An opinion article from Athena Georgiou:
What if, what we perceive is nothing more than what we expect to experience?
What if, the reality we experience is the result of what we unconsciously come to anticipate according to previous experience and the example of others around us? What if, our experience of the external world is bound to internal mental schemes and constructs created from birth? (Constructs which are projected outside to inform our experience and perpetuate patterns of experience throughout lifetime). What if, what we perceive is nothing more than what we expect to experience? Is it even possible for something different, other that what we can see, hear, touch taste or smell to be real? Is it possible that there is a wide array of different possibilities ready to unfold, from where we can choose? And if yes, how can that be?
Psychologists and more specifically psychoanalysis, Freud and Object Relations Theorists, tells us that since we come to this life, we are driven by unconscious opposing forces, faced with what seems to be a twofold threat: The need to satisfy biological needs, for example being fed or taken cared of, needs that can potentially lead to pleasure, and the fear of death, that is translated to survival anxiety. The two instincts, the instinct of pleasure and the instinct of death, create a polarity. This polarity allows the infant to experience in their first days of life a symbiotic relationship with the mother, through gradual exposure to the external environment. A baby begins to differentiate and form a sense of self through time with mother at first, and as time progresses through interaction with the father and other people.
the way we learn and understand the world, is through deciphering information received via bodily senses
As the infant interacts with the external environment through bodily senses, he/she filters information, driven by this pull and push between the need to experience pleasure and the need for survival. This then creates a platform for mental formations and constructs created by the mind that take the form of feelings and thoughts. These mental formations are projected outwards to create and inform the reality we experience. In other words, the way we learn and understand the world, is through deciphering information received via bodily senses, based on already existing, internalized mental schemes, that we then project outwards to define experience, compared to what is already known. In this way, experience of the external world, revolves and abides in dynamics created during the infantile stage, perpetuated accordingly throughout life, reflected in the family and school dynamics and in the way societal, cultural, civilization systems and religion doctrines are structured.
Ancient Greek philosophers on the other hand, such as Plato and Socrates, tell us that the world we live in, what we can see, hear, touch, smell and taste, is only a reflection of the real world. This world is only approachable through the mind, for which perception coming from the bodily senses is, more often than not, misleading. Socrates’ teachings through Plato’s writings revolve around the existence of two worlds, the world of the Senses and the world of Ideas, or the Intellectual world. Socrates taught that the world we live in and are aware of is limited to what can be perceived through our senses. Another world exists within the realm of thought: it is invisible and inaccessible through the physical senses, and accessible only through analogical equations, turning within, and contemplation.
the majority of human experience is unconscious and reality is self-created
According to their teachings, the physical world we are aware of is but a mere representation, a reflection through shadows and images of the real world. Socrates taught that all that was ever created, whether material and living things or concepts and physical phenomena, was created after a prototype ideal or form that exists in the realm of thought, of which the object of the physical world is only a reference. This explains both the universality of things as well as how physical manifestations of ideas and concepts get to represent the same thing and retain the same meaning to all. However, the connection between these worlds was lost as a consequence of the imbalance between the physical and spirit, or godlike parts of the soul.
According to the above, reality seems to have two aspects. One is based on the outer world and is prone to illusion emanating from sensory interaction with the physical world, and one is based on the inner world that generates and projects the outer world. Thus, the majority of human experience is unconscious and that reality is self-created, as it is merely the result of perception that is processed, internalized, and then projected outwards to be experienced as one’s reality. What that means, is that each individual interprets and experiences reality in a unique way, as it is filtered and processed through the person’s own perceptual system.
The above views, can inform the way we define and understand mental health, happiness and well being. If reality is perceptual and self-created, then emotional states like happiness, fulfillment, contentment, sadness, depression and anger are merely self-created states of being. What that means is that happiness and joy are not the direct result of the absence of pain, nor is depression the outcome of the absence of happiness. Rather, these are self-sustained states of being and as such can be potentially invoked or revoked consciously and at will.