Things I know to be true – What you see is what you get

What you see is what you get

There’s a term in the IT world and it’s WYSIWYG, it’s been used since the 1990’s and refers to the design of online systems and it means that what developers see when they’re designing something is the same as what the user will see on the finished screen. And it’s a perfect analogy for my second ‘truth’.

We are all different. Yes, I know that’s stating the obvious, but I’m not just referring to how we look, where we live, what we do in our lives or how we think. I’m also referring to what we see, both practically and spiritually.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the illusion that what you ‘see’ with your eyes is actually what’s out ‘there’ in the world, but the eyes and brain don’t actually work that way. There’s an old experiment that did the rounds years ago and it was designed to demonstrate this in a simple, practical way. The video formed part of an experiment by Harvard University called The Selective Attention Test and it was designed to see whether people really do see what goes on around them. If you want to give it go yourself you can see it at the end of this post.

Another simple way of testing it out is when you’re driving. Have you ever fallen into that state where you suddenly arrive somewhere but can’t remember what you passed along the way? And what about if you were a passenger in the car gazing out of passenger side window, would you notice what’s going on around the driver’s side?

That’s the practical side of the statement. You only ‘see’ what you notice, but what you ‘see’ isn’t necessarily reality because of the way the brain interprets the information being passed to through the optic nerve. This is why I can’t be sure that you see the same tree I see, the same blue I see or the same events I see. The brain is constantly interpreting what’s coming in, passing judgement on it, naming it and then referring it to our conscious mind if it thinks it necessary.

That doesn’t mean to say I’m not fully aware of everything that’s going on around me, at some level I am and it’s why people under hypnosis can often recall details about events they weren’t aware they knew. At some level we are fully conscious beings, yet we limit ourselves by the assumption that what we see is all there is.

And there’s the side of this post, that takes the WYSIWYG statement to whole other level and that’s the spiritual side of what we choose to ‘see’. And to get started I’d like to ask you a question; ‘how do you interpret the events and circumstances around you?’. Let’s take the COVID-19 pandemic, do you see it as ‘good’, ‘bad’ or are you largely indifferent? By the way there is no right or wrong answer to these questions and everyone will have an opinion and I guess that’s where I’m starting from.

How we choose to interpret what we see around us in our world and lives dictates to a large extent what happens going forwards. Putting it another way, if I choose to see the events and circumstances of my life as largely negative then my perception of the world is poor; if I choose to see them as largely positive, then I’ll be happier more of the time. And the more we see things in a particular way, interpreting them as good, bad, or indifferent the harder it gets to change that perception.

I’ve spent decades talking to thousands of people as counsellor, coach and in my IT role. And I have yet to come across two people having exactly the same experience, ever. It doesn’t happen because a. we are all different and b. we all see the world in a unique way based on our life experience, our understanding, our values and expectations.

It’s not that we just see different trees, people or buildings; it’s that we interpret and judge each of those things differently causing our experience of the same events to be so variable. And, it’s not just that I happen to be looking out of the right side of the car while you’re looking out the left, we experience the same journey differently – even though it’s the same journey time, route and delivery mechanism.

To make it more challenging to get your head around, I’ll almost certainly guarantee that you will never have the same experience of what seems like the same event. And the reason for that is because you will be a different person each time that event comes around, but we can become conditioned to acting in the same way, even when it doesn’t feel the same.

‘Seeing’ life differently is largely a matter of choice, it’s choosing to notice the ‘positive’ rather than the ‘negative’. For example, when I look out of my window right now I see it’s raining hard and I could choose to think it’s a horrible day, or I could choose to say it’s raining. Each of those statements has an impact on my perception of my moment by moment lifes journey.

If what you’ve always got is what you want right now, then you must carry on seeing life in the same you’ve always done. But, if it’s not, then you need to do something different – so why not start right now and choose to see whatever circumstance is around you differently, perhaps more positively, and let the magic of change happen.

4 comments

  1. That’s amazing Tracey – counting and the gorilla is fab. And yes, taking note is one of the best first steps. Sadly, I don’t know what happened to your comment either as it’s not here waiting for me. But hey. this one worked 🙂

  2. Loved it. I just wrote a huge comment, which has sadly disappeared, possibly someone trying to tell me I was waffling on too much!! I counted 15 in the test & I saw the gorilla & wondered what it was doing there! So at least I’m taking note of my surroundings!! Xxx

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