Do You Know the Whole Story?

Personal Development
Fortune teller

If you look at a tree – do you really see the tree? Or is it just your mind creating the inner picture of the tree triggered by some reflections of light? Would a bird or a dog see the same tree just the way you would? That is highly unlikely.

The perception of reality is not only based on the object that is being watched (or listened, touched, etc.) but also on the subject who is watching.

Our mind gets several informations from our senses and then tries to evaluate this information. It tries to make it meaningful. In this process, it creates stories in your brain, because it needs to understand why something is happening.

Think about this situation. You come to your office and your boss yells at you. Familiar?
Now your senses notice his facial changes, his difference in wording and tonality and his change in physiology. That is what your senses give you as information.
Now your brain wants to come up, why these changes in your boss happened.
Your brain is looking at a cause. And because he is yelling at you, therefore you must be the cause, right?

Well… maybe not.

Our Mind Needs a Story to Fill the Gap of Not Knowing Why Something Happened

Because what our mind does is, it wants to fill the gap between noticing any change in environments (in this case your bosses voice and physiology had changed) and wants to know why this happened. If there is no apparent reason (e.g. a heavy piece of metal just fell on his feet and created some pain for him) the brain makes up one, that might not have any basis in reality, simply because not being able to come up with a “why” feels pretty painful to your brain.
So it collects whatever information it has and creates any explanation, even if it is totally wrong.

A false explanation feels much better to your subconscious than no explanation.

Your mind wants to feel secure about what happened. But maybe bringing some insecurity back could help you cope better with the apparent situation.

Do You Know the Whole Story?

Ask Yourself: Do I Know the Whole Story?

If a waiter is not smiling at you, you interpret it as him being rude to you? But do you know the whole story? What if you heard that his wife or his kid is chronically ill and is in a hospital, but he needs to work to make up healthcare payment? Would that change your perception of the situation? Would you think he is rude to you or would you think, that his mind is maybe somewhere else with his beloved kid?

Very often you don’t know the whole story. Stop your mind from coming up with an easy answer and admit with Socrates: “I know that I know nothing. I just assume, and that assumption could be totally wrong.

Your Mind Will Always Assume

But the trick is, that your mind will always assume. It is a basic function of it to close the gaps of not knowing. It can’t stand not knowing why. So making up a story by assuming is a natural function. What you can do is give it multiple possible answers that you can direct.

Using the waiter example. Your first assumption might be, that he is rude to you. And sure that is how it feels to you. But first you can create doubt within yourself, asking “Do I know the whole story”. Then you can admit “No, I don’t know.”. Third, you can give your brain some alternative assumption it can play with, to satisfy the need to have (possible) explanations. You go: “Maybe, one of his kids is ill, and he is absent minded. Or maybe his boss treated him bad and he don’t know how to handle that better. Or maybe he had a car accident on the way to work. Or maybe ….”. You get the picture. Giving multiple assumptions helps your mind to relax and admit that it might not know the truth.

Ask to Get the Truth – but Don’t Expect to Get It

And if you really want to know, you could ask. Maybe you get the story.

But sometimes people don’t want to tell you. The waiter might not want to share the story of his ill child with you. Or your partner don’t want to (or can’t) tell you right now, why she is upset with you.

Try to find out the truth, but don’t get upset if people can’t always tell you.

If someone is not treating you right or even verbally attacking you, maybe it is not because of your person, but the person feels threatened at the current situation, and his reaction pattern is not something you like. Well you should definitely tell him so, but you should refrain from feeling personally attacked.

Because you don’t know the whole story.

Accept that – and you might feel much better knowing that you don’t know.

17 comments… add one
  • I have to say, you have just elaborated on something that often goes unnoticed. I happen to be teaching about this concept later on this morning…in art! Yes, it is easier to draw the simplified already known symbol for a nose than to deal with all of the form and shadows that it takes to respond directly to your perception. What is incredible, is that each and every person sees things from a different point of view. And each person can gain valuable knowledge about both himself and others by trying to understand another perspective. Love the post, Patrick. I especially like the way you ended it–we can never know the whole story!

  • Patrick

    @bethvw: Art is definitely a good training to never trust your perception too much, while at the same time an excellent method to learn that your perception is much more influential on what you create (on the drawing board and in life) than you think. Great way of training ones perspective. Thanks.

  • I really really loved this post. Perception really is everything. There is reality, and then there is the way we perceive it. Everyone is a bit different. I think getting back to looking at things as new and fresh will always make life more invigorating.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Patrick

      @Dayne: Taking a fresh perspective will always bring up new thinks that you have missed from your common viewpoint.

  • It really is one of the driving forces of our lives. We want to make meaning, sometimes persisting when there is none to be found.

    • Patrick

      @LPC: Yes, buut I don’t think we can escape that mechanism, so we better learn how it’s working and use it.

  • A quick testimonial about this technique: it has kept my relationship with my girlfriend going very well, as well as opened up new opportunities for new friendships for me.

    • Patrick

      @Justin: Excellent – I am so glad that you used it for your relationship. Keep working on it.

  • In a way, this post reminds me of “goodwill.” Believing the best about strangers and giving them the benefit of the doubt out of respect for their potential and value as human beings.

    • Patrick

      @Jeffrey: “Goodwill” is a great way to deal with people, although sometimes healthy skepticism can also be useful – I guess both should go hand in hand and work together. But when in doubt I prefer to trust people and believe that they only do what they perceive is the best they can do at that moment.

  • Excellent post Patrick. Sometimes I may get irritated or even angry at people when they are rude or lack customer service. I have really learned not to take what people say or do personally because we really don’t know their whole story – and what is causing them to have negative emotions. In fact when I step into such negative energy I use it as a practice to remain aware and detached from the situation. Even smile and try to appreciate the experience – I find less negativity around me now.

    • Patrick

      @Jai Kai: That’s what life is all about in general – a good practice. Meditation and mind control can and should be used on the streets too, not only at the temple.

  • Interesting article. I wrote one on a similar topic today.

    The bottom line: telling what people are really thinking, feeling or motivated by mind reading involves a lot of guess work passing as skill.


  • Patrick, This is an essential reminder. Our minds do try to make sense of things that happen with the information we have (or think we have). So often we take something personally, but we have no idea of the whole story. I liked the way you ended by saying “you might feel much better knowing that you don’t know.” How true.

    • Patrick

      @Madeleine: So often things we take personally aren’t meant personally by the sender. But just looking at things as they are, not as what we make out of them is something we need to work on every day.

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