Perception is how you understand reality after it has passed through all your internal filters. You can change those filters, but first you must become aware of what they are, how they are formed and strengthened, and what role those around you play in this process.
So you want to change the filters through which life around you passes before coming into your conscious mind? Be warned, the process is not instant, nor is it necessarily easy or without pain. Some of the filters you have will be buried so deep that it can take years to change them significantly, let alone actually remove them, if that’s what you want. Even the shallow ones often take weeks to change or remove. Be prepared, then, for this to take quite some time… but if you stick with it, it can change your life completely.
If you’re still with me, then you’re interested in positive change, in spite of the effort, and possibly pain, involved. The first step in your process is to understand how filters are formed. There are three major sources of filters: people you associate with (they don’t have to be friends, just people you are around frequently), your own experiences, and “third-party” information (things you read or see). Each of these sources imparts filters of varying strengths and complexity, depending on factors within the category.
When you pick up filters from people you associate with, the strength and depth of the filter is strongly affected by the amount of time you spend with that person, and more lightly by how you feel about that person. There is also a factor involving how much of an authority you consider the person, especially in regards to the specific area of the filter. So a co-worker you don’t like but spend hours with each day can affect you more deeply than an old friend that you see once a year, but a friend you see a few times a week may have more influence than a coworker you see five days a week, while someone that you see rarely, but consider an authority on the area of life in question can have a profound effect on your filters. Parents and spouses tend to be the strongest influences of this type, with parents having an advantage due to the fact that there are no competing/conflicting filters when you spend so much time with them, and the fact that when you are young, you consider them to be an authority on almost everything.
You also build up filters from your own experiences as you live life. If you have been bitten by dogs a few times, you will form a filter that looks for that type of behavior from at least the type of dog that bit you, if not dogs in general. With this type of filter formation, the amount the event catches your attention, whether via mental involvement, emotions, or pain/pleasure, is the primary factor in how strong and deep the filter is, with repetition of the event (or of similar events) strengthening and deepening the filter, and conflicting events weakening it. The strengthening effect of similar events is considerably stronger than the weakening effect of conflicting events, unless the conflicting event is of considerable significance.
Filters formed from third-party sources tend to be the weakest of the three types. They generally have less “authority” than people you know, and certainly less than your own experience. However, in areas that you don’t have any personal experience or particular input from someone you know, such as when you’re learning about a new hobby that you don’t know anyone who shares, your filters will generally be formed from what you read about it. Third-party sources can also extend and expand already existing filters, especially if they generally agree with your existing filters, just adding a bit more detail.
Once a filter is formed from one of these sources, it can also be strengthened by any of the above sources (it doesn’t have to be the same one). For instance, your parents may tell you to be wary of strangers, causing you to form a filter that causes you to be cautious when meeting someone new. This can then be strengthened by personal experience, if a stranger does something to you that you don’t like, or particularly if you have several bad experiences with strangers. The filter can then be further strengthened by reading/listening/viewing the news and learning about random murders and kidnappings.
A filter can also be weakened by any of these sources, but it is much harder to weaken a filter than to strengthen it. It is easier to accept reinforcement of your already held filters, opinions, and beliefs than it is to accept contradictory information. This is true of all people, though noticeably stronger in some than in others, often referred to as being closed-minded or open-minded.
So now, in order to keep this post from getting ridiculously long, I will push how to become aware of your specific filters and how to change them to another post.