Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Insight: Selective Perception

Last night a number of recent conversations culminated in some very reflective dreams. originally, I was going to write a long blog post about family, and may yet do that, just not today. It was going to be about the different kinds of family, with a portion dedicated to "the family we choose" and how, over the years, most of my family of this type has dwindled to nothing before I realized what they were.

This led me to thinking about why they are gone and, while not universal, a generally common factor has been a fault/habit of mine that has plagued me since I was young, sometimes beneficial, often times detrimental.

I have selective perception; perceiving/focusing on only what I wish, sometimes to the point that it is as if the parts I didn't focus on never existed to me.

This is something I thought I had under control until I realized, this morning, that it applies to much more than I originally thought it did. I can see where this problem of mine has, directly or indirectly, driven away friends. I can see it issues I've had in the workplace over the last several years. I can see instances where I've, apparently, chosen to ignore certain facets of reality, of what is true.

This is not, to my current knowledge, an issue with all areas of my perception. I can think of a number of areas where I intentionally view as much of the picture as possible. However, there are many areas where I have not been, areas I need to work on.

The bigest issue is that, in many cases, I have to be thinking these things at the time I am perceiving. Too often, reflection will not work. I am unable to look back on a conversation and say "is what I heard everything that was said?" as my problem will have made the parts I chose not to hear cease to exist for me.

Tied to this problem is my early attempts to correct it, and the resultant behaviors. Before, when I first became aware that it was my problem to deal with, along with not hearing everything that was being said, I would fail to understand context and intent, so I would hyperfocus on these things and try to "read between the lines" as best I could. While this was a solution to the issue, it was a wrong solution, as it created more problems than it solved.  As a programmer, I see this kind of thing all the time, a bug fix that fixes the original issue but creates more is not a good fix.  Because of this solution, I have, for years now, read meaning and intent that was likely never there (though I wanted it to be, or feared it would be — Wizard's First Rule in action), and to this day I still don't know.

As a result of this obsessive hyper-context-reading, I became overly cautious with my own words. I have relaxed it somewhat in past years, but it still comes out in full force if I suspect (even a little) that the recipient might have a similar focus on word-choice.  I can think of at least one person I communicate with on a regular basis where I exhibit this behavior. [I have noticed, after writing the next full paragraph (another drawback is it has me constantly rereading my written communication before actually submitting it), that this previous sentence is it's own example. The statement is true, but at the same time, implies much more as it was also meant to convey different levels of meaning depending upon how well the reader knows me: the casual reader would read the sentence at face value, while those who know me better would might wonder if the amount I communicate with them constitutes a "regular basis", and leaving a few with whom I communicate quite often seriously considering if it is them.  On top of all that, the sentence was also meant as a hint towards the person mentioned, as well as a few others (implied by the "at least") that this is how I communicate with them.  Many layers of meaning all in a simple statement of fact.]

Another result is that I gained a keen understand of words, etymology, grammar and puns. I will often use improper word construction to create a word for either a more accurate meaning, to elicit a particular response, personal amusement, simply because I can, or some combination thereof.  This is often both help and hinderance to me, as it lets me communicate more accurately (though often the recipient does not notice or care), but many times I am unable to determine appropriateness of timing, as such use has become second nature to me and tends to be off-putting to some.

I have problems with selective perception; both in the inability to perceive some things, and hyper-focusing on other things to the point of adding implied reality where there was none.  Hopefully, awareness of these problems is a good first step in solving them in a constructive way. I can only work with what I perceive. Failing to perceive some things does not help me, nor does creating false perceptions. Dealing with these problems will be an ongoing process, likely through the end of my days.

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