By Dr. Shahid Amin Trali
Our version of what is real is only our perception of it; not what actually exists. How we perceive our world influences our attitude, which in turn affects what we attract. Sometimes we hear people stating whether someone’s glass is half full or half empty. If someone is negative or pessimistic, people might regard them as seeing their glass half empty. When people view their glass as half empty, they are looking at what they don’t have instead of what they do. If someone is positive and optimistic, people would say they see their glass as being half full. Half of their glass may be empty, but they choose to look at it as half full. They are seeing what they have instead of what they don’t.
Different people may perceive the same environment differently based on what particular aspects of the situation they choose to selectively absorb, how they organize this information and the manner in which they interpret it to obtain a grasp of the situation. We must not jump to conclusions and be unethical. Our perceptions may or may not be true. Other than being pessimist or optimist, there is an additional category of one who acts rationally. Perception can be wrong in day to day life- holding good as bad and bad as good. For example, perceptions can be wrong about the public sector businesses and officials which leads to labeling them casual, lazy and dull. Similarly, perceptions can be wrong regarding private businesses treating profits as their sole consideration. Perceptions can also be wrong with the students who do not find their teachers friendly and supportive and vice versa. I have sharp memories of a Professor at the University who was very awkward in his first lecture and received all bad treatment and resistance initially by students. But, the said teacher challenged the students’ perceptions and ultimately earned command , respect and won hearts.
Man was living peacefully with tolerance, love, compassion and respect for all religions and cultures. But, over a period of time, man has been deeply hit by the wrong and easy perceptions leading to his fall as a human. Most of these false perceptions have been developed just for nothing and without any logic. Being far off from my homeland in another part of India for over a decade now, I have to justify my cause to be outside to my friends and close relatives. I have to bear their tune when they craft their own theories with the wrong perception regarding the outside world and denizens there. I was on the same plane and treating outside world differently, earlier in my life, till the moment(s) of truth took place. We have perceptions of outside states based on our experience as tourists, customers, investors, followers of news and what we receive from others. Not least is the social media nowadays to sharp our quick opinions even if there is least confirmation. But there are sound reasons why we need to be good humans first and decide rationally.
There are strong reasons why I have regard and love for my friends outside of my religion, caste, and region and so on. There is proof why we must challenge or perceptions and form decisions on rational basis. It is good to remember my good past and rich experiences in life. I was very fortunate to have a Hindu friend in college who was more of a sister. She was an extreme care taker and always prayed for my future. I went outside the valley after my graduation for coaching and found shelter in a great Sikh family in Jammu. The rich and royal family always treated me like a son of the family. Next during my Internship days in Delhi, I stayed there as a paying guest and had encounters with some of the lovely Hindu guys from many states. I could remember how the support and liveliness of the boys made life worth living at the end of the day’s tiresome work. Coming to Gwalior a decade back and meeting some of my best teachers, guides, and friends is something wonderful that has happened in my life. To my surprise most of them are from a Hindu background with rich values and the bond existing with them is unbreakable. God has now gifted me with lovely brothers and sisters from different religious backgrounds and who are doing extremely well in different professions but their human and humane values are unparalleled.
Kashmiris prove a step ahead and are known to be lovely human beings Some good friends as well as strange boys from Kashmir pursuing research careers here in Gwalior, have set examples, in terms of what all it needs to be good humans? From arranging medicines, paying bills on my behalf, offering blood and spending sleepless nights, they were ready at a time of my grief. Salute to the people with gifted values and a brave heart. Not to ignoring the fact, I had perceptions regarding social networking as virtual platform only with no real value but my perception was wrong. Besides I had fewer connections with Kashmiri brethren here, but their recent help and selfless efforts make my point weak and perceptions fallible.
There are pros and cons of perception. It is the most immediate way of knowing. It is a way of knowing through firsthand knowledge, and hence is easier to believe. But perception may not be a true representation of the outside world. It can also be limited. Perception is a synthetic process where different physiological and psychological processes are involved. For example, the accuracy of sense organs, clarity of sensations, mental set of an individual, etc. Otherwise our perception may go wrong. “If we understand the world as it appears to us, it will be a big booming- buzzing confusion” (William James, American psychologist). Hence, we do not see the things as they appear, but we see them as we want, i.e. more meaningfully.
Many a time, prejudices in the individual, time of perception, unfavourable background, lack of clarity of stimulus, confusion, conflict in mind and such other factors are responsible for errors in perception. When we are caught up in our own egos and forget to differentiate between our own perception and the factual reality of things, all sorts of bad consequences can arise. We blame others for our own reactions, and we judge others as not befitting our own standards. To challenge bad perceptions, we must keep our eyes and ears open for moments when other people express their opinions as if they are fact. Every time we like or dislike something, we must take note and ask ourselves, “What is the reality here and how do I perceive it?” With a little time, we will become more aware of our own preferences and their impact. We must try to express reality and perception as two different things to get better outcomes.
Do we perceive life and outside world as good or worse? When we perceive life and outside world as good, we have a much greater degree of happiness than someone who perceives it as bad. Those who perceives life and outside world as worse can provide a long list of reasons justifying their perception. However, the person with a good perception will provide just as many reasons for his or her position. The objective is that we must control our perception. We must start looking at life and the world as one of happiness and abundance. Especially when we encounter greater difficulties, it will be our positive perception that gets us through. It is our will power and our cognitive behavior that decides whether we want to move ahead cheerfully or get stuck in a dreary state of life. As humans and superior creations, we must challenge our own perceptions and try to be nice, smile to everyone; be cheerful and spread merry all around.
The author is an Assistant Professor at ITM University, Gwalior. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org