Our seeing and not seeing
In a gathering with some friends, a couple talked about their experience in choosing a new car. The couple had difficulty in making the final decision of choosing which model to buy and asked us for some opinions. I asked the couple about their thoughts on the two models they are choosing. The husband preferred the model with higher horsepower and better energy saving technology. The wife preferred the model with a slimmer built and curvier outlook. They both wanted to choose a model that is the most suitable for their needs, but they seemed to be unable to perceive these two models with objectivity. Why do we frequently see things only from our own perspectives and believe that we already perceived the whole objective picture?
One of the reasons for us to have a tendency to see things from our own perspectives is that our senses are selective according to our past experience and our conditioned self-identity. For instance, if I have a certain orientation of practicing psychotherapy in the past, I am conditioned to assess my clients through the lens of this particular orientation. Even if I have learned many different types of psychotherapies from various orientations, I may still automatically select to analyse from the orientation that I used to adopt in the past. In this case, our seeing may not completely reflecting the whole picture and may also be distorted or biased with our own selectivity.
In fact, we also tend to be attracted to things that are related to our self-identity. In the example above, the husband and the wife both have their own perspectives when choosing a car. Their preferences are the results of them being attracted to features related to the self-identities. As far as I know, the husband is enjoying car racing as a hobby and is also an engineer. As a result, he was attracted to the features of the model which are relating to speed and energy saving. The wife is an artist and has a very high demand on the esthetic. Therefore, she tended to choose a model according to the esthetic design. With the conditioning of choosing or seeing things associated with our self-identity and past experience, we may not be able to see some aspects of the reality. If we wish to encounter our reality with objectivity, we need to learn to let go of these conditioning influenced by our past experience and our self-identity.
If we wish to be able to have a more objective view on things we perceive, we needed to ground ourselves and cultivate mindfulness. If we are grounded, we may be more likely to see the bigger picture of the object in our attention. With mindfulness, we may be more attentive in perceiving the object with all of our senses. We may also notice our clinging into some aspects that may related to our past experience or self-identity. For the couple that I met in the gathering, I suggest them to return to the car shop and ground themselves while looking into the different models again. I told them to get in touch with their body and feel the support of the ground they are standing. In this way, they may start to observe the different models with all of their senses as well as using an objective attitude to see in all aspects. After our sharing, they agreed that actually they are looking for a model with practicality and reliability. They reflected that their self-identities are so powerful that they almost got lost by choosing a model with their own subjectivity. It is interesting that they even did not realise their biases and used to think their choices were the best. With goundedness and mindfulness, they may be able to come up with a choice that is the most suitable for their needs.
Even when we open our eyes and see, we may not actually seeing.