At one point, a woman comes to an ophthalmic center and buys a pair of eyeglasses for her husband. Then, two weeks later, she returns and says:
“Thank you, they are no help; he still doesn’t see things as I want him to!”
Probably many of you know the phrase, “Before you take the speck out of the other person’s eyes, see the log in your eyes!”. Well, not only do we all tend to do this, but I have another secret for you: these specks have different colors! This means that each one sees another dot…
In fact, I propose the next practical exercise right now as you read this article. Yes, right now. What? Did you think you’d get away with just some comfortable reading? Turn your head from right to left and count how many red objects are around you. Turn your head all at once, quickly, and count all red objects. Did you do that? No cheating! Do this right now!
Congratulations. Now don’t look around. Instead, close your eyes and answer the following question: how many green objects were there?
(keep reading ↓)
If you haven’t cheated and unless you have an exceptional visual memory, likely, you haven’t paid attention to the green objects because you were looking for the red ones. This has happened because, out of the billions of pieces of information that the human brain processes simultaneously (the information coming through the 5 senses, regulation of heartbeats, digestion, walking, one’s thoughts, etc.), it can only select a small number of pieces of information to focus on. Moreover, studies have shown that, in fact, the concept of “distributivity of attention” doesn’t exist, and it is correct to say “mobility of attention”. In other words, we may have the impression that we are focusing on more than one thing, but, in fact, we are focusing on one thing, in turn. Those who have the impression that they can consciously accomplish more things simultaneously have actually trained their ability to quickly switch their attention from one item to another (within fractions of a second). On the other hand, unconsciously, our brain processes much more information than we can consciously record. All the information perceived by the brain is recorded. The problem is that to sort out what is relevant from what is irrelevant, the brain needs to select exactly the information that is useful to it.
The filters of your unconscious perception
Do you know how certain digital cameras can apply a color filter so that one single color would be seen in addition to black and white?
Thus, in the previous exercise, when you were careful about counting the red objects, your brain focused on red and filtered out all the other colors, including green. When the information you were asked for was on a different filter than the one you were looking for, you couldn’t remember precisely because a mini-program prevented you from doing that. Yes, you read well. A mini-program. I’ve “programmed” you to see only the red.
Let’s take another example. Let’s say two spouses are dining in the living room. At one point, the wife tells her husband: “Dear, please bring the salt shaker! It’s in the kitchen, in the closet.” Disturbed, the husband returns and says he can’t see the salt shaker and that it isn’t there. Demonstratively, the wife goes to the kitchen, takes the salt shaker from where her husband said it wasn’t, and says, “As I said, it was here!” The husband is a little surprised: “Oh, how could I not see it?”.
Are you familiar with such situations? Well, I have good news: THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTES IN COMMUNICATION! Any information, even at an unconscious level, is transmitted because it has particular significance and importance. Communication is an act of influencing. Any expressed information that can be received has a role for which it is transmitted, even if this role is sometimes hidden.
The model of the world
Well, what’s going on? The critical spirit sometimes makes us notice something about another person and ask ourselves: why can’t that person be more “as they should”… or “as I am”? In other words, “why can’t that person be closer to my model of the world, to the way I see reality?” Most of the time, the meaning of a scream addressed to a loved one is: “why aren’t you more like me or how I wish you were!?”.
I still remember another joke with a moral. At one point, a young lawyer traveled worldwide, hoping to discover the Truth. At some point, tired of such an unsuccessful search, finding himself on a high mountain peak, he found refuge in a cave. He discovered an old woman keeping herself warm in front of an improvised fire. Our weird man didn’t expect to find a soul there, so he asked the woman who she was. The woman replied attentively: “Me? I am the TRUTH.” “You? But you can’t be the Truth… it is unacceptable that I tell all my colleagues and friends who know my search that just when I found the Truth, it was embodied by an ugly old woman on an obscure mountain peak!” The woman said to him: “Then tell them that I’m young, beautiful, and you’ve found me at the seaside!”
Can you remember the phrase “different people have different opinions”? Well, the truth is that the truth, regarded as “objectively”, can instead be considered a succession of facts to which the majority affected by those facts agrees. However, when it comes to people, “you are so” or “you are not so” are sometimes unjust labels applied from the desire to put aside those aspects that negate the hypothesis on which the label is based. For example, if someone believes someone else is dishonest, they will search for those details to confirm this, even if, in fact, it is not so. Of course, there is also the consideration that some of the best chess players are paranoid precisely because they manage to anticipate each opponent’s move. However, we don’t have to be paranoid to notice some aspects we are interested in.
How can somebody be an idiot?
And now, we come to the main idea: “what is this article good for?”. Before answering this question, I have another task for you, which I’m also asking you to do right now and keep the sheet. The job is to make a characterization of a person you know directly to answer the question: “How can somebody be an idiot?“. Specifically, if you know X, who you think is an idiot, how can X be an idiot? Make a description as detailed as possible. Only in this exercise, please use all your prejudices and criticisms that come to your mind, which ARGUES the idea that X is an idiot. Careful! This is anything but a hateful letter to X! This specific task aims to identify the image you have about what it means to be an idiot. It’s not an easy task.
Once you have prepared the characterization, keep the sheet. It’s the list of features that bother you about yourself or you think are against your character!
I wish you successful self-awareness!
Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2011-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Paiele din ochii celorlalţi au culori diferite pentru fiecare“ published initially by Marcus Victor Grant in Romanian at the 2nd of April 2012 on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. Initially written in 2011.
The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.