How you see the world.

Recently the wife and I were talking about world filters – the kind of filters you use when you look at and experience the world around you. Well, actually, we were arguing about something, – probably some idiot woman driver -, and she said something along the lines of “well, she’s only an idiot in your world. In everyone else’s she’s just careful”. I replied “whadyya mean ‘my world’? we are all in the same world” and she said “No, I don’t think so. In your world all women should wear mini skirts, stockings and heels all day, with bright red lipstick”. Now I was hurt at this. Quite apart from the fact that this simply isn’t so – there are some women out there who should be wearing a bag over their heads, not a mini skirt – it did make me think about how we all view the world.

We all seem to have our filters about how we view the world it seems. My wife believes that I live in the world as I imagine it should be rather than how it is. For instance I will complain about marketing people who call during lunch time, saying “They shouldn’t do that; I can’t believe they do”. She simply indicates it’s a fact of life, so lets move on. She believes I am wasting my time and blood pressure pontificating about stuff that’s against all common sense, but then a discussion of pragmatism vs. romance is an editorial for another day.

Back to the filters. Everyone seems to view the world through their own filters as I said. It colors your perceptions, you responses and your decisions to such a great degree and yet we aren’t even cognizant that we are doing it. A good example of filters is this. Imagine you and a buddy have a mutual friend. You, upon meeting this mutual friend, had a great first impression. This guy bought beers, was funny, and you generally had a good time. You have a filter set up now to view this person in a particular way. However your buddy, upon meeting this guy was in a bad mood, or had just gotten a parking ticket, or just plain walked in at a time when the punchline of a joke was delivered, and felt he was the target. His perception of this mutual friend is very different from yours. The guy is th? same guy, and he behaves the same to both of you, but one is set up with a positive filter, the other a negative one, and this will totally color the future relationship you will have with this mutual friend.

This is parallel to the adage “You have one chance to make a good impression” – since factors beyond your control can affect how someone builds your filter on first contact. Whats even more interesting is if the other person already has a proto filter of you and behaves towards you in accordance to that, rather than just being themseelves. Then you end up building your filter based against them having their preconceived filter of you!

I think it’s interesting to note that the filters themselves can be set up in many different ways. Your filters may get set up due to past experience – effectively other filters you already have in place affecting the new one – or can come from nothing you say or do, but purely from observation of what the new individual does, or – most insidious of all – from influence of someone else’s filters being projected onto you. For instance, imagine before you’d met this new mutual friend, your buddy had sat you down and told you exactly what he thought of this guy? Those statements give you preconceptions that will influence how your filter is created – unless you are very strong willed and can actively will away these impressions. Worse still is the influence of other people’s filters in terms of providing information in the first place. Whenever you read a news story (particularly in the US) or watch 20-20 or 60 minutes, you are watching information presented through the filters that other people have. They can neglect facts, mis-report a news story, or just report the facts in such a way as to create a particular point of view to whom ever is watching. These are the hardest to catch and deal with. Filters can be set up by manipulation of some pretty esoteric things to make you think a certain way – you can simply dislike the color of eyeshadow they are wearing, or simply that they never close their mouth when eating.

Most people have several sets of filters – some that society shares like attitudes towards murder, pedophiles, adultery and so on. Some are more personal. Do you like the TV show friends? What do you think of President Bush and so on. These kinds of filters are the ones that are most manipulated by popular information providers like newspapers or TV, since everyone is expected to have them to some degree or other. Everyone has the filter that murder is bad, therefore they can create a new filter in you on the subject of a congressman because they can associate him with one.

Of course the most interesting things about filters is what we do with them. For most it’s a pretty “well, that’s what I think” formula and that’s all she wrote. Getting people to change a filter once it’s in place is incredibly difficult, particularly if they aren’t really aware that the filter exists per-se. We all like to think that we are rational people, and that what we think of any given person is based purely on the facts. We never want to admit about gut reactions because in most cases we aren’t aware what criteria we used to create any given filter in the first place “This person just rubs me the wrong way”. Well why? Once you can define that, you can actually try and view the rest of this persons behavior more dispassionately, and perhaps come to a better conclusion about it.

We can overcome some filters easily though. A good example would be to slightly modify the example given before – instead of a mutual friend, it is now your buddy’s girlfriend. She is evidently a shrew to everyone that meets her, but to your buddy, she’s the greatest girl in the world. He voluntarily has a filter that blocks out that which is seen to be undesirable by everyone else. Yet this guy must have met her for the first time some time too – he p?obably had similar impressions as the rest of you yet he overcame these impressions and changed his filter. Why? Because he wanted to. He probably wasn’t even consciously aware he was doing it, but he did it all the same. He managed to repress some parts of his filter so he was able to see her in a better light, and therefore feel justified in getting in her pants.

Sex aside, I guess it comes down to the ability of a person to recognize what’s going on when they form an impression, and be able to move beyond it by dealing with the issues that form the negative content of that filter being created. Sometimes you’ll be able to do that, and sometimes you wont. It all really depends on how prepared you are to be able to face up to understanding and accepting who you are and why you behave the way you do. Most people in the western world have a problem with that these days, as evidences by the amount of lawsuits being thrown around detailing how ‘it wasn’t my fault, it was their fault”, and the inexplicable popularity of someone like Dr. Phil.

I’ll bet you’d be surprised how much you can deal with if you can accept yourself, warts and all; once you know why you react the way you do it’s the first step to being able to rationalize and prioritize these feelings.

Nothing really startling there in terms of viewing people really, but it is viewed from a slightly different focus. By defining what’s going on, both internally and externally, (calling these conceptions ‘filters’) you can start to be able to actually manipulate your own filters instead of someone else doing it for you.

OK, enough arm chair psychology. Next time, back to regularly scheduled rants.

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