“We don’t perceive the world as it is, we perceive it as it is useful for us to do so.” Anil Seth in Being You
Seth’s recent exploration of what consciousness may be in Being You is a thought provoking one. He suggests we perceive things, both in the outside world, and in our own body, in order to maintain life, to continue to exist. His view of consciousness is that it arises from our living beings, and it enables us to sustain ourselves. The usefulness of perception is that it lets us know whether our predictions about what is both out there and in here are on track, and if not how we need to update and adjust them to maintain our bodymind in a self-sustaining, health promoting way.
Wow. I have long believed we construct our own reality, and that we have the capacity therefore to construct it differently, this is the orientation of psychotherapy I chose to train in, because it chimed with my own experience of life. Constructivism does not mean that I don’t believe that the computer I am typing on is indeed a computer that exists, it’s more that I know the way I experience it can vary and that is something I can influence. My experience of it and everything else changes after all depending on my mood, tiredness, hunger, wellness…
The power of thinking of ourselves as prediction makers and testers is that it offers us the opportunity to hold lightly what we perceive, to check it out, to consider alternative narratives and ways of thinking; to be flexible. Not getting stuck in the grooves of our expectations and assumptions is a good thing, and now I understand that we can carry this forwards to consider how we can be flexible in what we see, hear and physically sense too. There is always more information, always more to notice and be with. What we select to be aware of is in itself interesting.
I’m not sure yet where these reminders and insights will take me, or how they will enhance and develop my skill as a psychotherapist. I feel a sense of excitement and openness to discover more about my, and clients, experiences of being in therapeutic encounters, and how we use them to update our mutual predictions of what will happen in our interactions out there in the world.
What meanings do you make of things that you want to hold lightly and explore? What might you notice if you looked with a softer gaze? What might you hear if you go beyond the obvious?