The Healthy Relationship Part 5: Alternate Realities

ImageA sign in an amusement park says; look in peep hole to see a man eating chicken. Now, if you saw that sign what image do you think you’d see through the hole? Is it a man munching out on a piece of chicken? Or is it a large chicken eating a man?

What about these sentences? The man saw the boy with the binoculars.  Did the man have the binoculars or the boy? Or, how about, hole found in changing room wall; police are looking into it. Are they investigating the incident or looking in the hole?  

These are called syntactic ambiguities. Why am I telling you all this? Because it is a good demonstration of how our brains perceive the world around us. For every person who sees a man eating a piece of chicken there are probably equal number who see a large chicken eating a man.

If we want to understand and navigate our behaviors we have to grasp the way our brains see our world.

ImageAll around us is the Real World. This is everything that exists; no matter if we realize it or not. The real world contains trillions of pieces of information bombarding us constantly. Our brains are not equipped to handle all this so it selects what is most important and screens out the rest. 

It is generally accepted that there are three filters used to screen select Real World information for our use.  They are called: Knowledge, Values, and Perceptions.

Whatever information remaining after screening is now evaluated and a decision is made. Either, this information is in-line with our wants and needs and we feel good. This information is neutral and does not matter to us. Or this information is not in-line and may threaten our wants and needs and we feel bad.

If we decide that the information is in-line and we feel good, we keep our filters screening the same way, and continue to behave based on this information. The system is working well.  However, if the opposite is true, we feel out of balance and our system goes into red-alert. Depending on how far off balance we feel determines how much drastic action we take.  

For example, let’s say you are watching your child on the swing-set at a local playground.  The weather is good, the park is not crowded, and your child is having fun. You feel good.  All of the sudden, the swing chain brakes and endangers your child. Chances are at this point in time, your brain could care less what the weather is like or how crowded the park is. Instead information such as speed and what angle to leap in order to catch the falling child would be more practical.

Problems pop-up when we feel bad or out-of-balance and the adjustments we make are not the best.  Our actions could make things worse. They could fix things in the short-run but not long term. Or the adjustments solve what we think is the real issue making us feel out-of -balance when it is another issue deeper down we have not addressed.

When we feel out-of –balance, we think, feel or do something different to feel better. The next step is, did it work? If not or it did not work the way we hoped, then a change in the information screened through the filters or an adjustment to the filters might be in order.

The filtering system is one of the easiest ways to get from out-of- balance to in-balance.

Knowledge Filter: This is a filter that contains pieces of information we already learned. I don’t think all information learned is actually in this filter. I think we have the ability to alter this. For example, I learned my ABCs in pre-school. This is always in my filter because I read and write daily.  I learned to fish when I was four-years-old but never fish. I really don’t think this is in my knowledge filter. But if I pushed myself, I could remember some memory of fishing and probably some terms from hearing others talk of fishing.   

If the information we are using to filter Real World information prevents us from acting in a way to feel good, get our needs met and be in-balance, we need to search for new knowledge. We can also reassess knowledge we already have and decide what needs to be added or subtracted. 

This is as easy as someone saying, “Hey, remember back when and you had this happen. You did such-and-such and it worked out. Maybe you should try that now.”

Your reply, “Oh, I’d forgotten that. I’ll have to re-pull that knowledge and see how it changes my options.” Now you have added old information to your active knowledge filter.

Values Filter:  This is the, how important is this information to me, filter.  When information enters this filter a value is placed on it. Is it positive information? Information that helps us become balanced, meets our needs? Or is it negative, something that has the potential to prevent or hinder getting our needs met? Some information is neither and we don’t give it a value.  

Perception Filter: This filter is the very selective, how we see the world based on everything that is us. This includes our gender, culture, experience, sexual orientation, parents, age, race, etc. The amount of inclusions in here can be astronomical.  Because no one is the same as anyone else, each person’s Perception is different. Like the other filters, it can change.  Perspective might be another good word for this area. To change our perspective is to change our perception filter.

All of the above is then evaluated against what Dr. William Glassier called the Quality World. The QW is sort of like the answer to the magic wand question many therapists ask. If you had a magic wand, what would life be like? In the Quality World we have pictures of how we think we can get our needs met in the most satisfying way. All our filters are balanced to provide the Real World information the system needs to best get to our Quality World picture.

For example: If I have a high need for love and a low need for power (see prior posting for more details), my Quality World might have a picture of me being adored by family and friends. There is never conflict. I do volunteer work and always put others ahead of my needs. 

It is probably more specific than this. Maybe, I’m a stay-at-home mother with three adorable, cherub-like kids and a dog named Elmo. My husband, who looks like George Clooney, works as a Podiatrist and I go to the Sisters of Perpetual Mercy Church three times a week.  I make an amazing meat-loaf. It’s to die for.

That picture is what my brain will use to set my filters and gather information from the Real World. It is through that information, evaluated against my Quality World picture that I will use to behave. I will use it to think, feel and act a certain way. My way, may not be your way.

ImageThat is why some of us see a man eating a chicken while others see a chicken eating a man!

About Debbie Hill,

Wellness Counselor, Author, Photographer, Interested in living a balanced, compassion centered life, travel, spiritual/supernatural issues, history, all things Disney. If that's not eclectic, I don't know what is.

Posted on April 1, 2013, in Relationships, The Therapist is in and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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