The secret to effective and successful life-navigation lies in understanding how people create their experience. Only when we become aware how we and others create our experiences will we be able to understand ourselves and others. Why is that? It has to do with the way our brain functions. People are not like cameras that take a picture of a person or a situation and give back what can be seen. Whatever raw data we take in through our senses will always undergo thought processes of interpretation and meaning making through our filters such as our moods, past experiences, beliefs, or values, to name a few. Humans are unable to perceive reality for what it is. – Notice the white dots in the picture left changing?
There is a very clear definition of perception on Wikipedia: Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs. For example, vision involves light striking the retinas of the eyes, smell is mediated by odour molecules and hearing involves pressure waves. Perception is not the passive receipt of these signals, but can be shaped by learning, memory and expectation. Perception involves these “top-down” effects as well as the “bottom-up” process of processing sensory input. The “bottom-up” processing is basically low-level information that’s used to build up higher-level information (i.e – shapes for object recognition). The “top-down” processing refers to a person’s concept and expectations (knowledge) that influence perception. Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.
Thus what we think is not really real. What really happened is more than anything a construct of our personal mind whereby we create moment for moment the reality we perceive to be out there and then we ‘forget’ we were the creator, the thinker, and call it ‘real’.