Early in our dating relationship, my now husband, Kenn and I decided to go to a movie with friends. Before heading out, Kenn chose to bring along a beer for the drive.
Back in 1979, Idaho didn’t have the open container law it does now. It was legal to drink a beer when driving and even though I was the driver that day, seeing him standing outside the truck with a beer in hand, triggered something inside me that ended up causing our first major fight.
A fight so bad that I even considered ending the relationship with him.
I remember blocking him from the door and telling him he couldn’t get in the truck until he got rid of the beer. Thinking I was joking, he refused and stepped around me. As he opened the passenger door, I pleaded with him to leave the beer at his apartment, but he didn’t think it was a big deal.
As he settled in his seat, I told him I wanted a sip. He was relieved that I had come to my senses, and he handed me the beer. That was when I took the bottle and dumped its contents out on the ground.
“That’s okay,” he responded, “I have more inside. I’ll be right back.”
Running after him as he went inside, I told him that if he brought another beer down, we were done. We ended up missing the movie that day and spent the rest of the afternoon in his apartment in an emotionally charged debate over what just happened.
“Perception is merely reality filtered through the prism of your soul” ~ Christopher A. Ray
Perception is the recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based upon our memories. It is the way we interpret data around us.
Growing up with an alcoholic father, my perception of Kenn bringing a beer along for the ride brought negative feelings and judgment to the surface. It stirred up memories of my dad not only drinking, but of discovering the many ways, he hid beer and booze all around the house, as well me as finding empty beer cans shoved under the seat of his truck.
When I saw Kenn with a beer in hand that day, the experience I had lived with for 17 years, exploded to the surface, which influenced how I responded to what I considered to be a negative event.
“There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley
Each day we all are presented with situations and events, and we interpret these events based on our individual perception.
The child coming to school every day with uncombed hair, dirty clothes, and worn shoes. The overweight person walking on the plane looking for their seat, while you silently pray they don’t sit next to you for the next 5 hours. And even the house on your street with their Christmas lights left on until March.
Our perspective from past remarks or memories impacts our opinion, and they can cause us to be judgmental and condescending.
The school-age child lives in her car because her parents lost their job. The obese person has no other way to travel if they want to get back and say goodbye in time to their dying parent. And the neighbor with the Christmas lights on is being treated for cancer and finds peace and happiness seeing the lights from their window.
Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
I jumped to conclusions with Kenn’s behavior that afternoon so many years ago. I didn’t want to be involved with someone that had a drinking problem; I knew what that entailed. But Kenn wasn’t an alcoholic, and while he had some characteristics of my dad, he was not my father. I was stereotyping him based on what I had learned in childhood. It led to inaccurate and unfounded assumptions without a thorough review of the evidence.
“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
If perception is filtered by the product of our past, does that make our perceptions right or wrong? Or are they merely our interpretation of life around us?
We interpret what is going on around us based on our life experiences which can cause us to jump to conclusions when we try to analyze or form an opinion of the circumstance or behavior of others.
“Perception is like a shifting kaleidoscope, one slight turn, and the pattern changes” ~ KatieMae.
Just as life experiences formed our initial perceptions, we have the ability to change them. We may not be able to change an event or behavior, but by taking the time to broaden our perspective, and look at situations from all angles, we can offer a little more empathy to others.
If we can remember that our perception may not be someone else’s reality, we are able to create a little more kindness in the world.
KatieMae is Retired Navy Wife, Writer, Encourager and believes in the power of kindness. She lives in Washington state with her husband and their three dachshunds. You can find her on Twitter @Katiemaeonline, or her websitekatiemae.online
Her first children’s book “Birthday Balloons for Grandpa” is now available in both eBook and paperback.