IN Ireland we love to talk about the weather. But it always strikes me how different people’s perception of this same weather can be. For some we have been having a great summer – and for others we still haven’t had a summer! For some it is cold, for others it is lovely and mild, and for others the heat is unbearable.
Each person is coming at the same thing but from their own angle. One person may have slept badly, and 20 degrees feels like 15, whereas another person is outdoors gardening all day and 20 degrees feels like 25. One person always goes on a sun holiday abroad and so no amount of good weather at home can match that. Another holidays at home and any day without rain is considered a good day.
Our perception of an event (like the weather) is not reality, yet it forms our reality. We believe our own perception even if it is not based on fact. Usually our perception is made-up of a mish mash of our five senses, our personal experiences, our beliefs, any cultural norms and our accumulated knowledge to that point in our life. All these factors are processed by our brain, which will give us an idea of the world outside of us.
Many times, when someone comes to counselling, they present the story of their life or a recent situation from one perspective. Based on their experiences etc it is normal that they would see it from that perspective. Yet there is nearly always more than one way to approach a situation and this is where counselling can help.
If you sincerely want to make changes in your life, it is important to understand where your perceptions come from, but also to work on identifying and considering alternative ones.
To change your perception of an experience does not mean that you are denying what occurred. When you change your perception, you are trying to ‘see’ something from a different vantage point. It doesn’t mean the experience didn’t happen. It simply means that you are trying to attach a different meaning to the event. It is you who attaches meaning to all your experiences, so you might as well attach the meaning that serves you best.
Take this simple example. The bin needs to be put out. You can view this as something that is stopping you doing what you really want to be doing in this moment. You can curse to yourself, blame others for not doing it, ruminate on it for hours first, basically feel very negative about it. Or you can view it as an opportunity to improve your life in some way. You can see it positively as a way to keep your home clean, as an act of self-care, where you are looking after yourself and your home. It is a simple tweak of your perception, between impediment or opportunity, that can affect how you are feeling for hours that day.
This can be applied to many events, small or large, that happen in life. It is worth playing around with this idea in your own mind. Change your perceptions slightly and see if you notice any differences in how you are feeling.
Jannah Walshe is a fully accredited psychotherapist, course facilitator and mental-health speaker based in Co Mayo. More information about Jannah can be found at www.jannahwalshe.ie.