Are all our thoughts real?

The creation of our vision of the world

Have you ever noticed that we live in our own reality? Of course, we all live different lives. That’s understandable! But what we tackle here goes deeper. We are talking about how each of us perceives the world, differently, with our personal vision, looking at things through our own lenses. 

So how do we create this “filter” that defines how we perceive the world in such a unique way?

Various elements play an important role in the creation of this filter, which we can also call our “lenses.” 

First of all, it comes from our education. Our upbringing is key here: what we have been taught at school, what we learned and how we learned it, our relationships with our parents, and so forth. This learning represents the foundation of our “lenses” or vision of what we believe to be true. 

Let’s take an example. Marc, a fictive character, grew up in a kind, open-minded family. Marc has always been free and loved since he was a child. Today, as an adult, he lives his relationships with others with an open, kind, and respectful heart. It comes naturally to him since he learned to feel and behave in such a way during his childhood. 

Many beliefs come from our educational background. We are more or less aware of this process. Based on his vision of relationships, Marc might believe it would be useless to fight with anyone — since every conflict can be solved in a calm and respectful manner. However, Fanny, Marc’s partner, who grew up in a conflict-driven family, might believe that anger and fights are the only way to solve issues. 

In parallel with our education, there’s also our environment — and natural surroundings — which play a critical role in how we perceive the world. A person who lives in a peaceful atmosphere doesn’t see life in the same way as an individual who experiences tension, for instance. Similarly, a warm environment (such as a tropical island) and a Nordic country where winters are long and tiring could result in two different visions of life. 

All these elements (our education, our environment, our relationships, our quality of life, our experiences…) build up our personality. Our personality is formed according to what we have learned, what we continue to learn, and how we take action. It’s the true expression of our character and is constantly evolving. 

This is where our true freedom lies: we can always evolve, grow, and see things from a different perspective. We can always bring the necessary changes to our vision or lenses.

Misunderstandings and fights

Our thoughts result from our beliefs. 

For instance, if I believe that dogs are dangerous — perhaps a belief I formed after being bitten by a dog — I would automatically think that all dogs are dangerous. My friend, who loves dogs, would think, “What a cute dog!” when seeing the same animal in the street, while I’d be scared and would think of ways to escape. 

Our thoughts truly belong to us since they come from our personal history. In that way, they are also subjective. This is the main trigger of fights and misunderstandings. As each of us lives within our vision of the world, it can be difficult to understand the others around us, and vice and versa. 

Let’s take another example that many of us can relate to. Let’s put ourselves in the life of an imaginary couple, Jean and Fanny.

Jean prefers that the dishes are put away after each meal while Fanny truly hates cleaning up immediately after lunch or dinner. Everyday, it’s the same story: each time she finishes her meal, Fanny sits down on the sofa. Jean always feels the same: Fanny’s behavior makes him believe she wants him to handle the cleaning. 

Months of living under the same roof under such circumstances go on and neither of them is capable of clearly expressing their point of view. Until one day, Jean can’t handle it anymore, and says “Fanny, you really treat me like your handyman. I can’t take this anymore!” Fanny is shocked and can’t understand Jean’s sudden reaction. ‘How can he even think this,’ she may wonder. 

When Jean explains to her that he feels insulted each time she sits on the sofa without having done the dishes, she replies, “But I never asked you to do anything! In my family, we always handle the household chores after we finish eating since it’s our sacred moment of the day together. After all, I must admit I always feel sad that you never rest with me after we eat lunch or dinner, Jean.” 

Now, let’s look at this situation from an external perspective. On the one hand, Jean is upset by Fanny’s behavior and thinks he is the one who should take action. On the other, Fanny is sad that Jean prefers to clean the dishes instead of spending some time with her on the sofa.

For both of them, their visions and actions come from their upbringing and personality, which has been built over their life, based on their personal experiences.

We can then think of the following: are our thoughts real or are they the result of our personal experience?

This example makes us think of how we live in our current relationships — with little or no communication. Most of us have to occasionally tackle such misunderstandings, which are both natural and changeable, if we take the time to analyze them.

Compassion: the key to open and kind communication

From the moment we understand that our vision of life, of others, and of the world is based on our personal story, we begin to understand how subjective it is: it’s truly within us. 

There’s only one solution to kind and open communication — which is compassion. Compassion truly affects how we perceive the world around us and how others act. In our daily life, we need compassion to interact positively with others.

We naturally tend to have more compassion towards children. We think it’s normal that a child may not understand one situation the same way adults do since the child doesn’t have the same experience. 

On the other hand, we tend to judge adults when they act contrary to our vision of the world. We think, “They should this or that. They should not behave in such a way”. However, we completely ignore everything about them, about their experiences, and learnings. 

Let’s think like this for a while: if someone looks suspicious to us, we could also appear suspicious to them.

We may believe we own the truth and that we are the only ones who know how to behave. But, in fact, this represents a risk: that we may impose our vision of the world on others. Our vision is just the fruit of our personal story.

Of course, this does not include situations that involve violence or abuse, which should be dealt with differently. I refer to situations in our daily life where we tend to easily judge others: how we dress, how we communicate, how we eat, how we laugh, how we think and so on, that may look strange or different from our vision or habits.

We should accept that our beliefs result from our personal story — and we should rely on compassion to accept our differences, which are the biggest source of learning for all of us as human beings. Learning from others and learning different things are true gifts. 

So now, let’s approach things in the following way: how does this article lead us to think and act differently toward others? Are we ready to be more open and kind, seeing the different people in our lives through compassionate eyes? Can we use compassion to understand others better? Please share your comments with us. We love to read what you think!

Translator: Angel Lebailly

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