The first time I realized perception affects reality, I was standing in front of the train tracks next to my home, lost in a reverie.
I stared into the stones leading to the tracks, amazed that the colors looked vibrant and foreign.
I had just returned from a service-oriented trip to a neighborhood that had shaken my perception of my own. All this time I had believed that my neighborhood was as dangerous as they come in the U.S., but I had seen there that I was wrong.
I wondered, “Is my neighborhood even that dangerous? Or have I just bought into the belief that it is?”
My identity shook with the possibility that my neighborhood, and therefore I, wasn’t as tough as I had thought.
As I stared into those stones, marveling at the new colors, I realized that my perception of my neighborhood had changed and, amazingly, that was why the colors I was seeing were now so different.
It was as unnerving as it was exciting.
A few years later, during an argument with a friend, I thought back to this moment.
The argument had arisen because we had different recollections of the same incident. We both thought we were right… and, weren’t we? Neither was lying, we merely had a different interpretation of reality because of our different recollections.
I marveled at how this different interpretation made it feel like we were inhabiting two different worlds (with two different languages!), even while still physically being in the same one.
I thought back to the stones and wondered what the world physically looked like through her eyes, in that moment.
I took comfort in these eye-opening musings, particularly as I felt that relationship unravel temporarily.
I noticed how my perception and expectations of a person could reveal a different side to them, almost as if it were a different person, altogether – just like those stones. I noticed how this was true across the board (with people and experiences) and seemed to be mainly limited by my ability to change my expectations or perception of that person or experience.
I realized that each person, each experience, contains within it the possibility of SO much but that my expectations could cause me to miss out on everything outside of those beliefs.
I applied these beliefs in attempting to repair certain relationships. I chose to look for more of the positive in them, give them the benefit of the doubt, even if I couldn’t see it then. Sometimes I was successful. Other times… not so much.
When I was successful, however, they were grand victories. I turned a near-enemy into an ally by noticing more of the positive in her. I saw past the ostensible limitations of people that others had given up on. I use it to continually strengthen my relationship with my partner; sometimes, we assume the people closest to us to be static individuals and proclaim, “I know how you are!”
But we don’t. We don’t know what that person is capable of because that person is ever-evolving. And our expectations, interpretations, and perceptions of that person may not allow us to see all of who they are and are becoming. Healing relationships starts from acknowledging this fact, that whomever we’re struggling with embodies a deeper and wider range of humanity than we can see.
Knowing that our expectations and perceptions affect our reality is a powerful tool; one that can change everything in your life, if you let it.
Peaceful Dumplings, which people or situations in your life could benefit from more positive expectations?
How could your friendships or interactions with others change with a bit of tweaking of your thoughts about them?
Also by Amparo: Why You Should Choose Inspiration Over Motivation
How to Overcome a Quarter Life Crisis
On Giving Yourself Permission to Grow
Photo: Vicky TH via Flickr