How to Use Personal Perception to Build a Better Relationship


Your perception of reality may be outdated. Slow down to let your mind catch up.

The brain spends about 80% of it's conscious resources remembering and cataloging things and events. It's a little bit like your computer putting things in cache. When you visit a website your computer has cached, what you see on your screen may or may not be current. To be exact, your computer stored a version of that site from a previous visit because it makes for much quicker loading. Your web browser doesn't have to deal with the details — it can just sort of load around the periphery.  Understanding how all that works can make it a lot easier to build a better relationship.

What this means is, very rarely do you actually see or experience things the way they really are. 80% of the time, your brain translates what you're experiencing based on a previous experience it has in memory. This is probably a function of the reptilian brain intended to make it faster to process information related to fight or flight. In the real modern world, this nifty function is more like a malfunction. From moment to moment, you are simply reliving past experiences dressed like today's events.

Last night my Beloved and I were having one of those discussions. You know the kind of heated discussion that seems a bit like groundhog day. We'd been down that road before enough times to know exactly how the conversation starts, rolls out, and ends, except this time the conversation had some variables, but my brain wasn't perceiving them. I was having the same conversation we'd had so many times, believing my hubby wasn't listening, repeating myself and exaggerating a bit for effect.  The variation was, this time, my hubby wasn't arguing with me, but I wasn't grasping that. When he finally stopped me and pointed out that he agreed and was trying to make a change, I had a hard time even grasping that.

I had to take a timeout, brush my teeth and think about it. After the timeout, I realized that he was in fact agreeing with me. I just didn't realize it because I was stuck in an old story and that old story was locking us into the same old conflict. My brain's inability to see him in a current way was actually preventing him from making the very changes I wanted him too.

We often think we know our mates based on past behavior. In fact we think we know almost everyone based on past experience. However, people are wildly unpredictable and capable of massive changes and surprise. The thing that keeps them locked into old stories is our expectation based on brain cataloging. Often times people have changed, and the only thing that hasn't in our expectation or perceived experience of them. We're stuck in our own library of memories and meaning.

Reality is a slippery slope, particularly when more than one person is involved. It's slippery because it's fluid and it's based fully      on perception. Perception is one point in the time and space continuum, that by scientific definition, can't be shared by two separate individuals. Add into that the variables in the memories and meaning filters with which we process experience and it isn’t hard to imagine why relating can be so complicated. The only way to stay on the right side of all the confusion is a commitment to present moment awareness, which requires you to suspend predictive tendencies. In other words, you have to override your reptilian programming.

You have to be willing to entertain the unexpected every time and make accommodations to allow and welcome it. Thinking you know how something will unfold or how someone will behave doesn't create security unless you like your predicted outcome. Otherwise, it simply keeps you stuck.

Try seeing your significant other and everyone else for that matter with curiosity rather than familiarity. Curiosity keeps you current and at the end of the day, that's the only way you can have a real relationship, rather than reliving the memories of relationship days past. Understanding personal perception can make building a better relationship a much more joyful experience.

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.