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  • Writer's pictureLarissa Velasco

How do we perceive the world? From Greek Philosophers, Gestalt Therapy and Neuroscience Perspective



Have you ever considered how we perceive the world and our life experiences? From ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates to Gestalt therapy practices in modern times - plus all the neuroscience that has been unravelled over recent decades - it's fascinating to understand how we take information from the environment around us and make sense of it. In this blog post, we'll explore how these alternative approaches have contributed to our understanding of perception: what influences perception, its accuracy or inaccuracy depending on context and points in time, and most importantly – why awareness is so important when considering personal development. Read on for a journey through time as we walk through the history of thoughts surrounding this intriguing concept!


Introducing the Gestalt Theory - how it applies to our perception of the world

Have you ever looked at a picture and noticed the way your eyes naturally gravitate towards certain elements? Maybe you focus on a person in the foreground, while the background seems to blur into obscurity. This is where Gestalt Theory comes into play.

Gestalt therapy is a humanistic and experiential approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes the importance of the here and now, self-awareness, and personal responsibility in facilitating personal growth and emotional healing. It was developed by Fritz Perls, Laura Perls, and Paul Goodman in the 1940s and 1950s, and it has since become a widely practiced and influential form of psychotherapy.

The term "gestalt" is derived from the German word for "form" or "pattern." Our brains automatically group and organize visual information based on similarity, proximity, closure, and other principles. This theory isn't just limited to visual perception either - it can apply to music, language, and even social situations.


Our attitudes, beliefs, and the lens through which we view the world can profoundly influence how we interpret and respond to events, including our experience of pain. This idea is firmly rooted in Gestalt Theory, which suggests that by altering our perception, we have the power to transform our experience.

Pain, for instance, is not merely a physical sensation; it also has emotional and psychological components. When we reframe our perception of pain from being an enemy to being a signal or a protective mechanism, we can alter our emotional response to it. This shift in perception can reduce feelings of fear and anxiety associated with the experience of pain, enabling us to manage it more effectively. Thus, by consciously transforming our perception, we can usher in profound changes in our personal experiences and responses.


Exploring the Greek Philosopher's take on Perception

When it comes to perception, the ancient Greek philosophers had some fascinating ideas. Take Plato, for instance. He believed that our senses could be deceived and that actual knowledge could only be obtained through reason and contemplation. Meanwhile, Aristotle believed that our perception of reality was accurate but that our interpretation of it could be flawed. Epicurus, on the other hand, focused on the idea of sensory pleasure as the ultimate goal of existence.

Today, we can draw on the insights of these philosophers to help us better understand and manage our own perceptions. By leveraging Plato's thoughts, for example, we can work to improve our ability to critically examine our environment and draw accurate conclusions. Aristotle's ideas point us toward the need to break down complex concepts into manageable pieces to gain a more accurate understanding of them. Finally, Epicurus' focus on pleasure is highly relevant in today's world as many people strive for instant gratification and short-term happiness.


Examining Neuropsychology in terms of Perception; How do neural pathways form our understanding of reality?

Perception - it's such a complex and fascinating topic, isn't it? One that has fascinated philosophers, scientists, and psychologists alike for centuries. Neuropsychology is an area that can shed some light on this intriguing subject. It studies how the brain operates and processes information, which in turn allows us to understand how we perceive the world around us. Our neural pathways play a crucial role in this process, as they are responsible for collecting and organizing sensory information and helping to create our understanding of reality.

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, refers to the brain's ability to change and adapt as a result of experiences and learning. This remarkable capacity allows our brains to reorganize neural pathways, improve cognitive abilities, and recover from brain injury. In the context of perception, neuroplasticity plays an instrumental role. As we interact with our surroundings, the sensory information we encounter can lead to changes in the strength and organization of our neural connections. This process translates our experiences into perceptions, shaping how we view and interpret the world around us. For instance, a musician might develop stronger neural pathways related to auditory processing, thereby enhancing their perception and understanding of music. Thus, neuroplasticity underscores the dynamic and adaptable nature of our perception.


Examining Cognitive Biases & Mindsets: How do these affect our perception of the world?

Have you ever thought about how your brain perceives the world? We all have cognitive biases and mindsets that affect our perception. These biases are often unconscious and can lead us to make decisions that may not be accurate or rational. For example, confirmation bias is when we only seek out information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs, leading us to ignore or dismiss opposing viewpoints. Our mindsets also play a role in shaping our attitudes and behaviors. For instance, a fixed mindset may lead us to avoid challenges, while a growth mindset encourages us to embrace them. Understanding and examining our own biases and mindsets can help us make more informed decisions and broaden our perspectives.



Investigating Cultural & Social Influences on Perception - how does culture play a role in our view of things


It's easy to assume that our perceptions of the world are entirely unique to us as individuals. But the truth is that culture and society play a huge role in shaping how we view things. Our upbringing, language, and even the media we consume all inform our perceptions. What we see as normal, beautiful, or ugly is subjective, yes. But it's also influenced by the cultural norms we've been exposed to from a young age.


Take food, for example. What might be seen as a delicacy in one culture could be considered disgusting or taboo in another. In some parts of Asia, eating insects is a common practice, whereas in the West, this might cause feelings of disgust. The same can be said for clothing choices, gender roles, and even values like individualism versus collectivism.


By examining how different cultures perceive the same thing, we can gain a deeper understanding of our own biases and assumptions. We might even begin to see the world from a different perspective, opening ourselves up to new experiences and ideas. So the next time you catch yourself making a snap judgment or assuming your way of thinking is the only way, pause and consider the cultural and social influences that may be at play.


Creating an Action Plan for Improving Our Perception - practical tips for improving our outlook on life

The way we perceive the world around us can greatly impact our outlook on life. If we constantly focus on the negative, it can be difficult to find joy and meaning in our daily experiences. That's why it's essential to create an action plan for improving our perception. One practical tip is to take note of the positive aspects of our lives. We might not always realize it, but there are many blessings to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude can help us see the good in even the most challenging situations. Another tip is to surround ourselves with uplifting people who inspire us to be our best selves. By taking intentional steps to improve our perception, we can experience greater happiness and fulfillment in our lives.

In closing, remember to cultivate awareness of your own biases, take time to learn about different cultures and perspectives, and remind yourself that "perception is reality." The world will shift when you do, so it's worth exploring our perception as a means of deepening our understanding and improving our view of life—not just for ourselves but for others. Concretely speaking, if you can identify and accept your mental biases, learn to step out of your comfort zone or explore another culture's point of view, and find ways to challenge assumptions you've unconsciously bought into – it could be as simple as asking why something is the way it is – then chances are you will start engaging with the world in whole new ways. Perceiving differently not only opens doors to more opportunities for growth but can also lead to a greater appreciation for life!

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