Thursday, July 23, 2009

Perception, Perspective, & The Empath

On one site, Perception is defined as the process by which organisms interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful experience of the world.

Another defines Perception as:
1. awareness of the elements of environment through physical sensation
2. physical sensation interpreted in the light of experience
3. quick, acute, and intuitive cognition
4. a capacity for comprehension

Your perception decides what you see first dependent on what you focus on through. In the picture to the right, do you see a vase or two faces sitting nose to nose? Neither answer is wrong, it is simply a difference of perspective. Which brings us to perspective, or point of view, also called personal perspective and cognitive perspective.

Perspective is defined as:
1. The appearance of objects in depth as perceived by normal binocular vision.
2. a. The relationship of aspects of a subject to each other and to a whole: a perspective of history; a need to view the problem in the proper perspective. b. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view: the perspective of the displaced homemaker. c. The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance: tried to keep my perspective throughout the crisis.
3. The technique of representing three-dimensional objects and depth relationships on a two-dimensional surface.

A great and early example of central perspective can be seen in Herod's Feast by Masolino (1435), where many receding horizontal lines project to a single central vanishing point. This is one-point perspective because the horizontal (black) and vertical (white) sets of parallel lines project as parallel in the picture.

Perspective in theory of cognition is the choice of a context or a reference (or the result of this choice) from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience, cohesively forming a coherent belief, typically for comparing with another. One may further recognize a number of subtly distinctive meanings, close to those of paradigm, point of view, or a reality tunnel.

Cognitive perspective, also known as Point of View refers to the aspect being looked from. It differs from the narrative point of view. If you are talking from your point of view, you would talk about what you want, need or feel like. To get a person to do something, it is much better to talk from the other person's point of view. That includes talking about what is in it for the other person. Talking about it in terms of what is good for the other person and what they will get in return, while afterwards talking about what you want the person to do.

In social psychology one would talk in terms of the other person's point of view when soliciting or motivating the other person to do something for you. Being able to see the other person's point of view is one of Henry Fords advice towards being successful in business. "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own".

Now we come to what this all has to do with you, as an Empath. Empathy is defined as the capability to share and understand another's emotions and feelings and is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes". This means the one who exhibits this trait or ability, as an Empath, has the capacity to not only share feelings, but to readily share the other person's perspective or "see through another person's eyes".

To understand this, is to understand yourself and what you are truly capable of and to truly understand others. You can not do one without the other. And to build your own 'storehouse' or 'catalog' of perspectives you need to be aware of everything around you, the things you experience, the people you share your life with, your experiences, the art you view, the music you listen to, the books and information you read, because each is a multilayered lesson in enhancing and broadening of your own perspective. If you can do this then you can see above the emotions that bind you to the moment to understand the other layers of any person and/or situation.

David Cronenberg made a great statement about perspective, which applies here:

"When you're in the muck you can only see muck. If you somehow manage to float
above it, you still see the muck but you see it from a different perspective.
And you see other things too. That's the consolation of philosophy."

When you allow yourself to have a wide spectrum perspective along side an experiential perspective, as opposed to simply an experiential one alone, it cuts out the need for tinted glasses over your personal perspective. Another way to see it is that it cuts out the need for personal prejudices which might hinder you from helping someone based on your personal experiences with a particular group of people. This can include, but is not limited to, titles, weight, race, skin color, sexual orientation, age, and personalities that differ so much from our own we find it offensive.

Let me ask you something, and since this is a blogsite you do not have to answer, merely think about it. Have you ever crossed the street to get away from someone who was walking in the opposite direction, because something about them seemed 'rough' or 'dangerous', or made you uncomfortable? Sadly, this is a type of prejudice based on their exterior. And while its good to worry about your own safety, to do so to the extent you exclude others based on such superficial prejudices blocks out a plethora of experiences you can learn from.

Your view of the world is only as broad or as limited as you let it be. And that only happens when you get beyond your own hang-ups about weight or skin color or personality type and experience what those other people have to offer.

Does this say be naive and walk into danger blindly just for the experience? No, of course not. This process also teaches you to be aware of those around you, but at deeper levels than simply the superficial. Awareness and understanding blended with free will and choice, equals balanced choice of who you let into your life and what is worth experiencing.

It also allows you to see your own patterns of behavior, such as addictive behaviors. If you have low self esteem, and you seem to draw the type of people to you that help press that feeling of worthlessness upon you and/or use or abuse you, then this is an unhealthy and addictive behavior which only needs to be acknowledged and understood to start to change.

If you help people because you need their adulation to feel good about yourself, then it is an unhealthy and addictive behavior. But if you see what your doing, which is the right thing for the wrong reasons, then you can still continue what you do when you change the reasons for doing it. This makes it healthy. But this process again must begin with you, and not those you reach out to.

All the tools you need are within you, if you can find the strength to utilize them. You don't even need me to write this blog for it to happen for you. But it might help the process along a little to see it. And everyone will come upon that moment at least once in their lives where they see something wrong with whats going on around them or perhaps what they are doing is wrong, even if there is a bit of discomfort and shame and/or guilt at your own behaviors. Point is you don't have to share it with anyone to do it. But its well worth the doing. Its one of those rare life changing moments in your life, that you can't look away from unless you ignore it and run back to the safty of your own safe perceptions or your 'comfort zone'.

Quotes On Perspective

"Bias and impartiality is in the eye of the beholder." - Lord Barnett

"I see every thing I paint in this world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is more beautiful than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes." - William Blake

"Perspective, as its inventor remarked, is a beautiful thing. What horrors of damp huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque through aerial distance! What hymning of cancerous vices may we not languish over as sublimest art in the safe remoteness of a strange language and artificial phrase! Yet we keep a repugnance to rheumatism and other painful effects when presented in our personal experience." - George Eliot

"The seeing of objects involves many sources of information beyond those meeting the eye when we look at an object. It generally involves knowledge of the object derived from previous experience, and this experience is not limited to vision but may include the other senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and perhaps also temperature or pain." - R. L. Gregory

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