It affects how we see and how we behave. We’re not generally aware that this is happening, and there’s no getting around it.
We think we are seeing ‘reality as it is’, but none of us are. We are each seeing our own version based on what has uniquely happened in each of our lives up until this moment.
What we perceive is based on our expectations, which are based on our past. And what we perceive triggers our behavior.
What this means is that in order to have new behavior,
we need to expect something new.
And one way to do this is to expand our awareness. We need to find a way to shift from only seeing what we expect because of our past so we can interact with the present in a way that is more flexible and interactive with all the possible data that is available – but which we often don’t even notice because the past is blurring our vision.
I put both words ‘engineering’ and ‘awareness’ together because most of us have had our awareness ‘engineered’.
What I mean by that is that as stated above, we all think we are aware and perceiving reality as it is. But we were each born into a microcosm of people who all had their own past. Everyone we have been surrounded by sees their own version of reality too! So as they interacted with us, we started to form many of our expectations based on their reactions and behaviors.
These very narrow expectations and perspectives of the world then made us see the world more narrowly.
In many cases, there are systems and structures that preserve themselves by ensuring that we don’t become aware of anything else other than our expectations. In some cases, it’s not malevolent: our families ‘engineer’ our awareness by exposing us to their beliefs, attitudes, and reactions to people and events. They aren’t doing in a malicious way – our parents want us to believe what they believe because they believe it is the ‘truth’!
In other cases, although it may or may not be maliciously intended, the people around us may not want us to be aware of other perspectives because they are afraid it will mean that we won’t see the world they see it and reject them.
In all of these cases, our awareness starts out, when we first come out of the womb, as very open, expansive and ‘undifferentiated’.
We notice most things equally. Which is why babies seem so fascinated by everything! They notice more about all the ‘data’ and moving energy in front of them because they haven’t built up expectations, and so their ability to notice hasn’t been narrowed down yet.
But as we get older and are surrounded by generally the same limited group of people over and over and over again, our expectations increase. We start to expect a certain reaction to smiling, yelling, crying, doing what we’re told, doing the opposite. Our expectations of what it’s like to be with other people gets more and more limited. Our awareness of all the possible realities and ‘data’ becomes dimmer. Our ability to notice becomes ‘engineered’ by the what everyone around us is noticing.
So our behavior, our conversations and reactions start to become fairly familiar and repetitive.
We start to only notice what we expect. And what we expect is based on our past experiences. So the present keeps getting dragged down by the past.
So how do we get out of this trap?
Awareness is the key to having more choice and control over our behavior. It is the most fundamental component to change and growth. We can’t go to any other step in the change process without awareness.
The first step to increasing self-awareness is to get better at this rarely-talked about skill…