Until we become aware of how our internal data processing determines the reality we perceive, we think we are reacting to an external reality rather than determining what that reality appears to be
For most of us, our socialization includes indoctrination into a binary model of consciousness. In other words, we are taught to sort people and experiences into right/wrong, beautiful/ugly, desirable/undesirable, good/bad, and so on. In fact, life is far more complex and messy than that. Learned biases and preferences short-circuit the process of developing curiosity about those differences that we are taught to reject. There is a built-in bias against diversity in this way of encountering unfamiliar people and experiences. Therefore, diversity requires a new way of perceiving beyond our autopilot right/wrong sorting process. In a binary approach there are only two choices. That means if we encounter someone who is different, we can’t both be “right” or “OK.” As a result, we develop very narrow tolerances for differences, rather than nurturing our curiosity and openness to all kinds of people and experiences.
The best way to tame your inclination to judge anyone who is different than you or any experience you don’t like is to become really curious and to call upon your inner detective. When we are quick to judge, we shut ourselves down. We also close ourselves off from additional information available to us. And our myopic view blinds us from alternative ways of seeing ourselves, the other person, and the situation itself.
When we become curious, we open ourselves up, and draw ourselves closer to those we don’t understand rather than shutting them out or pushing them away.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can save us from many a faulty assumption, preconceived notion, and narrow-minded interpretation of our shared reality. It is also the vital key to rising above the limitations of right/wrong thinking.
By about the age of five or six, we have the foundation of our self-image in place, and we begin to unconsciously protect, conceal, or improve our image of ourselves and to become competitive with the self-images of others. We spend most of our time focused outwards through our self-image as we navigate our way through the world and relate to the imagined self-images being projected by others.
We learn to live in a world that is a collective figment of our imaginations in which we attempt to defend and elevate our status relative to that of others.
We selectively filter our perceptions in such a way that we see things that support our existing beliefs and filter out things that do not agree with our way of seeing things. Learning how to become more conscious of our own unique data sorting process is essential to mastering the art of being who we authentically are.
Thriving involves consciously and intentionally developing our ability to override our usual way of being and perceiving. It requires looking within rather than being drawn to an external focus by the dominance of visual sensory input we receive. It means cultivating a non-judgmental perspective towards differences and an awareness of a level upon which we are all the same. This requires cultivation of a childlike curiosity rather than a defensive and competitive stance regarding our perceptions versus those of others.
Next time you encounter someone or something that threatens your preconceived notions of how things are and should be from your point of view, practice developing greater tolerance of differences and curiosity about how others see and experience our shared world. See if you can expand your comfort zone by choosing a both/and rather than an either/or state of mind. Instead of making different perspectives wrong, inquire and invite dialogue for the purpose of gaining a deeper appreciation for other points of view. The simple fact is that differences do exist. They don’t have to be perceived as a threat to our differing point of view. It’s how we choose to respond to that fact that makes all the difference in the world about our ability to peacefully co-exist or to wage wars against each other.
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