People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I read this the first time, I found myself nodding in agreement. But upon further consideration, something stuck in my craw. (Exactly what IS a craw, anyway? I hope it's not something gross ...)
I do believe that our opinions of the world reveal our beliefs, filters, and perceptual limitations -- what I think of as our lenses or glasses. These inner dynamics limit and define what we are capable of seeing. Our opinions reveal a lot about what kind of glasses we wear, and very little if anything about the world 'out there.'
Tell me the world is pink, and I know you wear rose colored glasses. Tell me you see corruption everywhere, and I know you wear dark glasses. Tell me you see the world as it really is, and I know your glasses are still invisible to you.
It's no biggie. We all wear filters on our perceptions. But are these glasses our character? That's the word that got stuck in my craw. It just seems so ... final, or something.
So I popped over to dictionary.com to see what most people mean when they use this word. The definition was quite long, with over 20 different meanings. I think the one appropriate for this context is: the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
The thing is ... I wonder if maybe character is actually who we are underneath those glasses. And I like to believe that once we realize we are wearing them, if we don't like what we see, we can try on some different ones. So I don't want to mistake something temporary (the glasses) for something permanent (the character).
I'm beginning to suspect that almost all of us are on autopilot most of our lives, operating at the mercy of ingrained habits and reactions that seem so much a part of us that we never stop to wonder if we could be any other way. Maybe many of us are walking around in glasses that we have been wearing for so long that we don't even notice them on our noses anymore.
This line of thought was triggered by a recording I listened to recently of an interview with scientist Bruce Lipton, the author of several books including The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles and Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future (and a Way to Get There from Here). My interpretation of his theory is the product of my filters, so please visit his site and/or read his books to learn more if you are interested.
Dr. Lipton contends that our cells are basically receivers rather than generators. They simply do what they are told by a higher authority; which he identifies as the subconscious mind.
He cites brain wave research that suggests that up until age 6 or so, much of what we are told about ourselves, the world, and our experiences goes straight into subconscious storage in our brain without passing through cognitive filters. And those subconscious beliefs then affect our perception -- in effect, they become our glasses.
Subconscious storage can be quite useful. It's what allows us to drive while talking and solve problems while walking. Our brain is wired to create habits and patterns and transfer them into storage so they can run on autopilot, thus freeing up our conscious thought processes and attention to focus on something new. It's a good thing that we don't have to think about putting one foot in front of the other much past the age of 18 months!
Subconscious storage can also be not so useful. If a child under age 6 hears regularly that he will never amount to anything, or that he's stupid, weak, or sickly, those messages don't pass through any kind of reality check before they go into storage and start running on autopilot. The young child's brain is not yet capable of reasoning: "Dad only says that when he's been drinking. It's not about me, it's just the alcohol talking." Instead, the brain wires it in as truth, runs it on autopilot, and suddenly we are looking at the world through Unworthiness glasses.
When the subconscious issues commands, the cells simply comply with the instructions. If the subconscious 'programming command' says you are sickly, your conscious affirmations of health and vitality may not improve your medical condition. The cells are already busy listening to the subconscious. In effect, their hands are over their little ears and they are whistling while they go about their appointed task of making you sick. Your affirmations sound like quiet little blah blah blahs off in the distance.
I find this to be a rather intriguing explanation for why affirmations don't work for everyone. If the conscious affirmation is in conflict with the subconscious message that got programmed in before age six, the subconscious wins. You might affirm many times a day that you are healthy, but your cells continue to act out the instruction from the subconscious that tells them to be weak like your dad said you were, or to be overweight like your mom was because everyone said you looked just like her.
So the strategy Dr. Lipton suggests to resolve this inner conflict is to reprogram the subconscious with messages that support your conscious intentions. This can be done in a variety of ways, including among others energy work, meridian tapping/EFT, meditation, HeartMath coherence, and various releasing techniques. (Of course I only remember the modalities I am familiar with, but I am sure there are tons more!)
What does this have to do with Emerson's quote? When I look at it through the filter of Lipton's work, it seems to me that it may not be a man's character or essence that he reveals in his opinions of the world. Instead, he may be revealing his subconscious beliefs -- his glasses. And those, as we now know, can be changed.
So a man's opinions of the world, in the end, are basically irrelevant as a yardstick for anyone but himself to use for evaluation purposes. And if he wishes, he can view his opinions as arrows that point to the subconscious programming that is running inside him on autopilot, and make changes there if he chooses.
So here's my tweak to Emerson's quote:
Our opinions of the world reveal our subconscious programming. If we don't like what we see, we can change our perception by installing new messages into our subconscious minds.
I'd love to hear your thoughts!