The Great Privilege of Our Perceptual Window

March 6 2021

The world is going on all around us, but we can only be aware of small parts of it at a time. Swirls of causation course everywhere—from our own actions, and from the actions of others.

At any one moment, we have a small window that can visit this causative field, in all its complexity. It is a great privilege to have such a window available to us. Providing we have had enough sleep, and taken care of basic needs and so on, we have the amazing privilege of being able to be aware of a perceptual window onto a reality, where we are able to make conscious choices, judgements, and discernments.

Even within this narrow perceptual field, we can be easily clouded with judgements, projections, and other forms of misperception.

Even our habits of observation can easily bias our perceptions, even when we think they are clear. That is, it’s one thing to see without judgement; it’s another thing to have multi-viewpoint perspective on that thing; and it is still another to widen out to the bigger picture, beyond that thing that you were looking at or considering.

Given all this, it is humorous to think that we often choose to distort our perceptions within this window, because some things are unpleasant to look at. And yet, the consequences of letting these things “run rampant” under not-aware control could be great.

We can find many ways to rationalize pushing the unpleasant factors or ideas out of our mind:

  • We could tell ourselves, “I am too busy to deal with this situation now; I’ll look at it later.”
  • We could rationalize (without any particular reflection), “Oh, I don’t want to be negative about this potential hazard I see—I don’t want to ‘create that reality,’ so I’ll just pretend that possibility is not out there. You wouldn’t want me to create a negative reality, would you?"1
  • We could project it outward: “This is their fault, I don’t have to deal with or think about that.”
  • We could tell ourselves, “I am too overwhelmed to think about this right now! I’ll think about it later, when I feel more able to handle it.” This could be a helpful strategy, if you are using it to measure yourself, and handle one thing at a time. But in my experience, it can also lead very quickly to a situation where you are always putting off things.

But here is the great hazard: once we push the information out of our awareness, it becomes invisible to us. Harry Palmer talks bout this in terms of self-deception—that on some level, I do know that this potential hazard, situation, or otherwise possibly troubling thing exists; and yet I can “trick” myself into pretending I am unaware of it; but it still takes up attention, that sucks energy away from the size of this perceptual window that I am able to have.

But whether or not the above is true (and I do think it is), there is another point here that is the topic of this post: Potential negative causes, conditions, or hazards which I choose to push out of my perceptual window are often still playing themselves out. By pushing them out of my perceptual window, I have merely relegated them to a place where no rational or conscious awareness of them has a chance of steering them to a better course. Running according to their own chaotic logic, they may cause many different problems or difficulties, the results of which I will not even be aware of, until they come into my conscious awareness, as the sordid after-effects of those unseen processes.

But the alternative to pushing these things away is to have to face them—and this can be challenging. I think that a very deliberate process will help us. The first step may be to reflect on the consequences of ignoring them—as I am doing here.

But if we are persuaded that we had better devote some time, from time to time at least, to face what is unpleasant to look at, then we must use our will to do things that are not immediately fun, in order to avert problems or for future gains. This can require discipline, focus, and a deliberate process to circumvent our normal instinct to avoid things that aren’t fun to think about.

Things that I can often want to put off include:

  • Things I feel bad about (such as having said something unkind to someone, but not wanting to address the fallout)

  • Possible hazards (such as making myself aware of potentially dangerous situations in my environment, so that I can make wise choices to provide myself with a reasonable amount of protection). (For example, if I periodically look on, I could find out about certain crime patterns in my area. This is not fun to think about, and I might prefer to ignore them, wanting to believe they will not affect me. While it’s a real problem to want to create those situations to fulfill some sort of identity, when we can look with neutrality on them from time to time, I believe they can give us data that we can use to make prudent choices and gain a better picture of our immediate environment (see footnote below).

  • Situations where I am working towards something big, and I don’t want to think about all the hard work that might really be involved in accomplishing that thing. Again, maintaining a positive attitude can be incredibly helpful. But if that means I can’t be aware of the types of hazards or situations others have encountered before me, when trying to do similar things, this really puts me at a disadvantage. I cannot learn from them.

  • Choices I’d rather not have to make—for example, I have one delicious weekend ahead of me, and I have three times as much stuff that I’d like to do, than I could reasonably do in the time available to me. I would rather ignore that, and just start forging ahead with whatever occurs to me first. It is so painful, the feeling of having to choose “A”, and jettison “B”, “C”, and “D”. I hate that feeling! But—this is living from reaction! Saying “I hate that feeling” means I am operating from a reaction (not from source). And this will most often have negative consequences—even under circumstances where it looks like we are “not wanting to be negative”, ironically.

I believe the way to approach these subjects is with some kind of deliberate ritual. Sit down, with a clear intent, and a thoughtful set of deliberate questions, such as:

  • What things have I been avoiding?
  • What are the big things I want to see in my life?
  • What potential hazards and situations might I reasonably make my self aware of?
  • What choices, between things that I would like to see happen in my life, am I putting off?

None of these are fun topics! But, sometimes with a sober disposition, a little time, and a pen and paper, we can address them without running away. Once we have answered some of these questions, we could then use reason and careful thought (or contemplation) to consider them further, and make better choices.

  1. Upon further reflection, I would say that it is our responsibility to be able to see the potentially-unpleasant, without falling into judgement and reaction to it. For, yes—the judgement and reaction is not desirable. And yet—seeing the reality of a potentially unpleasant situation could give us valuable information. The takeaway is this: when we are at the mercy of our responses and reactions to how we view things, we are not being source of our emotional state. Rather than surrendering judgement (an Avatar skill) on that area and experiencing that aspect of our reality as-it-is, we push it away, out of sight. ↩︎

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© Alexander Feller 2018