‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as WE are.’
One of those really profound quotes (attributed to writer Anaïs Nin) that tickle our imagination, that tease a bit of wisdom into our system, that spark a piece of unknown freedom.
It feels rich and hopeful and might even open our eyes for a while, until we forget about it, a couple of minutes later.
Because it’s also one of those quotes most people never really take to heart.
We can understand it, it makes sense, for sure, but it gets easily washed away by our daily experiences.
We can intellectually grasp it, absolutely, but it hardly ever turns into something we carry around with us for the rest of our lives.
Into something that stays close to us, that changes us.
Still, there’s an amazing depth and value in this little sentence.
Using just a few words, it describes the source of all confusion in our lives, the source of war and poverty and inequality and racism and crime and torture and all the other things that so many people suffer from.
It is really easy to see how it works, but even easier to forget.
We KNOW that many people look at the world and at life in a different way, but we hardly ever take that into account in our daily interactions.
And even while we know very well that we all have a different outlook on life, different preferences, different tastes, different ideas about morality and ethics and what is right and wrong, we still make this big mistake: it’s believing that there’s a world out there and that we are in it, and what we see and how it feels is exactly the way it is.
But of course we never ever see THE world: we can only see ours.
The one we are constantly creating.
The unique, personal one.
And still, realizing this hardly ever changes us into more understanding, more empathic and liberated people on the long run.
It hardly ever causes us to take ourselves less seriously.
It doesn’t really changes our (reactive) behavior, which is totally understandable, but also fucking madness.
Because, just think about this: if the world is exactly the way YOU experience it, in every intricate detail, this would make you the only person alive who is capable of seeing the truth and raw reality of everything.
And according to that, every other person on the planet is at least a bit wrong about what they see and go through.
This just doesn’t make sense.
Even the biggest narcissist in the world probably realizes that they might be pure perfection in the flesh, but can’t be right about everything 100% of the time.
What makes this so complex is, well, that we only see the world the way we are.
We can intellectually understand that we make it up in our brain, that it’s an exclusive experience that only we get to live, but it still looks the way it looks.
Ugly trees, horrible movies, beautiful cars, annoying people.
I am right and you are not, and I have the feeling to prove it!
Also totally real.
But our emotions don’t care about reality.
They are just chemical slaves of our conditioning, our thinking, and they show up even if the reason they are there is completely mentally fabricated (which is always the case, by the way).
We believe, no, we KNOW that how the world looks and feels to us and how we respond to that, is in itself evidence of its reality.
It is real because it looks and feels and tastes real.
We hardly ever doubt the randomness of our inner creation, the falseness of our perception, even though we constantly encounter people who experience the same situation in a completely different way.
Yeah, it’s fucked up, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
So what can we do that helps us and other people to suffer less from this universal infliction that is caused by our unique mental filter?
We can remind ourselves of this profound truth again and again and again and again.
We can reflect on it until it starts to trickle into our human operating system and gets us out of our heads more, into the freshness and spontaneity of life.
We can stop, during the day, when feelings about other people flare up, and catch them before we’re on fire (just being with feelings without honoring them or even trying to get rid of them will make them disappear faster than you think).
We can start seeing that our first responses are just a result of automation, of years and years of listening to and looking at people we trust, and that there’s no obligation to go with them.
We can deliberately sow seeds of doubt about our personal perception, and that will create more and more space for more and more freedom of response, and less forced reactivity.
We can try and see and FEEL how we all live in this made up reality, every single one of us, so we might stop blaming ourselves and other people a little less for the ways we behave.
We can see that we all experience the world in a different way, but at the same time come from the same place, using the same mental mechanisms.
We can acknowledge that we are part of the same consciousness, that we ARE the same consciousness.
It requires work and cutting yourself and other people a shitload of slack.
It’s very much about reconditioning or even UNconditioning and it will probably take quite some time and energy, but life will be your perfect training ground, day in and day out.
It’s not particularly easy, but it truly is progress, it’s growth, and it’s very rewarding.
Because the really, really cool thing is: when we change the way we are in the world, the things we see start to change.
Just imagine the possibilities.
(Photo by @jeremythomasphoto)