“Perception is strong and sight weak.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi

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“Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion.  Life is like a train of moods like a string of beads, and, as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, one of my pet peeves is when people say “It is what it is.”  Because even if you’re talking about a tangible object, nothing ever is what it is (rhubarb pie to you might be a great thing…to me, it’s a trip to the toilet).  Here’s why:  every word we speak, thought that we have, suspicions that might haunt us, how we see a gift, how we react to a particular person or animal or food, etc. are filtered through our own perceptions.  Period.  Our minds are like onions with things being processed through various layers that are unique only to us (and that can also make us cry).

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Think about it.  When you were a baby, nothing ‘was what it was.’  You had to learn about everything through your own innate abilities and then from others.  If a baby pulls a dogs tail (and O did this many times with Scooter who would sigh and look at me for rescue) and the dog snaps at them, guess what?  That baby is going to perceive dogs as being mean and will most likely be afraid of them.  I remember a cat hissing and making that horrible snarling type noise at me when I was at a neighbors house in the 2nd grade…ever since then, I do not like cats, have absolutely no desire to interact with them, and avoid them like a plague.  P.S.  Please don’t try to change my mind:  me not liking cats is what it is.  🙄

I remember walking home from a friends house when I was around 10 or so, and our neighbor had a HUGE Great Dane (yes, that’s an oxymoron but I had to emphasize this beasts massiveness) who was getting old and cranky.  As I walked around the corner of our block, he came at me fast, hard, and snarling.  I peed myself covered my face and finally his owner heard me screaming and got the dog under control.  After that, I perceived all big dogs to be a threat and only lost that years later when Hubby 2 had a white German Shepherd I had to be a mama too.  She was able to change my mind, but I’ll tell you what, I was terrified of her at first but cried like a baby when she died.

everything-we-hear-is-an-opinion-not-a-fact-everything-we-see-is-a-perspective-not-the-truGet my point?  Instead of saying “It is what it is”, we need to change that to “It is what we interpret it is based on our own thoughts, viewpoints, experiences, memories, values, belief systems (including political and religious ideologies), socialization, cultural norms, verbal and non-verbal language used, etc.”  However, that just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, huh?

I think perception really comes into play with communication and can cause a lot of conflict when the perceptions differ and effort isn’t made to understand what thought processes are being used.  Take flirting.  I’m an extrovert.  A HUGE extrovert who loves loves loves to chitchat and interact with people anywhere and everywhere.  Besides my lucky family, I talk to my neighbors, postman, garbage men, random people in stores or when I’m out walking, on airplanes, on social media…pretty much where ever someone happens to be.  When I write anywhere but here (I’m trying very hard to make sure this blog is taken seriously), I use a ton of exclamation points!  In fact, I feel guilty when I don’t because to me, periods look like you are ending a sentence with kind of a ‘meh’, instead of with excitement! 😄

So anyhoot, when I talk to people on social media, I use exclamation points, lots of emojis, etc. and a friend of mine said I was much too flirty.  Heh?  I’m not talking to men any differently than I talk to women.  I see (perceive) my interactions to be funny or sweet or jokey.  But, my friends perception is different.  I think a lot of it is because he’s far more quiet and introverted, and as a guy he just doesn’t use emojis and exclamation points quite as much as women might.  I also wonder if he’s had issues where flirting led to much more, so he perceives any ‘excited and fun’  communication as the start of something more serious.

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I can understand this, but my perception doesn’t agree with it.  Should I change my perception and start to see that I’m ‘flirty’ when I feel I’m just being fun and nice?  Should I change myself to fit his perceptions?  Should I stop using emojis when I respond to men’s comments?  Would it be disrespectful if I didn’t?  If we were in a relationship, would it be ‘fair’ for him to expect me too?  Why does my perception have to be his…and vice versa?

However, I know my perceptions have colored so much of how I see things in my life.  After being sexually abused by my psychologist for 2 years, I am very leary when a new man comes into my life because a part of me still assumes they only want me for their own satisfaction.  Rationally, I know that’s probably not true, but my perception stands.

When I start getting close to someone, I want to know who they are messaging or texting regularly since this is how J communicated with the woman he was planning a rendezvous with.  Because of my experiences, it makes me nervous that any texts to another woman could be fodder for an affair.  So, should a man have to hand his phone over to me based on MY perceptions?  No.  But should he try to understand why I have that perception?  Yes.

Early on when I was growing up, I always felt I wasn’t enough. Obviously, so many of these sensitive, self-critical feelings/perceptions were stemming from early indications of mental illness, but even now, I still have the same perceptions.  Regardless of how much I try to give or do, in my eyes it’s never enough.  So, when someone says “This is your fault, you didn’t do enough”, it doesn’t matter if it’s objectively true or not.  My perception is that of having failed them…and myself.

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I learned in my family that work is very important (which isn’t a bad thing) and being idle can be seen as laziness.  To this day, I try to ‘keep busy’ and if I watch a movie in the middle of the day or take a nap, I still feel a sense of guilt and make up for the lost time when I get up.

When I was suffering that fucking breakdown, so many things had piled up on me:  the senseless death of my nephew, the passing of my mentor, finalizing the divorce with Hubby 3, the crash of my relationship with J, a troubled student who threatened me at school, as well as surgery I was scared to have.  And here’s the thing (which actually breaks my heart), I used to see the world as sunshine and rainbows…or at least I tried too.  I really did.  I was a modern day Pollyanna who had a tough time seeing bad in things.  But now I do…and I hate it.  These things that happened changed my half-glass full perception to seeing a half-empty one instead.  I understood that the world can change in a heartbeat and there’s a lot of bad out there that can hurt you anytime it wants (I’m trying to mitigate this view and understand there’s both good and bad…).

Once I ‘came out’ as being bipolar, so many people rallied around and supported me.  But so many also faded away…their perception of me and mental illness was one they just couldn’t ‘see’ in their minds.  I was no longer Kristi.  I was mentally ill Kristi that made them uncomfortable and unsure how to act around me.

I think it’s a good idea to examine our perceptions to get a better understanding of where they came from and how they are affecting our lives…our relationships…our communication.  If we don’t understand what lenses we’re using to see the world, how can we pass those glasses to anyone else?  And, if can’t explore the basis for our own feelings and behavior, how can we begin to work on what we want or need too?

You know, my perceptions aren’t right or wrong, and neither are yours.  Our perceptions are ‘ours’ and need to be respected.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to other viewpoints and change, but by the same token, it’s not fair that others demand you to see things through only their eyes.  It’s not right to HAVE to change who you are and what you believe to be accepted.  What’s right is to explain WHY you hold these perceptions to be true, because that’s the only way understanding will take place.

Kristi xoxo

Author: Kristi

Just a bipolar Professor working to end the stigma of mental illness.

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