It is rare that we fully recognize things as they are. This is because we are constantly looking through filters, which comes with the territory of being a human with a particular history and personality.
Much spiritual work as well as psychological healing involves piercing these filters and coming into relationship with things as they are.
Of course the bestselling book, Loving What Is, by Byron Katie comes to mind when thinking about this. Accepting, not just in resignation as an inconvenient truth, but actually being in alignment with What Is becomes the work.
Finding the Filter
Most of the time we are looking through our filters rather than at our filters. Byron Katie’s and so many types of growth work have us stop and question what we take to be so. Therapists often do the same thing. We look for themes, story lines, self-images, hidden beliefs that shape people’s perceptions without them even being aware of it.
Without this, we keep doing what we’ve been doing, looking through the same old filters and getting the same old experiences.
Common filters I run across in my work with relational trauma include:
- There is some fatal flaw that makes me unlovable.
- If I show my deeper feelings, people will reject me.
- Others will [abandon, engulf, use] me.
- People take what they can. You have to be on guard.
Another common filter is to perceive others as critical, when maybe they are not.
Knowing how prevalent and distorting filters are, we must embrace the work of being on the lookout for them. Just this week, I encouraged a client to develop a habit of asking herself, “Is there another way I could see this?” “Is that true?”
Can we see reality as it is?
If filters are so built-in to the human design, is there any hope of seeing reality as it is?
Many sages say that only when seated in our deeper nature (rather than our conditioned mind) can we see What Is. This is what some call enlightenment. Of course this is not reserved for a select few; we can all learn to disentangle our perception from the conditioned mind.
Let’s not make it all or nothing. I’ll be happy with more of the truth and less of the subjective filters that have grown rather tiresome.
Awareness practices are especially helpful. As awareness develops, its scope becomes broader. We become aware of more dimensions of what we perceive, and our perception becomes de-automized, which means the automatic pilot has been turned off. We then see things more freshly.
We also become more aware of ourselves: I am being defensive right now. Or I am feeling insecure so I am being a smarty pants. Or I talk myself into being ok with this, but I’m not really.
In addition to stepping out of mind, we can also use our minds in a process of questioning or inquiry to help break through these layers of assumptions and expectations, as referenced above or in cognitive psychology.
Fighting What Is
Most (some would say all) of our suffering comes with fighting What Is.
It’s been almost 5 years since my book The Emotionally Absent Mother came out, and I’ve watched many more adults struggle with having grown up with a mother who wasn’t really there. What I see is that those who want from Mother what she cannot give stay caught in the pain the longest. It’s not that we may not want more, but seeing what she (or any human being) can and cannot offer helps us align with reality, so that acceptance can slowly seep in.
It’s the same in romantic relationships. Holding on to a partner but wanting them to be a way that their defenses and make-up really do not allow, is a recipe for suffering.
I find that people often underestimate the fragility of people’s egos and how impossible it would be for them to admit to major violations and failings. We underestimate the power of their, and our, defenses.
So some of the our misalignment with reality is the defense mechanism of denial, designed to keep at bay what our psyche cannot accept; some is our habitual ways of distorting reality through our built-in filters; and some is simple avoidance of what we would rather not see. This may relate to finances, health, aging, or where you fall short.
Seeing What Is takes a good hard look. We must give up our ‘druthers’ (can be a slow and painful process) and be willing to see the actual truth.
Is there something you need to take a good hard look at?
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