Today, I'm starting a new miniseries of posts on positive psychology. Positive psychology is that branch of psychology that deals with the positive aspects of our lives. It is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strength instead of weakness. We can say therefore that “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living” (Peterson, 2008).
I will begin by addressing critical topics such as psychological filters, paradigms, principles, habits, and effectiveness in human relations. The purpose of this discussion is to familiarize the reader with the fundamental concepts necessary to understand higher-level issues of human nature, such as morality, character, and maturation.
The objective reality is the material and factual world around us that exists independently of us. Examples are trees, rivers, snow, spinning of the earth, etc. It is also called external reality. In contrast, subjective reality refers to the psychological image created inside our own minds. It is also called mental representation, i.e., an internal cognitive symbol in our brain representing the external reality. This means that two persons, looking at the same objective reality around them, will form two different subjective realities in their minds. The differences might be small, even minuscule, but they will be there. How is this possible?
The explanation is that the subjective reality is created by examining the objective truth through a set of elaborate physiological and psychological filters unique to each individual. It is like looking at the world through colored glasses. For this discussion, let's call them "invisible contact lenses" and assign them colors.
Red lenses are those through which we perceive the static world. Look at the attached sketch called the Harvard Illusion: What do you see? An older woman or a young woman? Ask a friend to do the same; what does she see?
Yellow lenses are those through which we perceive the dynamic world. For instance, three witnesses to the same car accident may present three different accounts of what has happened. Why is that? Because of objective reasons, such as witnesses' location or the instant they look at the accident. Besides, because of subjective reasons such as their emotional state, memorizing fast events, recalling them accurately, etc.
Blue lenses are the most complex ones because they receive the information furnished by the Red and Yellow lenses, filter it further based on our own mentality, and produce the final subjective representation of reality in our own mind. As indicated earlier, this final psychological image produced by the brain is called personal reality. Also, Blue lenses provide meaning to the subjective reality based on many complex factors such as how we see ourselves (self-image) and how we see and relate to the outside world.
Because each of us wears distinct contact lenses, we will form a specific perception of reality. In psychology, this is called "The problem of the other mind," which states, "We experience our own perception of consciousness (objective reality) directly, but we cannot truthfully experience the consciousness of someone else. We can only infer it from their behavior."
The Red-Yellow-Blue filters create a very distinct and complex psychological construct of ourselves and the world around us. This construct is called mentality and has profound consequences on us as individuals and on our lives. Why is it so? Because mentality, generating the unique subjective world in which we exist, also governs our attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior. In psychology, this phenomenon is a cognitive bias defined as a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment.
WE LIVE IN A SUBJECTIVE WORLD
CREATED BY OUR MENTALITY
Where did we get our colored contact lenses? From three distinct sources: parents (genetics), education, friends and social medium (surroundings), and personal experiences (chance).
Most of our mentality forms during childhood and youth years, when we do not understand what's happening to us. And worse still, when we have very little influence over our personal development. Based on these observations, the science of psychology created many years ago the "theory of determinism," which asserts that man's life is not under his control; other factors have predetermined it. In other words, man is a victim with little or no influence over his destiny. And to a large extent, this is correct.
Fortunately, great scientific minds have set out to disprove this theory, postulating that man can and should better himself with time. Each person is capable of and should control their future if they can improve their way of thinking. For us believers, knowing how our lives have changed since accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it should be relatively easy to fathom that further personal growth is not only possible, but should be our goal.
According to the dictionary, a paradigm is a model, pattern, hypothesis, theory, or concept. In human behavior, a paradigm refers to mentality, mindset, point of view, belief, or perspective. Everyone has his opinion on life, government, culture, politics, science, etc. Compared with objective reality, experience shows that people's paradigms can be correct or false, depending on many factors.
For instance, correct or false paradigms apply equally to many aspects of societal life. Examples of popular paradigms: America is the country of opportunity for all (right); most people in the world think everybody in the U.S. is rich (false); many fellow citizens believe the fruits of their hard work should belong to them (correct); Wall Street financiers and corporations are the primary source of evil in the nation (false).
Important problems cannot be solved
at the same level of understanding which created them.
We must change our way of thinking.
Therefore, a paradigm shift is a change of concept, change of theory, seeing in a different light, and looking from another perspective. In this book, paradigm shift means a change in mentality, modification of the colored contact lenses, or change in perspective.
At an individual level, people may have good or bad paradigms about themselves and the surrounding world. Let's contrast them in the following table.
If we want to replace a lousy paradigm with a good one, we must undergo a paradigm shift. We must discard the flawed paradigm and provide instead a good one. Therefore, mental paradigm shifts are necessary for quantum leaps (big jumps) in our understanding of self and reality around us. By changing paradigms, the process of self-growth, although remaining evolutionary, will yield revolutionary results!
To be continued in the next post.
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