A woman once asked me to watch her luggage at an airport while she went to the toilet. I agreed without thinking, but after 10 minutes all those dire warnings about unattended luggage and terrorists bubbled to the surface. She could be a terrorist, a suicide bomber minus the suicide. Finally I decided to find security. They’d want a description. I thought about it…she was young, 20’s probably, definitely Oriental with short dark hair. But before I set off in search of someone in uniform, the woman returned. She was middle-aged, Spanish with short, very grey hair.
We see selectively. Ask any forensic psychologist. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. They’re not insincere or deceitful or stupid, just human and human beings can’t be relied upon to perceive reality as it is. We’re neurologically built that way. Given our difficult accurately perceiving physical objects, non- physical reality is a potential minefield. This is colored not only by our neurobiology but by our psychology – our needs and beliefs and the complex layers of life experience.
We see what we want to believe. We see what we need to see at the time. We see what our level of Awareness permits us to see.
We can want to believe lots of things – that people love us, that they are well-meaning, that they are wise and honest. We can also want to believe that they have betrayed us, that they don’t like us and a host of other things that blind us to who they are…and who we are.
Limited perception often serves our need for security – the security of knowing the world is as we think it is. Whether that’s pleasant or painful doesn’t matter, it’s the security of knowing the sun will rise tomorrow that’s important. If we grow up hurt, we can anticipate it in all new relationships, brace ourselves for the inevitable, see it where it doesn’t exist. But the world, at least, is true to form, reliable in its cruelty.
In contrast, some people desperately want to believe in the goodness of everyone – the dark side of human nature fades into the shadows and, like me and my old friend (see…) end up scratching their heads in puzzlement over what happened. Nothing happened except a shift of perception, an expansion of awareness and some change in the way the other person shows the multiple facets of themselves.
It seems to me the way out of this bind is not so much in through awareness of others, although that helps, but through awareness of ourselves and our need to see what we want to see. Or, as it says in the Bible: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part but then I shall know even as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians, 13:12 American King James Version)