Through a Glass Darkly

February 28, 2005

Throughout our lives we encounter people and situations that alter us. Emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts all combine to leave new perceptions of the world around us. Over time our perceptions become a set of filters through which the real world passes before becoming our own personal reality. Obviously the oldest and perhaps strongest of these filters come from childhood. Your parents and immediate family members are the people you have the most contact with; and that contact comes at a time when we are un-molded clay, still pliable and unresistant to change.

From my life experience I have developed several filters that control how I respond to people who are officious and passive-aggressive. If the person I am interacting with is in a position of authority (real, or projected on my part) then the application of this filter is swift and often detrimental to my well-being. In other words, I revert back to the set of emotional responses and cognitive processes I had when the filter was created. If the filter was made at a time when you were healthy and stable, the result of its application will most likely be positive. If the filter stems from events when you felt out of control, or helpless in any way; its application will result in a return of those feelings. The filter I have developed for officious or passive-aggressive authority figures leaves me feeling invalidated, unheard, and angry.

I want to lash out at the person I perceive as treating me this way, when in reality I am reacting to the stimulus of the filter and not the person. Maybe the person is truly officious, maybe not. Only by stepping back far enough from the situation to see the filter and the person separately, can I identify whether they are truly the way I perceive. And only then can I choose how I wish to respond.

Like dark sunglasses protect us from ultra-violet radiation, our perception filters shade us from unwanted or harmful situations. Only by taking the sunglasses off can we see the real colors of the world around us. And only by carefully examining our responses to people or situations can we learn to identify our metaphysical dark glasses, so we can remove them and see the true colors of our own personal reality.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.