How filters create your world – believe it or not!

nutshell headlineIt seems to me that within this world of ‘reality’ TV, faux-celebrity and online viral video distribution that we are presented with personal details about the lives of people with no other context than creating a cheap TV show or attracting followers online for short term fame. Whether the show is about ‘benefits cheats’ or ‘toffs’, we see their lives in all of its personal and intimate detail. I am not a fan. A personal choice. It reminded me of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a group of friends.

We caught the start of one of the latest ‘make me a star’ shows. I turned away; my view was that more people watched these shows to see people make a fool of themselves than watched it to see burgeoning talent. In other words, to make them feel better about themselves by comparing their life to someone worse off. By watching the failures, they felt more of a success. It seemed odd to me. Why did they require another person’s pain to prove to themselves that they were OK?

After a fairly heated discussion and, admittedly a week later, 4 out of the 6 came to me and actually admitted that I was right. My position was not taken from a ‘holier than thou’ perspective it is just that I don’t like watching people humiliate themselves. I kind of ache for them. It makes my toes curl. It appeared that the others did not suffer from this level of discomfort but they did admit that they watched for the flops not the ‘stars’.

In my recent work I have revisited this issue often. Namely, how and why do we make these judgements? How to we establish our values and beliefs and what do we do if we have to change them. If we make these judgements and evaluations when our life is in one place, do these beliefs change automatically when our situation changes. If so, how? If not, why not?

In general terms, we cannot consciously process more than approximately 2% of the information that we are presented with in any moment. If we had to take in and consciously process every minute detail of the world outside – sights, sounds, smells, etc – then we would overload in seconds. We process these new events in such a way that we can operate and live our daily life without constant conscious thought. You are selective when it comes to processing incoming information through your 5 senses and you also apply certain other filters to this on-rush of incoming information. Essentially what happens is our senses are filtered. They are filtered by our history and by that I mean that our mind searches for similar past experiences and provides us with the best fit. In this history live our memories and experiences and we further filter the current event with our beliefs and emotions and form a new opinion or complete the required action.

If we all have to filter this information with our beliefs, then exactly where do these come from, how long have we had them and are they actually our own anyway.

There is not a right way or a wrong way to apply your filters, just a learned way.

We all apply 3 main filters. In essence, we all delete, distort and generalise.

Deletions – without deletions we would simply be faced with too much information to deal with. Deletions occur when you selectively pay attention to certain aspects of your experiences and not to other aspects. When you delete something it means that you overlook or omit certain information that you have no immediate interest in.

Distortions – help us in the processing and planning of sensory input.

Distortion occurs when you make shifts in your experience of inputs by converting them into your internal representation of reality. Distortion is also used in planning when you construct imaginary futures, good and bad. E.g. if this thing happens then that will follow or if that happens I will be happy, if the other happens then it will be terrible for me.

Generalisations – where we draw global conclusions based on limited or singular experiences. You probably build your own world around these generalisations. They help form your values, opinions, decisions and experiences of life. You effectively take a single event or emotional experience and turn it into a whole world view. You may generalise one single event that is convenient or familiar to you and turn it into your own opinion. Then you base your reality upon this opinion. You make the illusions fit your reality and the reality fit your illusion.

My point? Simply that I found it extremely valuable to me to take some time out and assess my own beliefs. I did not make a big deal of it, no disappearing to a Tibetan temple, but simply made an effort to see people and events ‘as new’. Before I react or jump in with my undoubtedly correct opinion, vis a vis ‘facts’, I ask myself two questions; is this truly my opinion and where/when does it come from. Frequently my initial response is either tailored, brought up to date or expressed differently than what would have been my previous position. It is refreshing and can be quite surprising. I wouldn’t mind putting a little wager on the fact that if you do this yourself, in a quiet moment to build up some practice, that you too will find that your belief about something is maybe not quite that entrenched or has changed completely.

I would be interested to hear from you about your experiences of this.
Good luck, and have fun with it.

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