The Perception Transformation (2015)
Chapter 1: 3 Mind-blowing Real Life Scenarios
In this chapter, we will present some real life examples which will attempt to clarify how our perception of reality is affected by our experiences in life.
Scenario 1 – Two Girls and a Dog
Consider two girls, Jane and Sarah. Both are quite young, maybe ten to fifteen years of age. They are good friends, and are taking a walk together in the park on a Sunday morning. They have both had their own experiences with dogs.
Sarah lives outside the city, and has been around dogs her entire life. Her father has kept dogs of numerous breeds around the house since before Sarah was born. Ever since she learned to crawl, walk and talk, her family dogs have been her companions. She is not afraid of them at all. She truly loves dogs, and considers them harmless animals that only want our love and attention.
Jane lives in the suburbs of the city, and had a neighbour who owned a Doberman Pinscher. One day, when playing outside on her own front porch, Jane casually strolled onto the curb of the road. While she was outside, her neighbour was walking his dog. He guided his dog in the direction in which Jane was playing, because he could not see her from far away.
As he and the dog came closer, Jane suddenly emerged onto the curb. The dog became alarmed, and immediately began pulling on the leash, and barking furiously. The neighbour could not restrain him, and let go of the leash. Jane was so frightened by the dog’s barking and its fearsome appearance, that she screamed, and dashed for the door of her house. The dog chased her across her front porch, but she managed to outrun it. She locked the door to her house, and spent the entire day in her room, fearful and in tears.
Now we come back to the girls while they are walking in the park. As they walk, hand in hand on the stone path, they see a woman with a Labrador Retriever on a leash approaching. Labrador Retrievers are very friendly and docile dogs, and they seldom behave aggressively towards humans. Upon seeing the dog, both girls exhibit very different reactions. Sarah, who has been with dogs her entire life, is happily surprised at seeing the Labrador. She becomes very excited and rushes towards the dog, in an attempt to cuddle the animal. Jane, however, behaves very differently.
Having had a rather traumatic experience with her neighbor's dog at a very early age, Jane is apprehensive, even afraid, of the approaching dog. She abandons her companion and retreats to a safe place close to a nearby tree, where she believes she will be safe.
The scenario described above is a classic example of how our past experiences influence our perceptions. Jane was frightened by a dog at a young age, and although the circumstances surrounding the event were unique in that the dog itself got alarmed at her sudden appearance, Jane’s views on dogs remained firm. She continued to believe that they were harmful animals, and she feared them terribly.
When we look at Sarah, however, we see a loving affection towards dogs. Since she spent her early life in their company and never experienced an event similar to Jane’s, she believes that dogs are friendly animals, and she is not at all afraid to pet them.
Now we will examine another scenario, which will help to explain perception of a slightly more complex kind. Our general views on life, and the people around us, are influenced by our experiences as well. In the case of some people, these effects can be very strong, and can often completely warp their perception.
Scenario 2 – Same Place, But Different World
Consider Walter and James. Both are old men, in their eighties, and both live in the same old age home. They have become good acquaintances over the years, mainly because of the solitude which these homes provide. However, there is more to each of them than the observer can tell just by looking at their withered and fragile bodies.
James was born to a life of luxury. His father was an investment banker, and his mother was a dentist who owned a private clinic in a big city. James spent his childhood school days at a private boarding school, away from home. He was a very bright student, and as he grew, he developed an interest in the legal system. He decided to pursue a law degree at Columbia University, from where he received a scholarship.
During his time at Columbia, James excelled in his academics. On graduating, he obtained employment with a prestigious law firm. He made good money, and soon bought himself an apartment and a car. At the age of thirty, James married a woman he had fallen in love with. They lived together and she gave birth to a boy and a girl. Both children were as bright as their mother and father. The girl went on to study medicine, and the boy studied physics.
As James grew older and his children went to college, his mother passed away. He and his wife sold their apartment and moved into James’ childhood home. His children married, and had children of their own. Eventually, James’ wife passed away. His children, who all lived lives of their own, found a very decent and peaceful old age home, and decided to have him placed there. The house was sold, and James now lives in the old age home. His children and grandchildren come to visit him every week.
Now we consider Walter. Walter was born into a broken home. His father died before he was born, and he lost his mother at an early age as well. From then on, he was cared for by his uncle and aunt. He was not very good at school, trying desperately to skip classes, and always getting into trouble with other boys. As he became older, he decided to enlist in the military.
Walter fought in the Korean War; a war which had severe effects on those who participated in it and lived to tell their tales. Walter was one such person. As a soldier, he experienced the horrors of the war. He saw the bloodshed, he saw his comrades and best friends fall to the bullets of the enemies, and he carried their injured, and sometimes lifeless, bodies back to the barracks for treatment or burial.
After the war ended, Walter came back home a changed man and found a job as a truck driver. He married a few years later, and had three children. Although his children lived successful lives, Walter never moved out of an old house that he bought together with his wife. When she passed away, his children forced him to move to an old folks’ home, so that they would not have to take care of him.
Now both men are in the old age home. But their attitudes are very different. James is a very pleasant person, who greets anyone who meets him, kindly. He is respectful towards the orderlies and the nurses, and he truly enjoys seeing his children when they visit.
Walter is different. He has been scarred by the harm which he has seen being committed in this world, and he has become indifferent towards other people, as an effect of the hostile attitude of his own children towards him. He absolutely does not enjoy the company of others and is very rude to the nurses and attendants.
In the above example, we saw how the experiences of a lifetime have an effect on our perception. James’ views the world as a pleasant and wonderful place, while Walter resents everything about it.
In the final example, we will show how our environment and our culture have an effect on our perception.
Scenario 3 – Sun and Rain
The United Kingdom is notorious for being an extremely damp and rainy place. It would not be unfair to say that people there are generally sick of the weather, which remains cloudy and rainy for most of the year. Only during a very short spell in the summer months does the country experience a brief glow of the sun's warmth and shine. During that time, people enjoy sun bathing, outdoor activities, and chilled drinks. Soon after that, the autumn and winter seasons arrive, and are marked by cold showers and frosty snow fall.
On the other hand, consider a hot, dry and arid country-like Senegal or The Gambia. They recently experienced droughts, which brought about a massive famine. The general population starved, and the heat and dryness did not help make matters any better. Most people in the country would be unfamiliar with a UK-like winter.
Now consider someone from The Gambia travelling to the UK. He would probably be pleasantly surprised and very happy with the country’s weather. He would thoroughly enjoy himself, and the rain, which he rarely sees in his own country, would be a refreshing boon to him. His native counterparts, on the other hand, would be quite fed-up with their own natural misfortune.
Thus, we have seen how our experiences shape our perception, and, therefore, how different people can have different views of the same situation. In the next chapter, we will take a look at some of the reasons of our varying perceptions of the world.