i.e. choosing to sense the same stimuli over and over... or choose “not” to sense over and over, depending on it’s positive or negative effect on me.]
A BIG HINT, in very straight talk: “Positive” environments register with us as such for a reason; they most likely have positive stimuli present. Surrounding myself the majority of the time with positive people, places and things, while limiting time with negative ones, has gone a long way toward making lighter work of filtering out the unwanted negatives. When I don’t subject myself to negative stimuli often, it is much easier to ignore it. In fact, it hardly even registers, when I’m truly focused on hunting for the positives.
Yes, I know, this may sound “goody two-shoes”, perhaps even cliché. I’m just relaying what I’ve found out for myself, the hardway. It’s worth mentioning that I’ve yet to hear a substantial argument which proves wrong the old saying: ‘If you play with fire, you get burned.’ In other words, when I find something or someone repeatedly giving off negative stimuli, my peace of mind is better off if I limit my time in that environment (unless I’m present in a legitimate helping capacity, within my scope of ability to help). Here’s the reason: Even if I manage to remain positive, I still feel the effects of the negativity; there’s a little bit of “icky feeling” that sticks around short term. The longer I’m around negativity, the more I can tell it affects me; it eats away at my positivity.
Because I live in the real world, I will always be around negative thinking to some degree, which is why I’m happy there is a silver lining attached to times I must be surrounded by negatives: I do not have to be consumed by the negativity. The remedy for countering the uneasiness is seeking out positive input as soon as possible, and continuing with a positive outlook. This dispatches the “ick” I pick up in fairly short order.
I have no intention of changing my cliché stance of staying away from negative stimuli. Given the choice, I would rather spend my time enjoying a new pleasant experience, than miss it because I’m busy cleaning off the “ick” from an experience I could have avoided. Life is just too short, and I enjoy being happy too much, to live in “ick” for long.
How do I go about consciously affecting change to something that’s done automatically in my brain?
a) Focusmy attention on the positives, what I’m looking for, in any situation [See How To in the ‘Anti-Challenge Reframing’ section of this post for helpful specifics.]
b) Remember my expectations are assumptions; assumptions can be replaced.[See ‘Anti-Challenge Reframing’ in both November17 and 24, 2018 posts for helpful specifics.]
c) Practice flexible thinking, every chance I get! (in retrospect, this skill helps me interpret past negative experiences in a more positive light. [See ‘Anti-Challenge Reframing’ in bothNovember 17 and 24, 2018 posts for helpful specifics. ]
(Part 3 of 5; Perception) Influencing Your Attention)
Tree Pose in tree - Holley 2014
Goals for this Exercise:
1.Understand how practicing mind-body discipline(s) affects your ability to focus your attention on positive stimuli
2.Investigate at least one mind-body discipline, and TRY IT! (If you’re already practicing, step up to the next level as soon as it’s feasible; why not see if your awareness increases?!)
Yes, deciding to focus my attention was a positive step, but it was also a tough order to fill by just “willing” myself to do so. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that when a task is difficult: Use a tool! The best tool I’ve found, for directing my attention, is practicing a combination of mind-body disciplines. For me, Mindfulness and Modified Yoga are the best fit. (Two other examples: Meditation and Martial Arts, such as Tai Chi)* Chances are, when you search for local or available distance learning mind-body discipline instruction, you will come up with a lot of information; not all of it suited for you, or even in the correct catagory. One idea to find what is available to you, is contacting a local Martial Arts or Yoga class establishment; they may be able to assist you. The main objective to keep in mind is: The whole point of practicing these type disciplines is to not only understanding them, but to feel them resonating in you. Getting a true sense of how your mind and body work together and affect each other, is the objective. (For the record, in my experience, reading alone about these type activities, whether they are mental or physical exercises, is not the same as experiencing the process.
The reason mind-body disciplines are thought to be effective: In working them, perception skills switch from primarily sensing stimuli outside ourselves, to gaining the additional perception skills needed to better read our internal signals.
An example of indirect results: One thing I've gained from practicing mind-body diciplines is the ability to use laughter and positive frame of mind to help manage chronic physical pain. (I’m not sure I would have been convinced this would work, if I did not feel these results myself.) This brings up a point that should be made: There's nothing quite like our own proof to convince us whether or not something works. You may want to try the Anti-Challange Reframing exercises and judge for yourself. It's quite possible you'll be surprised at how worthwile the effort can be.
*There are many sources for both aided self-instruction and guided group activities to learn more about practicing mind-body disciplines. Search for these as you would for any other resource information, and always take into consideration any conditions or concerns you have, and confer with a professional who is familiar with you and your specific history.
A STORY ABOUT THE LEAD PHOTOGRAPH (“Pretty in Pink”)
I usually wait to mention this at the end of story, but I want to toss out right up front: The only changes made to this shot were cropping and size formatting. No post processing, no filters run. No lighting, hue, contrast, etc. touched. The Sun was really this pink/orange/yellow/dark pink; the sky this grey; the clouds a near-neon spectacle. This lead photograph, “Pretty in Pink”, was shot on a summer evening this year; one of more than a dozen nights, when the Sun pulled out all the stops over Central California. What a show, and at lightning speed, it seemed! Horizontal stripes, changing hues faster than a Broadway professional changes costume.
There is something fascinating about watching an object that “appears” to move at a snail’s pace, suddenly scoot so fast that it’s hard to focus and shoot before it changes yet again. I suppose the illusion of the Sun lacking speed during the course of the day is enhanced by the fact that I don’t pay much attention to it, other than when it’s near either horizon, or casting interesting patterns of light through a tree.
Oddly enough, I’m not really being flippant (well, not much) about this game the Sun and I seem to be locked into playing. Every time the Sun runs a surprise play by me, I honestly do softly, but audibly, chuckle out loud; I can’t help it. How can we play the same game, over and over, and I never seem to catch on and beat him to the punch? For over a year now, I’ve been paying closer attention to the Sun at its rise and set, yet I still respond as if shocked, every time. (Don’t tell the Sun, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I enjoy this game of chase. If he catches on, there’s the risk he may slow down; that won’t due: Where would be the fun in that?)
Welcome! If you would like to get to know who is authoring this blog a little better, I've shared some background on myself in the 'About' page; located in 'Menu' at the top of home page.
Very much looking forward to sharing topics and suggestions with you which have contributed to my own positive outlook on life, as well as providing information you are welcome to utilize in nurturing your own life's journey.
Truly hope you find this blog to be a bright spot in your days, and enjoy the rewards that come with a positive outlook!