How Your Beliefs Affect Your Perception
Imagine two mailmen walking down a street together. One mailman loves dogs. He’s owned many dogs, has good skills in dealing with dogs, and carries a pocket-full of dog biscuits for when he meets dogs on his mail route. The other mailman has been bitten by every dog in the neighborhood; He has an irrational fear of dogs he cannot seem to control and is constantly afraid of seeing dogs on his mail route. Suddenly, a German shepherd comes walking towards them down the sidewalk from the opposite direction. The first mailman is reaching into his pocket for a dog biscuit to greet man’s best friend. The other man starts to sweat. The pupils of his eyes dilate, his heart beats faster, his breathing becomes more rapid and shallow, and his fists clench as his sympathetic nervous system becomes aroused. The dog, sensing the second man’s fear starts to growl. If this dynamic continues to its conclusion, the second mailman may get bit yet again, thereby fulfilling his expectations. Our fears tend to become a self-fulfilling prophecy which creates the predictable and repetitive cycles of conflict in our lives.
One mailman sees man’s best friend while the other sees a vicious killer. Observing the exact same dog at the exact same time, both men perceive a very different situation. The dog could be wagging his tail and have his tongue hanging out, but if a person believes dogs are dangerous, then that person will ignore the information that is contrary to their belief system and actually alter their perception of the situation to reflect their belief system. This is how our beliefs and fears actually alter our perception of reality.
Furthermore, the nature of their perception influences their conscious and unconscious reactions which then impact the situation to create the outcome that is repetitive and predictable. Their fundamental perception of the situation was governed by their belief system; formed through their past experiences. Their perceptions determined their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the situation which in turn affected the outcome of the situation.
In a similar fashion, our perceptions influence our reactions and choices and create a repeating cycle of the events and conflicts in the drama of our life story.