Reality is a Selective Act of Attention and Interpretation.

November 8, 2020

I’ve always loved this saying because it’s a concise description of how we are creating our reality based upon what we’re observing and how we interpret it. The world isn’t so much as it is as much as it is the way we are. We see what we want to see based upon our pre-existing beliefs to create a picture of things that matches our worldview, also known as:

con·fir·ma·tion bi·as

“Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. People tend to unconsciously select information that supports their views, but ignoring non-supportive information.” – Wikipedia

There are various types of confirmation biases. Our brains and mind are very clever at deceiving themselves in order to produce an interpretation of events that fits our preconceived notions of what’s good and bad, true and false. Many of our biases are factory-installed; we may have inadvertently inherited them from parents, friends, or others, the acceptance of whom we were dependent upon. Most biases are also unconscious – they run silently in the background subtly influencing our interpretations, thoughts, speech, and actions, ultimately defining the reality we each experience.

For example, in scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed that based upon an individual’s biases, one interpreted last night’s speech by the President Elect as an articulate message of hope, unity, decency, and a return to the core values many have felt to be lacking in the current administration. Another interpreted the speech as evidence that the President Elect was ill, had dementia, and was a participant in a conspiracy to advance a sinister Democratic plot.

The point is, two different individuals witnessed the EXACT SAME SPEECH and arrived at completely different interpretations upon which to base their reality. But surprise, surprise – reality isn’t out there – it’s IN HERE. The truth of the speech isn’t an absolute; it’s relative to the one who is watching. Therefore, our interpretation of reality says very little about what’s “out there” but says everything about what’s “in here”.

What lens(s) do you filter the world through?

It’s only when we’re willing to admit that we have confirmation biases are we able to transcend them to see the truth.

“…we should look within ourselves to see where our particular problems lie and our cause of ignorance. You see, ultimately all type of knowledge simply means self- knowledge. You must look for truth yourself and directly experience every minute detail for yourself.”

⁃ Bruce Lee

How do we, as Bruce implies, seek out the causes of our ignorance (and our biases)? In my experience until we can settle our minds, seeing past the murk of a lifetime of hardwired beliefs and biases is virtually impossible. Therefore, learning to quiet the mind through meditation or some similar practice is the first step. Once we’ve learned to separate observations from evaluations, we can witness our thoughts, beliefs, and preconceptions. This witnessing eventually gives way to the intellectual honesty that is required to see things as they are, unclouded by our beliefs about them. We can ask ourselves, “If I react to this experience in ________ manner, what does that say about me and my state of awareness?” Or going deeper, “Who would I be if what I believe about this situation wasn’t true?”

It can be uncomfortable at times, no doubt. But if you want to get past your own crap and see things as they are, or for that matter see yourself as you are, there are no easy fixes. Grab your night-vision goggles, your pick axe, and get digging. What you discover just might surprise you. I know it has with me.

As always, just my opinion.

-AB

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