We don’t all see the same thing.
Sure, we could be looking at the same situation, the same object, the same person, but what we see–what we actually perceive–is filtered by our life experiences and our beliefs.
Ask any cop; s/he will tell you that eye-witnesses can look at the same crime but each see something different. Happens all the time.
What we see is not always what’s intended.
I saw it recently in something I wrote about domestic violence. Every reader had access to the same words on the screen, but some saw things that weren’t there.
Their perceptual filters deleted, distorted and even generalized concepts that weren’t necessarily intended.
Sometimes, their responses made the presence of those powerful filters obvious.
Anais Nin observed the same thing, when she said: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
But we’re unaware that our experiences are filtered, most of us, anyway. We think our view is clear, the truth is straightforward.
In fact, it is rarely that simple.
I wonder what it would be like to consciously remove our perceptual filters. Take them off. And then look at something. Naked.
Or to examine our responses to something and figure out what about us has created a particular perception or response.
By the time we get to midlife, it’s mighty hard to do that. We’ve had decades to develop our points of view and our reactions and responses are almost knee-jerk.
Think about the people you know who think of their glass as half empty. Or half full. Those are learned responses to life.
When you write opinion, as I do from time to time, it’s not necessary that everyone agree. At least for me it’s not necessary.
But it does surprise me when readers see things that aren’t meant–and aren’t even there in black and white.
And it can be interesting trying to figure out what about that person has influenced their response.
Has anyone ever seen something that wasn’t meant in what you’ve written or said? What happened?