Perceptual Predictions

Michael (our brilliant Atlanta DBT resident) and I were talking the other day (as we do) and this idea took form – the concept of perceptual predictions or what I call The Amazon Effect. It is the dopamine pathway playing out in real time. First we click on Amazon to look for something we want or need. Oooh, shopping! The spurts of feel-good just by browsing stuff. Oooh, then we click on Add to Cart. Another bump. Next is the checkout and the anticipation begins. Now comes the confirmation e-mail, yet another dopamine hit. Then comes the e-mail that the package is on its way! More anticipation and feel-good. Delivery! Unboxing (it’s a thing now!) Look at all those delicious dopamine hits. It’s addictive…

On a deeper level we play this out all day long via the language that we use. Our choice of words is informed by our existing pattern of perception (the interpretation and meaning of information) and is at the same time reinforced by the same words. “I see what I believe”, yes? Going back to Anais Nin, “We do not see things as they are but as we are.” We create our own sense of reality, judging through our best understanding good and bad, right and wrong. And over time it develops into what my 7th grade gym coach called “constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the mouth.” Maybe he was just talking about me… probably.

When I was doing a session yesterday I observed that these video sessions are going to go on for another month and felt such anxiety in that moment. I keep defining video sessions and being in “isolation” as “suck” and so a month’s worth of suck got poured into that moment. The words I used to judge what is in turn created or perpetuated what is. And so it is for anything in our lives; the words we use to describe (judge) what is are both a product of our previous judgment and also reinforce/create future experience.

So if you “don’t like” your reality first you must define accurately what it actually is, being mindful of the words you are using. Are you being factually judgmental or emotionally judgmental? Lose the emotional descriptors – they aren’t helpful in creating a new perception. It’s still okay to “hate” whatever but stop with the saying of it – “embrace the suck” as one of my students put it. It’s only permanent if you say it is.

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