Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life As We Are

We see the world not as it us, but as we are.

This is a basic fundamental awareness that has escaped many of us for a good portion of our lives. We are taught from the time we are very small that we experience the world through our five senses accurately. The truth is that the amount of sensory input we receive moment to moment vastly exceeds our capacity to process it. The best we can hope for is a scant overview of our environment. But the real key to the puzzle isn't how much of our input we process, but the filter we use to do that processing.

We develop our processing filter during our everyday lives. We begin when we are young within our family of origin. We absorb the values and ideals of our caretakers as we spend time with them. We observe how they respond to their environment and we mimic that learned behavior until we make it our own. As we grow we add to the base we acquired in childhood. During our adolescence we add much from our external family... our friends.... usually to the displeasure of our caretakers. As we approach adulthood we sort through all the values we have internalized and finally create our filter. Although we have the capacity to revamp that filter as we wish, our general tendency may be to continue to see our lives through it. It has effectively become the base of our belief system.

There are times when we suddenly see our lives without the filter. We experience a paradigm shift. For a brief moment we see ourselves as others may see us. How we internalize that message determines whether we are capable of changing ourselves as a result of that experience. If our self esteem is strong and we feel confident, we may accept this new information readily and adapt. But what if our self esteem is low. We may see the new information as threatening and reject the message, thereby preventing change and growth in ourselves.

This underlies the need for using our tools in our daily lives. As we continue to practice self care we become more adept at using our tools. As we become more and more familiar and comfortable with our tools we integrate them into ourselves, thereby increasing our self esteem. As our self esteem rises we are more able to accept the truth, that our vision of life is not as it is, but as we are. In this way we give ourselves the gift of acceptance.


  1. A very good essay; accurate, well written, and thoughtful. The points raised and advice given are unquestionably valid. The issue of self-esteem, or lack of it, is one of the salient points of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay, bipolar man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for stability and acceptance (of himself and by others). You can learn more about the book at

    Mark Zamen, author

  2. Thank you Mark. I really appreciate your thoughts. Having a moment when we experience a paradigm shift can be the turning point in our recovery. As we walk through life it is a rare treat to see ourselves filter free.

    Your book sounds fascinating. I will make a note to get it from the library and give it a read. Congrats on your efforts on writing and publishing... that is no small accomplishment!! Kudos!!