Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

What We Think We See

We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. ~Anais Nin

I’m not sure what this says about me, because when I glanced at this sticker in the grocery store, I thought it said “Fairy Traded Bananas.” How whimsical, I smiled, pausing to picture tiny fairy farmers bringing their produce to market.

After taking a second look and reading the label as it was, I got to wondering how often I do that. How often do I look at something or someone and think I know what I’m seeing? And based on what I think I see, I then form judgments, and from there I add some narrative. Emotions are quick to follow, and before you know it, I’m engaging with whatever or whoever it is from within a closed universe of reality, my closed universe of reality.

In this way, I have carried on entire relationships, hidden in embarrassment, been the hero of many stories, suffered hurt feelings, lashed out in anger over perceived wrongs, come to the rescue of people who, now that I think of it, might not have needed any help, and lived numerous versions of my childhood.

We all do it to varying degrees. We are a species that lives for the most part in our minds. The question, to me, is not whether we can stop our minds from spinning out tales, but rather whether we can catch ourselves when we do it and take a step back to consider how accurate our perception might be. Can we observe how our minds work, and explore their pathways with curiosity and compassion?

Can we, even for a moment, step outside the story and look afresh at the world around us, the things we see, the people we meet? In that moment, we might find ourselves surprised, and perhaps even delighted. Although, I confess, I was disappointed to realize that fairies had not produced the bananas. Oh well.

Come with me leave your yesterday your yesterday behind
And take a giant step outside your mind
~Taj Mahal

4 thoughts on “What We Think We See”

  1. I love the paragraph about carrying on entire relationships in one’s head. Every phrase in that paragraph is true for me. And it reminds me of an internal relationship that I only noticed about six months ago. Humorous.
    My relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, we are tight. But I’ve been a critic. For 27 years or so, when I’ve heard his name or had a thought that obscurely led to him, I’d think a negative thought. Maybe something like “he’s not a good actor; just a pretty boy.” I only recently saw Titanic and am not sure what else I’ve ever seen of his. So I don’t recall the genesis of this thought, why I’d even have an opinion about him at all. So six months ago or so, one thought led to another and there Leonardo and I were, deep in relationship. Me with my negative vibe. And I thought, “Holy moly! What the heck is going on here? For how long have I been holding this space in my mind for this negative relationship? And negativity founded on nothing; or, if on something, most likely on jealousy. And this belated recognition (27 years or so) that I’ve been squandering (at least a bit of) my life energy strongly suggests there must be a multitude of (internal) relationships I’m engaged in without awareness that are squandering my energy. Its boggling to consider.”
    Now, reflecting back on that, perhaps the awareness accomplished something. I don’t think I’ve thought of Leonardo since then, until just now. So sorry, Leonardo. Apparently, we’ve broken up.

    1. So sorry to hear about you and Leo. You were being funny, of course, but the humor comes from how much we can all relate to your story. Thanks for your comment, Marjorie.

  2. It’s my observation that this same dynamic extends to what we think we hear. Many times the mind races ahead of what the ears are hearing and supplies the ending that best goes with the errant message. It is difficult for me to reframe from blurting out a response to what I perceive rather than the meaning that is intended by the speaker. I can only say that reforming that habit is a work in progress.

    1. That is so true, Collin, about what we think we hear. Once I confused the sound of a dog barking with the sound of a train whistle! Not at all alike but my brain couldn’t wait for a nanosecond to sort out the right identification. And I think all of us sometimes “mis-hear” what someone else is saying because we, like you said, jump ahead rather than listening. Thanks for commenting.

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