Whose Perception Is It, Anyway?Apr 04, 2023
By Arda Ozdemir and Elizabeth Ouellette
The hardship you experience fertilizes your growth.
When we take a moment to step back from our busy lives, we notice that we live in patterns. These restrictive and limiting patterns stem from thoughts and beliefs we hold true about ourselves and the world around us.
As children, we register and conform to the attitudes, mindsets, and ideologies of our parents, teachers, friends, family, and society. As a result, we live according to others' perceptions of reality, which we take on as our own.
As we age, we are replete with messages about ourselves that simply aren't true, but we believe them to be true. It's all we know. As children, we adopted these beliefs and behaviors to survive, but as adults, these old ways of thinking no longer serve us. Still, we continue to act and react using an outdated script, responding to a cast of obsolete characters. And maybe that's why we feel stuck from time to time.
As children, when experiencing an emotionally charged situation, we were not adult or conscious enough to recognize what was happening internally, so we unknowingly internalized our fears, inadequacies, and traumas.
As adults, we are so mesmerized with the busy-ness of life that we unknowingly, and to some degree, unconsciously, live our lives according to our limiting life patterns, reacting the same way over and over to life's challenges in the same unproductive way.
Let's say growing up, your dad criticized practically everything you did. Of course, as his child, you just wanted to please him, be seen by him, and be recognized. But, you never got the desired response; your efforts were in vain, so naturally, you felt not good enough.
Or, let's say every time you left the house, your mom said, "Don't wear that shirt; wear the other one. Are you going to wear that jacket? It's too cold, so wear a heavier jacket." Without thinking, you most likely obeyed your mom, following her precautionary measures, but ultimately felt controlled and powerless.
Past Experiences Play Out in the Present
Our outlook and behaviors are subject to our past experiences, which project themselves onto our present life and shape our future. These learned patterns may have helped us when we were young, but they limit our growth and development as adults. Why?
Our thoughts do not seek happiness, fulfillment, or emotional control; their main concern is keeping us alive and stopping us from being eaten by the next predator hiding in the forest. In other words, we live in fight and flight mode and react to situations as if we were still in our youth, struggling to get by.
What if your boss were to express concern about the professionalism of your PowerPoint presentation? You may immediately feel ashamed and embarrassed. Why? Your subconscious mind puts you right back in the throes of childhood when your mom or dad accused you of being slow, lazy, or idiotic for your inability to solve a problem and present yourself appropriately. Even though years have gone by, and you've grown and developed, your emotional reactions may remain static.
Are you feeling frustrated, stuck, or impatient?
Let's say you and your spouse are going to a dinner party. About to leave, your partner casually comments on your outfit, "Hey, is that what you are wearing tonight? You look much too casual, and the invite said semi-formal!"
At that moment, without even thinking, repressed feelings from your childhood rush into your head, and your comment may take on an angry tone as you unconsciously feel controlled, just like when your mom tried to make you wear a heavier jacket for the cold weather.
When the chronic pain of feeling stuck, angry, anxious, and/or sad becomes too much to bear, we start searching for a way out of the muck. The good news is that the key to unlocking a brighter future lies within. By choosing to investigate, go deep, and explore subconscious fears, you can rid yourself of past shackles and live freely!
Here are a few of the most common fears humans face:
- Not Good Enough
- Disappointing others
- Not being recognized
- Not being heard
Take a second and reflect. Are you aware of these traumatic hurts in your reactions to life?
How do these fears manifest?
If you are curious about which fears recur, observe the repetitive themes in your life. For example, do you strive to make others happy (lack of self-worth)? Do you withdraw from people to avoid closeness (fear of rejection)? Are you a social butterfly (fear of loneliness)?
Do a deep dive to uncover your fears.
Pay attention to your emotions to uncover these deep fears because they are at the tip of the iceberg. When bothered by someone's words or actions, put on your wet suit, fins, and mask and dive deep. Ask yourself curious questions to understand the root causes of your fears. Ask yourself, "What is my perception? What is my perspective? Where is this coming from?"
Take special notice of your triggers, as these are how limiting life patterns enter your life. When a person or situation makes you react emotionally (fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, frustration, jealousy, etc.), it's a golden opportunity to dig up the root cause. There is always a reason behind your emotional reactions.
Otherwise, there wouldn't be any emotional reaction. When there is no attachment, there is no meaning to a situation. So, once you tap into the core issues, you may be able to react differently or not react at all. Over time, you can start to change your reactions and change your life.