I once heard a saying that you never ever know a person fully. What you have is basically a mental image or model of a person. I like to think of them rather as mental paintings since a painting gradually develops across time. The amount of detail or brush strokes the painting has depends on a number of factors like the amount of time you've spent, the kind of rapport you've built and/or the situations you've seen the person in. And no two paintings of the same person by two different people are ever the same.
No two perceptions of the same person are ever the same.
In other words, a single person can have countless number of paintings by countless different people. In fact everyone has their own painting of themselves too which is very different from any other painting by anyone else.
But I digress. What I wanted to write about is one specific painting that everyone creates. It's a painting of one's own fear and it's various manifestations. It's also a painting embodying our mental limitations that we create and blame for not achieving our goals. A painting I like to call 'the Demon'. Ideally it should be called 'the Personal Demon' but for most of us it isn't. And there in lies an important problem that we all face.
When we paint our Demon (problems, fear, limitations), it has to be a reflection of what we face in our lives. It is influenced by others too as you come to know of their demons. But many times what we end up doing is letting others paint our demons for us. This can have effects ranging from being unhealthy to potentially devastating for ourselves and others.
Letting others paint our demons for us can have effects ranging from unhealthy to potentially devastating for ourselves and others. For example, letting others define our fears makes us fear outcomes that are of little to no consequence to us. While we get to know people when others talk about them, letting others define how we perceive certain people makes us see them often in a bad light. And this is done even though we have no such bad experiences.
We don't have to look far for real life examples. After World War I, Hitler managed to paint the entire Jewish community in Germany as the prime reason for its loss. The Jewish community, that had blended into the German society, were slowly dehumanised to the extent that when the they were rounded up, no one saw the need to speak up. This led to the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler and the Nazi party had successfully painted the European Jewry as German society's (and for a lot of others') personal demon.
So how do we avoid this? The answer is not simple as not every perception is formed consciously. It also doesn't help that the human brain is constantly on the lookout for anything that threatens its survival (more on that in future posts) and it uses perceptions to model its threats.
What we CAN do is not let everything we hear, listen or read paint our demons for us. We have to analyse our fears and feelings and weed out those that have no logical evidence to support them. This is not easy as it sounds.
Said enough times, it doesn't take a half-truth a long time to be stated as the truth
For it entails us to be conscious of every perception that we form and be on constant lookout for any bias that we develop without evidence. After all, if a half-truth is stated as the truth enough times, it doesn't take a long time until people start considering it as such.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this.
Image Source: publiusforum.com/images/media_bias.jpg
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