The most common filter that comes to mind is the one we use in our coffee makers each day. Yet, the number and variety of filters used for almost every conceivable purpose, is not the sort of filter that’s occupying my thoughts at this time.
Specifically, I’m thinking about how each of us filters how we see, hear and experience our individual and collective realities from a psychological perspective. Just as when we’re driving and are confronted by a blind spot when our car’s mirror is positioned in such a way that we can’t see another vehicle that’s only feet away or, if we do see it, we misjudge its distance from us – so too, we each have blind spots regarding how we think, what we think, and how we behave.
Although I’m calling them “blindspots” for the purpose of cutting to the chase, what they truly resemble are the filters through which our beliefs and subsequent actions are colored. Another way of stating it is the particular lens through which we have been taught to view our world.
Something all of us have no doubt experienced is how siblings convey what they perceive to be true about their family. There is never ONE truth, of course, and often the stories told by siblings sound as though they’re talking about living in different families. Here, too, throughout history, all people, every nation, every religion has claimed to hold fast to truths that work to protect their identity, to make sense of the world as they wish to see it. For good and for bad, the bottom line is that is how and why prejudices are formed, wars are fought and people everywhere, in every age, have come to know their own brand of reality. They do so through how they filter what they view and what they believe.
In the art world, for example, Christian Skeel and Morten Skriver claim that “art serves as a filter through which the artist captures and expresses an inner experience in a tangible form. But it also provides a filter whereby the viewer of a work of art has the opportunity to enter into resonance with the artist and touch the inner spirit that guided the work’s creation.”
In the world of psychology, psychoanalyst Ruth Rosenbaum―when addressing the role of “filter-shifts in the process of change and growth in psychotherapy” concludes that “this dynamic is examined from the perspective of the interaction between patient and therapist, and how each affects the other through the modification and expansion of their respective conscious and unconscious filters.”
What does all this mean and why do I feel so preoccupied with thinking about how each of us filters our thinking? For me, it’s a preoccupation with today’s world as I see it with my perspective and how I experience it through my particular filters. My concern is about the world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.
A refusal by many to acknowledge that there is no one truth keeps us all ignorant of inevitable consequences.
Those who are rigid and hold on to beliefs, never changing anything about the way in which they perceive or think, have very narrow filters. They are least likely to experience a life rich in variables that teach about other ways of viewing the world around us. Case in point: the times in which we are living now are filled with ambiguities and contradictions in perception. There are those who believe in global warming and those who de-bunk all scientific evidence that prove its existence. There are those who believe in tolerating all people and those who believe in tolerating only those who are like themselves, whether it be the color of their skin, their religion, their cultural inheritance, their sexual orientation … and the list goes on. This is true today and has, no doubt, been true throughout the ages. Where it becomes a threat to our very existence is when the filters that shape who we are and define us as individuals and nations also separate us and turn us against one another, each rationalizing that his way is the only way, his belief the best belief, his notion of what’s right and wrong, good or bad, is the only notion to be believed and followed.
What we must ultimately ask ourselves, then, is how do we—given the fact that such filters will always exist―move toward being a more civilized world when we have among us those whose extreme fundamentalist thinking and actions do, more often than not, lead to acts of horrific destruction and hatred? How do we protect ourselves from a world which seems at the edge of economic, social and religious disaster?
Please submit your thoughts and opinions on this subject to this website and I will publish them all, in the hope of opening a dialogue that will help each of us to broaden our filters and help us to influence the current patterns of destruction in positive, creative, and mindful ways.