Saturday, October 03, 2009

Perception

To paraphrase Georges Danton (NOT Frederick the Great as George Patton often stated): Il faut de le perception, encore de le perception, et toujours de le perception!

Or, to put it another way, it's all about ME.

Perception is one of the stealthiest beasts in the jungle of the mind. It's much more likely to "go rogue" (Sorry, ex-governor Palin!) than its fellow senses. When it metastasizes from a functional, useful creature into a malignant monster, dangerous not only to itself but to the entire jungle, it becomes something akin to Henri Bergson's intuition on steroids laced with PCP. Rather than understanding others' feelings or perceptions through the filter of my own experience, which is perception's actual day job, I project my own insecurities, fears, and maybe even psychoses onto others and assign my personal shit to them as their "true motives" when I view or interact with them.

You know, kinda like Sean Manatee always going on about how liberals are such "haters." Psychologists call this transference. When our perception is cancerous rather than healthy it becomes transference. That has a disproportionately negative effect on our ability to function in the larger world surrounding our personal mental jungle and can be lethiferous to our social life, in the most basic sense of that phrase. Enough about life, let's talk about me for a while! (Sorry, Alanis but I just love to bastardize song lyrics.) I've been dealing with this for a buncha decades now and have a few thoughts on the matter.

Most people who meet me would categorize me as: extroverted, outgoing, fun, charming, sociable, etc. My "reality" is that, inside my own mental jungle, screened behind the thick foliage of desperately-intellectualized camouflage and mimicry, in my perception I am like an early species of Muroidea in the Cretaceous Period, shivering in fear and cowering in my tiny mammalian hidey-hole, hoping desperately to survive in a world of gigantic, powerful, merciless dinosaurs.

Everyone else seems to me to be a dinosaur. They know how to interact with their fellows and function as true dinosaurs. They are imposing, complacently self-aware, striding regally through life as they interact with their fellows. Meanwhile, if I wish to attempt to interact with them, I must put on an uncomfortable, ill-fitting dinosaur suit, fearing at every moment that I will be discovered as the insignificant, inferior mammal that I am, in a cheap, tawdry masquerade, rather than a true dinosaur like all of them.

I am a mouse in a T.Rex costume, hoping the real ones won't catch on.

Happily, that was my core perception of myself which has changed. Somewhat. Over the decades, I've worked on myself and also learned a bit about others and I came to an interesting discovery. There are other scared little mousies out there like me who also hafta don that unnatural uncomfortable uniform as they wend their way in the world of Wannanosauri. So, even though I was not a genuine dinosaur, I was not the only micturating-in-my-pants mousie wearily wearing mismuroidean motley. I was not alone! Hooray! What a fabulous discovery. I sank into this new reality with greater happiness than I'd known in the past. The zeitgeist of the zokor.

This was not, of course, a scenario of perfect happiness per se and it came with a significant difficulty of the Catch-22 variety. For me to recognize other mousies, they had to reveal themselves as mousies. This is, by definition, contraindicated when you're trying to pass as a dinosaur. Even worse, from my perspective, after they revealed themselves as mousies wearing dinosaur suits, for them to relate to my true Muroidean nature, I had to reveal myself as a mincing mousie when I'd been trying so hard all my life to appear as a hot-blooded, competent, actual dinosaur.

Well, shit.

Certainly, this is an improvement over being the only mouse in a world of dinosaurs but it still leads to imperfect combinations, the saddest of which is: Other individuals I find interesting reveal themselves as fellow furballs. I, however, am still afraid to reveal my inner mouse and therefore do not connect with them mousie-to-mousie. They still see me in my dinosaur disguise and they relate to me unequally and incompletely. Conversely, if I decide to be brave enough to reveal myself as a mere Muroidea to someone I see as a dinosaur worth knowing, there's the danger that they'll be less interested in me. Etc.

Eheu! Odi et amo.

Better than living as a lonely lemming but far from felicitous.

But wait.

Perception is what we're talking about and perception is everything. Everything. The conceit of mice vs. dinosaurs is my perception, happening inside my own head and only inside my lethally libellous lobes. It is not reality. The map is not the territory even if the medium is kind of the message. If I stop and take a deep breath and step outside myself for a moment, I can conceive the possibility that I am not a mouse.

Other people are also not mice. Nor are they dinosaurs. They are individual humans. Just like me. And somewhat like me. And very unlike me. And that doesn't matter. We are all the same and we are all different.

I do not have to reveal myself as a mouse in a dinosaur suit to others who may be mice in motley or who may be demonstrable dinosaurs. There is no spoon. There are NO mice. There are NO dinosaurs. There are simply other people. Each one unique and, simultaneously, exactly as human as I.

I can drop my dinosaur disguise. I can remove my rodent regalia. Underneath it all, there is just me. A genuine me. One I'm not even fully conversant with because he's worn his layers of disguise for so long that he's still working on who he truly is at root.

But I believe this:

I was/am a self-perceived mouse, painfully shy, desperately introverted, and intensely afraid of other people. I did/do wear a dinosaur costume of extroverted, hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie. I still sometimes (often) slip into the self-perception and behavior of both of those roles. But what I feel to be true is that deep down in that hidden, long-disguised, and somewhat-forgotten "true me" there is a person who is not the persona evinced as the mouse and not the fa├žade of the faux Fukuiraptor. I am simply a human being who is (sometimes) truly happy, and engaging, and funny, and feels genuine bonhomie for his fellow humans.

Hi! I'm Frank.

7 comments:

  1. I love the phrase; "Our thoughts (or beliefs) are our reality." It is so true! You crack me up!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! think i'll be coming back to this again and again, to grok it on deeper levels...

    Thanks...this fits well with things I've been reflecting deeply upon this week.

    ReplyDelete
  3. love the mouse in a dinosaur suit picture in my head now!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Makes me wanna go read _The Tale of Despereaux_ again. Also reminds me of the Abomination Reanimation Kits that my wee blood elf priest must wear to help defend Northrend against the Lich King and his scourge. Thanks for writing Frank.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You have a great sense of humor and made me laugh! I also really agree with your view point on perception. Thanks for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. squeek! oh, wait, but I wanna ROAR! you put it so well!!!

    ReplyDelete