It’s amazing what perception does to the psyche – how external influences shape us to think and feel a certain way. Oprah said it best, “We’re not born to feel any certain way it’s when we’re old enough to be influenced that it starts.”
To illustrate this, let’s say there’s a glass of water on the table in front of you. Do you look at it and believe the “glass is half full” or do you believe the “glass is half empty”? It’s a great illustration of how we take a neutral object or event and turn it into something with meaning, based on previous influences in our lives, including emotions we were preconditioned to feel. (In case you’re wondering, people tend to say it’s “half full” but their usual demeanor and sentiment doesn’t reflect that observation at all.)
It’s no surprise that negative thoughts and feelings are easier to hang onto – you see more negativity in the news and online than you see positive stories, or even around the dinner table when perhaps your parents were discussing current events. It’s unfortunate too because the feelings of contentment, happiness, giddiness, and elation are all things we love to feel but are conditioned not to show to its fullness (it’s considered gloating in American culture). Yet, it’s highly permissible to show sadness, anger, irateness, furiousness, hate, etc. because those are socially acceptable emotions that people believe spark “change”. Don’t entirely agree?
Let’s say you’re walking down the street and you see someone smiling and whistling to themselves, saying hello to anyone that passes by (exclude Canada – they are about the friendliest country I’ve ever been to). Nine times out of ten, the first thought is that that person must be on something, they look dangerous. You might freak out and cross the street, or not make eye contact, or even start using social media to recount your experience because to us, happy behavior in public by a single individual is “weird”, not wonderful. Yet, we watch a riot on TV, or read about an attack in another country, or even see someone being a bit tense in our daily life, and it is the norm, almost as if expected that this should happen. We then go onto social media to post irate thoughts; decide we can solve world peace with a single post; continue to say things like, “my thoughts and prayers are with…” when you’re not even truly religious or even believe in what you’re saying; or even change your profile pic to a flag overlay”. We do these things because we see everyone else do it and feel we’re supposed to; or we think someone will be critical of us if we don’t; or we feel social media is free therapy (that gets projected onto everyone else). Yet what we don’t do is actually take the things we see, and DO something about it in a positive manner.
I’ve long believed that people became part of organized groups to establish a sense of emotional belonging in this world. It creates what psychologists call,”the herd mentality“. Think back to your studies of Roman B.C. times when people had nothing to believe in, so Gods and other idols were created and worshiped, causing humans to evolve as thinkers, philosophers, and doers. It’s absolutely fascinating to look at things from that perspective, when one or two people can persuade an entire group to think one way! Yet, when this happens, it tends to feel safer to go with a group, instead of creatively coming up with new ways to look at something.
Deepak teaches us that having an attitude about being open, as well as an expansive awareness, means creating your own thoughts from scratch. You take a look at a situation in a neutral manner and ask yourself how you REALLY FEEL about it, or what you REALLY THINK about it, without taking into account others’ reactions. It is from this place that you are able to change your own perception on the world.
Putting it into practical use today…
I remember my first few breakups in my life – I wallowed in them, constantly questioning what I did wrong, distraught for months that I lost this person because I wasn’t good enough. I’d then hop into another relationship, thinking it to be the best thing, so I didn’t have to think about my pain. I believed that this is how it was supposed to be. I defined myself, based on someone else.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago. I came out of a divorce that I had no way to control and although sad, I chose to look at this through a different lens. The universe was telling me that this was not the right person, that he came into my life because I had things I needed to learn about myself and from that, I grew immensely. I never held a grudge against him, nor did any fights happen. I accepted that whatever mission the universe had for me, was accomplished, and it was okay to move on. I didn’t let outside opinions influence me, even when they were strong. I knew in my heart life was going to go on and be exciting!
The best thing about this above story is that I realized taking a positive stance on how life can go, was the best thing I could do. It left me feeling freer, eager to explore what’s next, as well as more grounded in who I am.
I guess this long, drawn-out diatribe is my way of saying that YOU can change the picture any time YOU want. YOU have the power to be happy, to open your own door to a different perception, and to live life the way YOU want to live it.