Perception vs. Reality

Published May 24, 2019 by:
your perception is your reality - perspective - reality - learning the difference - royal life centers

Your perception is your reality.

Change your perception, change your reality. Perception is your perspective, which is based upon your experience. The definition of perception, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a result of observing”, it is “a physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience”, while perspective is “a mental view or prospect”. These definitions basically underline the way you view things, according to your past experiences. Your reality is comprised of a series of experiences that shape the way you see things.

Your Experiences

For most of my life, I considered myself to be very sensitive to other people’s feelings— what I realized in recovery, is that I usually project my own experiences onto other people and assume how they feel. For some reason, it was easier for me to assume their feelings instead of just asking them. Why do we do this? and why was I so adamant that I understood people? It was because I was using the thoughts and feelings of my own experiences, and applying it to them. What we forget is that everyone is different, we all think differently, experience things differently, have different experiences, feel differently, the list goes on.

We use our own perception to discern, which is backed by our own thoughts and feelings. This is why something I consider to be anxiety-provoking, could be absolutely mundane to someone else. Why? Because in my own experience, a similar situation made me feel anxious. Your experience could be completely different than another person’s experience.

Your Reality

Your reality is made up of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The way that you see things is considered to be your truth, your perception, your personal experience. Your reality is only disrupted by factual evidence, for example— you could experience a freezing cold winter day, but your reality is different from the reality of global warming. Your perception could be that winter nights keep getting colder, when the temperature of the Earth is actually steadily increasing. This doesn’t make your experience null and void, it just means that your perception dictates the way you see or don’t see the whole-hearted reality of things.

Your reality isn’t the reality. Your reality is subjective, meaning that it is relating to your personal perception. What you see a situation, person, place, or thing as, is not independent of your mind. Everything you perceive will play into your overall reality.

Bridging the Gap Between Perception and Reality

The best way to bridge the gap between what you perceive and what things actually are, is by checking in with yourself to understand fully. Use a dialectical behavior skill called “check the facts”— which basically is a mental checklist of the viable facts of the situation. What is unequivocally true in the situation? Then, take a look at how your experiences are shaping your perspective of the situation. Just because something is your reality, doesn’t mean it is the reality.

For example:
Say you just made a new friend, and had plans set which they cancelled on last minute.
If your past experiences include feeling left out or not important, if you have abandonment issues, or had friends who turned on you in the past, you may automatically jump to conclusions that this new friend has no interest in being your friend and cannot be trusted.
The reality of the situation, the fact, is that you don’t know why they cancelled. You don’t know this person very well, maybe something came up or maybe they just didn’t want to go out. The way you can remedy this is by examining the facts, finding out why you feel a certain way that it happened, what past experience this situation reminds you of; take a look into the way your past experiences are influencing you right now.

Your Past Experiences

Of course your past experiences are going to effect your perception. This is especially true if you have unresolved issues. Despite this, you are in control of how much something will have the ability to effect you. One of the most liberating things you can do is exploring unresolved issues in therapy, gaining a new perspective through the insights therapy brings. Therapy will help you examine your past experiences, work through them, learn from them, etc. You can explore past experiences to see how they shape your perception in the present day. Whether you like it or not, your past thoughts, feelings, and experiences play a role in how you perceive things. If you want to understand yourself better, psychotherapy is the best way to do so. This is why Royal Life Centers offers a variety of intensive therapies, including psychotherapy and behavioral therapies— which can help you decipher thought patterns and break bad habits like the tendency to jump to extremes.

Understanding Your Perception

There are some questions you can ask yourself to better understand your perception, thoughts and feelings, in any given situation.
Ask yourself:

  • is the magnitude of my emotion matching the reality of the situation?
  • what are the facts of the situation?
  • what does this situation remind me of?
  • how have I felt in a situation similar to this one in the past? Is that why I’m feeling this way now?
  • what emotions am I hyperaware of? and extra sensitive to?
  • is how I feel a reaction to the past or the present?

What’s also helpful for me, is to put myself in the mindset of each person involved. What is their point of view? Also, don’t forget that communication is key. Almost all interpersonal issues can be solved by communicating clearly. Ask people or players in a situation, how they’re seeing things. We all internalize everything so often, we forget that most of our wondering can be eliminated by asking a simple question. For a more accurate picture, build your reality based on reason and perception, try to strike a balance.

Changing Your Perception to Benefit You

You can change your perception to benefit you. Have a perception that includes gratitude, finding the silver linings, focusing on the bigger picture; understanding your role in your reality is key. If you focus on finding the positive aspects of every situation, your perception will be mainly taken up by the positive things, making your reality more positive, enjoyable, and manageable. I personally think faith plays a huge role in bettering your perception.

Take the example of the new friend that cancelled on you (as mentioned earlier): what if you were to take it as a sign that you needed to spend time alone? What if instead of feeling unimportant, you saw the situation as just what it was— cancelled plans, that left you with free time. Focusing on something you can do for yourself in that free time will benefit you exponentially more than troubleshooting what caused the new friend to cancel plans. Your perception could go from something went wrong, to something went right. This is where faith comes in, if it wasn’t meant to happen then maybe it was for a bigger reason. Maybe you needed free time for something else more important, something that you didn’t consider yet. Even if you just lay on the couch that night, maybe you needed that alone time.

What helps me maintain a positive perception, is finding ways to practice gratitude. Something you could do to practice gratitude is write down five things each day that you are grateful for. Another more simple way to practice gratitude is by challenging your thoughts and feelings of frustration by brainstorming how things could be worse. Sure, maybe some things are going wrong, but could it be worse? The answer is always yes. Challenging your complaints will show you a bigger picture, and help your perception be less self-consumed and more in tune with the actual reality of things. Also, don’t underestimate how helpful therapy can be. You should work with a therapist to understand why you perceive things a certain way and gain insight on how to break toxic thought patterns.

Reach Out

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team makes themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.

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