You may be familiar with the phrase, “What you go looking for, you’re sure to find.” Every experience you have comes in through sensory perception—taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. How you perceive and interpret your experiences will trigger a series of thoughts that ultimately create your reality. What you determine as being real will affect everything you think, say, and do in your life; however, what you may not realize is that you have control over how you choose to see things.
In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that we take in approximately two million bits per second of sensory information, and yet you’re only able to assimilate 126 of those bits. Because your conscious mind is not equipped to grasp everything occurring in your environment, you go through an internal process of deleting, distorting, and generalizing your experiences. As information comes in, it’s funneled through your internal visual representations of how you view the world. The data—and how you are interpreting it—is filtered down through your current mental, emotional, and physiological states, which you then “act out” through your attitude and behaviors. In a nutshell, how you perceive and interpret your experiences is shaped by your beliefs—filtered through your current mental and emotional states—and will determine how you respond.
Empowering Vs. Disempowering Interpretations
The reason it’s so important you understand this concept is because there are two kinds of interpretations: There are empowering interpretations and disempowering interpretations. Empowering interpretations support you and are the catalyst for moving powerfully forward in your life—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Disempowering interpretations, on the other hand, limit your ability to have what you want and burden you with feelings of sadness, frustration, and hopelessness.
While you may have been told at one time or another to look at the bright side, you live in a world that perpetuates negativity and teaches you to focus on what’s wrong in your life or the world around you. As a result, your ability to maintain a positive state is hindered by your internal voice of negativity.
What you may not realize is that the unconscious mind (the 95-99 percent of the mind that is outside of your conscious awareness) is tasked with projecting whatever reality your conscious mind believes to be true. Dr. Bruce Lipton, in his book, Biology of Belief, writes about energy and environment being the two things that affect your biology first and foremost. In an article titled An Empowering Guide to Talking About, Thinking About, and Treating Cancer, Dr. Lipton states, “The chemistry of the body’s culture medium determines the nature of the cell’s environment within you. The blood’s chemistry is largely impacted by the chemicals emitted from your brain. Brain chemistry adjusts the composition of the blood based upon your perceptions of life. So this means that your perception of any given thing, at any given moment, can influence the brain chemistry, which, in turn, affects the environment where your cells reside and controls their fate. In other words, your thoughts and perceptions have a direct and overwhelmingly significant effect on cells.”
Whatever negative emotions and beliefs are stored in your unconscious will be holographically projected out into your reality. If you believe the world is a terrible place, you will undoubtedly attract people, events, and experiences that reflect that back to you as your perceived reality. If you believe the world is a beautiful place full of opportunity and compassion, you will likely attract people, events, and experiences that reflect positivity as your reality.
Think of the world around you as a blank canvas. Imagine that everything you see, hear, and feel is like a color-by-numbers drawing. If you are angry, you color the world with the anger. If you are happy, the same picture is colored with happiness. From a holographic perspective, your perception of reality from moment to moment is based on your thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Is It True?
One way that Deepak Chopra teaches you to look at the ways in which you are perceiving and interpreting your experiences is to spend some time reflecting on a situation that has you spinning out.
Is it true?
The first question to ask yourself is, “Is my interpretation or belief true?” At first, you may hear a resounding, “Of course it’s true!” because you’re likely in a negative emotional state. Ask yourself the same question again, and this time dig a little deeper.
Is it 100 percent true?
For something to be true, it has to be true for everyone, all the time. For example, water is wet. Hot stovetops burn. The sun rises and sets every day. If it’s not 100 percent true, then it is your interpretation of the experience that causes you to believe it’s true. This is when you may start to feel the negativity shift slightly to “Okay, maybe it’s not 100 percent true for everyone, but it’s true for me.” Now you’re beginning to loosen the boundaries of your perception just a bit, which enables you to see that the possibility of choosing another interpretation exists.
What is it costing me to hold this disempowering interpretation?
You may know people who are stuck in negativity and, let’s be honest, they’re no fun to be around. Identify what it’s costing you to remain rigidly attached to a negative interpretation or belief. Is it creating stress that is affecting your health and well-being? Is it perpetuating arguments and creating a disconnect in your relationships? Are your interpretations making you question your ability to be the person you want to be or do the things you want to do in your life? Make a list.
What is an empowering interpretation I would rather focus on instead?
If you could choose a different interpretation—one that would be empowering and inspiring—what would it be? How would you prefer to view yourself, your experience, and the world you live in? If this feels like too much of a stretch, or if you’re not able to imagine a new, empowering interpretation, write down the opposite of what your negative interpretation is. For example, if your negative interpretation is that you aren’t liked at work because people ignore you, the opposite could be that you are appreciated at work and people respect your ability to stay focused so they give you space to do your work.
Another approach is what’s known as a “reframe.” Reframing is a way of looking at things differently and choosing to put a positive spin on an experience. A great way to warm up to reframing is to commit to viewing problems as opportunities. When you can spin a problem into an opportunity, it transforms the energy from being negative to positive, allowing you to hold onto the possibility of unfolding potential.
One of the greatest historical examples is the famous quote from Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” You may set out to accomplish things in your life and then give up at the first sign of what you call failure. When you shift your reality to view the failure as an opportunity to receive feedback on why something didn’t work, it provides you with another interpretation that there is no such thing as failure—only feedback. Feedback tells you how to make course corrections so that you can move closer to achieving your goals.
One person choosing the negative interpretation that a rainy day equals a bad day may easily be interpreted by another person as an opportunity to get things done indoors, or to take a day to rest and recharge. The point here is that you always have a choice in how you are choosing to interpret the events in your lives. You can choose to live from a place of negativity, where you will inevitably attract more of the same, or you can consciously choose to create a positive pattern interrupt and live your life from a place of happiness, inspiration, and overall positivity.
Get the resources you need to create positivity and fulfillment each day with The Chopra Center’s Discover Your Purpose Toolkit, which includes a free e-book, worksheet, 1:1 discovery session, and guided meditation. Get your free toolkit now.