This has been a big topic in recent therapy sessions and conversations with friends. The way we think a scenario went. How we think a situation occured. How we think our future will inevitably play out.
Perception is a funny and fickle thing. Have you ever thought someone to be rude in a conversation, but a friend thought they were nothing but pleasant – or vice versa? Or maybe you think that a situation you’re currently in has no end in sight or is something that you will be eternally be facing. Our brains can filter things in strange and sometimes frustrating ways.
I can speak to my own experiences that my “perception” causes an immense amount of stress. I can succumb to something called catastrophizing, which, according to my therapist and Medical News Today, is:
I am writing this post to not have you, dear reader, say woe is she. Rather, I wanted to verbalize here the many thoughts I’ve been having about this topic. As it is for many, it is cathartic to put my thoughts down on paper (or in this case, on WordPress).
There are days when these type of thoughts consume me. I’m realizing this thinking behavior prevents me from fully living and enjoying a moment. Whether it’s catastrophizing an outcome, or perceiving something so completely incorrectly, it’s not benefiting my happiness or life in any way. It’s a different type of opaque cloud than depression, it’s like a fog. I can somewhat clearly, yet something is preventing me from fully doing so.
Perception and expectation seem to go hand-in-hand. Both are strong ideas that something – that may not necessarily be occurring or will occur – is or will (you feel me?). These indubitably lead to doubt, anger and frustration. Side note: I could write a blog post on expectation, that’s a whole other topic I’d love to dive into.
Often times, when I’m working on Musings posts, I’m realizing how obvious and simple my advice is. But MAN, putting it into action is a whole other story.
Currently, I’m finding that shifting my mindset from this calamitous way of thinking has been a savior from a day spent wasted worrying. This involves me catching my negative thoughts, and speaking to myself in a way that is comforting and actually honest. “You can’t control or predict the future.” “In this moment, you are OK.”
Other times, I’ll reminiscence on a time when I thought that “this is my forever“. It’s a cruel trick I play on myself. I’ll look back on a time that was not my happiest, remembering how I felt during that period. But by doing so, I can fully embrace the joy in knowing I am no longer there and in fact, I have come so much further (not sure if this is the healthiest of practices, but here we are).
Depending on how you look at the “future”, it can appear to have one solid, definitive outcome, or many different options. It is then a fruitless venture to try to pinpoint in our minds what the exact outcome will be.
When I was fresh out of college and figuring what was real and not real in the fabulous post-grad lives of people I followed on social media, I wrote a blog post called Saturation and Contrast. I admit that I too was trying to make my post-grad life appear more extravagant online (when in reality I was desperately looking for a job and then figuring out how I would move to NYC). The post was all about how our perception of what we see on social media isn’t accurate (a big duh now, but a topic worthy of discussion in the early days in Insta). That post reminds me of this one I’m writing now.
It’s taken me a week to complete this piece. Perhaps because my perception on perception has gone through several revisions in my mind. I even debated sharing this post, but I’m glad I have. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable. It can be nerve-wracking sharing more personal thoughts online, but I would prefer to be as honest as I feel comfortable being in this space.
Perception vs. reality.
Take a step back. Don’t lose sight of the differences between these two things. Find the clarity in reality.