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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Perception Isn't Reality

 

 

My late stepmom used to tell me, “Perception is reality.” Perception is defined as the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

 

Likewise, reality is described as the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. Therefore, what my stepmom taught me was that one’s awareness through sensory detection constituted objective existence.

 

For many years, I believed my stepmom aphorism—expression of a terse formulation relating to truth. This is because I didn’t understand epistemology—the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope.

 

Epistemological practice involves the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. When using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I address unjustified thoughts, opinions, and irrational beliefs which are akin to my stepmom’s aphorism.

 

Although “perception is reality” may seem logical, it isn’t. Using a syllogism to illustrate this point, consider the following:

 

Premise 1: All observed information detected through my senses constitutes reality.

 

Premise 2: With my own eyes, I observed an illusionist pull a rabbit out of a top hat and from seemingly nowhere.

 

Conclusion: Therefore, a rabbit being pulled out of a top hat and from seemingly nowhere constitutes reality.

 

While it may be true that one can observe or perceive an illusionary act, the trick itself isn’t representative of reality. This is because matter (a rabbit) doesn’t necessarily manifest out of nowhere.

 

Perhaps another example may be in order. Before I proceed further, allow me to preemptively reject the argument of intellectually dishonest and bad-faith actors who may propose there is no such thing as reality.

 

I understand that some people go a bit overboard with an ontological perspective—relating to the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Arguing a metaphysical stance, they may suggest that there is more space between atoms and so even solid matter is less existent than is space.

 

Regarding this Cartesian crisis, one source states, “In Descartes dualist doctrine, all of nature was divided into two forms of substance: res extensa (matter) and res cogitans (mind). Most importantly, these two substances were conceived as ontologically independent and separate.”

 

It isn’t difficult to become too focused on philosophical imperatives and lose sight of scientific principle. Therefore, I reject pointless obfuscation related to matters of res cogitans when herein I’m discussing res extensa.

 

Minor quibble aside, consider the physical structure of a car. It exists outside of you. It may have predated your birth and could be around long after you die. Many people from around the globe could travel to the location of this car and verify that it exists.

 

For the philosophically challenging reader, if a person were to run you over with a car you claim has more space between atoms than actual solid matter, you may quickly come to terms with the reality of your predicament. For the sake of this discussion, the car exists.

 

Now, suppose you take a photo of the car. The car exists and so does your photograph. However, you cannot drive the picture, because it’s a representation of the car and not the car itself.

 

This is the function of perception. Reality exists irrespective of one’s observation, thought, opinions, or beliefs. We may perceive or interpret reality, similar to taking a photo of a car, though our observation doesn’t constitute reality itself.

 

This is why I reject claims of personal truth (e.g., “my truth”) and lived experience. No person owns truth or reality. We simply perceive it—and do so imperfectly.

 

Consequently, perception isn’t reality. Rather, it’s merely an imprecise depiction of what simply is. Doubtlessly, some irrational believers of woo-woo nonsense will claim otherwise.

 

Rather than disturbing myself with beliefs about these people, I unconditionally accept that some individuals are willfully foolish and that I, too, could be the individual who is naïve in this regard. For now, I assert that perception isn’t reality.

 

I think this post is worth consideration, because I imagine other people believe as I once did—maintaining that perception is reality. Surely, my late stepmom and I weren’t the only people who believed this flawed perspective.

 

Once people understand that we merely observe, perceive, and interpret reality and truth, we can then set aside the rigid demands we use towards ourselves, others, and life as a whole. Would you like to know more about how to stop deceiving yourself with unhelpful aphorisms and beliefs of this kind?

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

 

References:

 

Bioperipatetic. (2018, July 4). Descartes and the philosophical crisis of modern science. Retrieved from https://bioperipatetic.com/descartes-and-the-philosophical-crisis-of-modern-science/

Hatfield, G. (2023, October 23). René Descartes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes/

Hollings, D. (2022, September 21). Acting as if. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/acting-as-if

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/demandingness

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 4). Human fallibility. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/human-fallibility

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/irrational-beliefs

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Lived experience. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/lived-expereince

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/on-truth

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/self-disturbance

Hollings, D. (2023, October 17). Syllogism. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/syllogism

Hollings, D. (2022, September 19). The elegant solution. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-elegant-solution

Hollings, D. (2022, December 14). The is-ought problem. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-is-ought-problem

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/unconditional-acceptance

Wikipedia. (n.d.). René Descartes. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Descartes

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