Perceptual Pareidolia

In order to imagine an alternative to your perception, you must admit to the possibility of perceptual confusion.
Second in a series on perception and awareness.
First: Discerning Compound Problems — Problems are sometimes simple. More often problems are compound and complex, and complicated.

tree faceThe boyfriend says to the girlfriend, if there's 2 ways to take something, and one is mean and hurtful, I meant the other one.


But if you don't see the other one, that's meaningless. You only think, he's being mean and hurtful.

First, you must own your own emotions. Always take responsibility for being upset. "I am upset" is truth. "You upset me" avoids responsibility; it's not true in the same way. If the same words, same speaker, different listener, causes no upset, it's not the speaker, it's the listener. The manner of reaction is based on internal realities rather than external. The inverse would be a person who fails to get it when someone is being insulting or manipulative. Like when an old friend turns on you, and at first you think they're joking, until the preponderance of evidence is, no, that person really is being a jerk.

Second, in order to think "he meant the other one," you have to at least imagine that there is another one.

In order to imagine an alternative to your perception, you must admit to the possibility of perceptual confusion. You have to be able to have a second thought after the first impression. Even though it seems like the other person must be "making a dig" or "guilt-tripping" or something else, you might be imagining it.

It's not so much a matter of disregarding your perception as allowing for the possibility of misperception, despite how real it might
seem, despite the powerful and instantaneous emotional reactions which lend credence to your perception.

A negative perspective creates negative interpretations. If you have chronically and for years misunderstood and misinterpreted, the negative perspective seems all the more real. It's like in A Wrinkle in Time, where at first they're inside the darkness and it seems to be the main thing, but when the witches take them to a higher level of understanding, they see the reality is, the darkness is only a patch, and the light is the whole reality. Except that quite often the darkness isn't even real, you're just "blind" to the light.

Key is honesty, sincerity, in being able to accept that, for whatever reasons, you have had and continue to have perceptual problems which cause you to perceive things in a way that upset you, and have evolved whole perceptual milieu which are fooling your brain. It's a kind of emotional pareidolia.

"I wasn't angry," is often shouted angrily. Here is an article that seems to beg some conclusion, but is nevertheless good for definition:

Anger: An Often Mislabeled, Often Misperceived Emotion

[A]nger should be seen as a spectrum of reactions and feelings ranging from the mild to the severe. It may be a case of irritation, frustration, being upset, resentment, hatred, madness, aggression, hostility, violence, or rage. ... People need help in self-awareness to discover the source and magnitude of their anger. Questions like, What makes me upset or resentful? and Why do I get so easily frustrated? help clarify whether it is a manifestation of selfishness and narcissism or a mobilization of necessary zeal on an existential level to face violation, stop injustice, and overcome evil.

So: Anger is a range, not a single state. Self-awareness helps discern whether it's a result of internal confusion or actual external attack.

Similarly to the definitional limitedness of the above, here are just a couple of lines from a message on PsychForums (BPD = Borderline Personality Disorder):

Upthread are these "sub-genre" for BPD:
  • Avoidant PD (social anxiety)
  • Self-Destructive PD
  • Dependent PD
  • Oppositional[ly] Defiant [PD]
  • Obsessive-compulsive PD"

My (flawed) impression of people with BPD is that they see emotional triggers that aren't there. Things become greater or more significant than they really are. The sky is falling-in. Or they have just met the most amazing person in the world and everything is now perfect.

I hate the idea of feeling or thinking something that isn't real. I'd rather have too few emotions than ones based on misperceptions. I'd rather be missing data than have flawed data in my system.

There are three things I see here that are important:

  1. "emotional triggers that aren't there"
  2. "emotions... based on misperceptions"
  3. "missing data"

You may perceive abuse, but while there may be a nit of basis for the perception, you're missing the broad fabric.

When I say "misperception," it's really more a matter of failure to perceive the greater context and an amplification of imagined hurt that fills the void of understanding.

This can be hard stuff to incorporate. Like the forum comment, one may dislike the idea of having false information and reactions thereto. But facing truth is vital.

Shocking illusion - Pretty girls turn ugly!
Uploaded to YouTube by TangenCognitionLab on Jul 7, 2011
How does that work?
[h/t to Maetenloch at Ace of Spades for the link!]