Perceptions Alter In a Moment

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A light bulb goes click in your head and your perceptions alter. That’s all the time it takes, usually.

The vista is awash with brilliant light.  The space is familiar to you; you know it well, have visited it often. Yet, for the first time, because of the illumination, you see things there that you had never seen before. And you wonder how you could have been so blind all this while!

Just like that, in one fleeting moment, something shifts silently within you. It completely alters the way you’ve understood something all your life. One moment, and the world is never the same again.

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

~Bertrand Russell

A friend was telling me about a colleague of his, who had taken some very bad decisions influenced entirely by personal vendetta. As a result, the organization had suffered losses and much bad blood was brewed within the team. My friend’s colleague too, suffered a severe setback. Moreover, he lost the trust, respect and goodwill of his colleagues. In every way, the few seconds of vendetta incurred a heavy price.

In hind-sight, his pettiness made no sense at all. It seemed  self-sabotaging and wrong on many counts. My friend and I wondered what that person could have been thinking of when he took the decisions he did. To which my wise friend said, “He must have thought he was doing the right thing.”

Not able to accept that, I protested. “How can he have thought that?! It is so obvious that his decision was absolutely wrong! ”

“Do you think he did what he did knowing that he was doing something wrong?”

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: Chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, desire.

~Aristotle

When he put it like that, I was compelled to quash down the automatic, indignant “Of course!” that sprang to my lips. “Er….”, I said lamely.

“Exactly”, he exclaimed. “Not so sure are you?”

“Well, anyone with half a brain would see that he was wrong. And he did it, knowing it was wrong! Maybe he just didn’t give a damn!”

“No, I am not able to accept that. I think when you do something, you do it only because you are certain you are right in doing it. It may not be right in a different context or perspective but to you, acting in that moment, it seems right. You may have rationalized it with unsound arguments and false premises, but you must surely have justified it in some manner. You could do it only then.”

When you do something, you do it only because you are certain you are right in doing it. Click To Tweet

“Are you saying humans are hard-wired to do only what is right?” I asked him, incredulous.

“Yes, that is the only conclusion possible after observing the self-sabotaging and self-defeating behaviors of people”, he said.

“In that case, in order to understand other people’s choices, we must first try to figure out what they are looking at that makes them certain that their actions are not only the right thing to do, but the only right thing possible under the circumstances?”

To understand other people’s choices, we must first try to figure out what they are looking at… Click To Tweet

Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, “What else could this mean?”

~Shannon L. Alder

“Yes. You must understand what he was telling himself- true or not- in order to justify his choices. If need be, you must walk a mile in his shoes to see the things he used to build up his arguments and premises on which to hang his justifications. This cannot be done unless you approach the matter with a mind free of bias and a heart open enough to make room for a contrary perception.

“If you are able to follow their thought process as if it were your own, perhaps you will come to the point in their journey where things got tangled. Invariably, you will see that the experiences they have had in their life have tilted the vision field. You will further see that to balance the tilt, they took their compass apart and loaded the pointer with their injured righteousness. That’s where things went awry.”

“So how will the pointer come unloaded? Or will they go through life with a perpetually corrupted compass?”

“Unless they take the compass apart again and go for a major clean-up drive, they will keep wandering through life with that faulty compass. It will keep landing them into one ditch after another. They will curse the universe for its malevolence but never think of blaming the compass they corrupted with their own hand.”

“That’s actually sad, is it not? How misguided we humans can be!”

“Yes it is indeed awfully sad. Such pointless waste!”

We fell silent, my friend and I. The weight of the unexpected realization choked off the flow of words, making us somber and thoughtful.

A light bulb goes click and perceptions are altered forever.

Perceptions Alter

Picture Mine

9 thoughts on “Perceptions Alter In a Moment

  1. Maliny Mohan

    I don’t believe in a few things I used to few years back. Perceptions change over the years, sometimes they need just few seconds of our time. I believe it is human to make mistakes for we are bound to trust our intuitions and perceptions. I suppose there are few who would do something wrong, knowing that they are about to do something wrong, but yet they do it for their own selfish needs. But doing something wrong, intentionally is a rarety, until and unless, some external force guides us into doing it (read fate?)

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Couldn’t agree with you more Maliny. And even when external forces compel us to do something wrong, we don’t do it until we convince ourselves that we have no other option and that “under the circumstances” we’re doing the best we can do.

      Thank you for your insightful comment. Happy New Year!

      Reply
  2. Beloo Mehra

    It is awfully difficult, almost impossible to fully place oneself in another person’s shoes and see their circumstances and situations as they would have or to perceive the choices in the way they did. At the most we can have a deeply sympathetic understanding of their choices and decisions. But sadly instead of developing that we generally end up assuming (often wrongly) and/or (mis)judging. If only we can pause at that moment and step back from our limited mental perceptions and biases!

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      As I read somewhere long back, “When you look at a blank wall, does it EVER occur to you that it might not be bare on the other side?”

      As you said, it isn’t easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. For most people, their reality is the only reality possible on earth.
      If only we would remind ourselves that the supposed wrong-doer must surely have seen a valid reason for doing what he done.

      Reply
  3. Zephyr

    A post worth pondering over – deeply. As I read it, I could hear myself voice your doubts and see myself quieten as I read your friend’s analysis. I could visualise people going around with tilter compasses and measuring everything wrong!

    But as Beloo says, it is rather difficult to see something entirely from another’s point of view and learn to be non-judgemental. If i may be permitted to say it, I would bring in my favourite argument: that some things are bound to happen the way they do because of our karma and when that is the case we are powerless to do things differently.

    Reply
    1. Dagny Post author

      Absolutely Zephyr! Sometimes you become uncharacteristically blind. Later, when you receive a kick and wake from your slumbers, you wonder how you could have been so dumb. That dumbness is also Karma… as are unproductive decisions. Both kinds deliver their lessons.

      Reply
  4. Rickie Khosla

    Good point. They probably simply didn’t know better when they took their decisions. And look at us – we end up judging based on what we see, which is invariably never the full picture.
    Resolution for 2017 – no judging others!

    Reply

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