Making Sense of the World You Live In

How well do you understand other people? How well do you understand yourself? Have you ever asked yourself how other people see the world and what it means to them? Do you try to understand what motivates people to say or do something and struggle to find a reason that makes sense to you? Human beings are social beings and yet we spend much of our life failing to understand each other or ourselves.

Making Sense of the World You Live In

The Human Condition

Who am I and what is my place in the world? This question has occupied human thought for thousands of years. Many have questioned the nature of reality and what it means to be human. We could think of the brain as an organ that creates an internal model of the external physical world, based upon input received through our senses. Our sense of self could be described as a perspective from which this reality is perceived.

Through a process of continuous sensory feedback, our body receives information used to interact with the external world. However, our senses can be tricked and chemicals in the brain can influence perception. Without objective certainty that we all perceive reality the same, we are perhaps each living within our own version of reality.

Philosophy and Reality

The statement ‘I think therefore I am’ was formulated during the seventeenth century, by the French philosopher Rene Descartes. This provides a minimum knowable fact, based upon the truth that if I did not exist I could not think. We could take the view that beyond this one fact, everything else must be proved by empirical evidence, possibly using the approach provided by the scientific method.

Although we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of external reality, it is rational to assume that there is a real world, beyond our internal sense of self and behave accordingly. When considering the cause and effect of our behaviour, it is also logical to assume that the people we interact with are self aware individuals.

We could think of there being three basic mental models that create our sense of reality. The first being our own sense of self, whilst the other two are our perception of other people and the world within which we exist. These mental models are influenced by our recollection of accumulated memories, that were formed as a result of interaction with other people and the world around us.

Sense of Self and Society

How we interpret and evaluate our experiences and memories is influenced by our sense of self, which has been shaped by the society and family within which we were raised. We will have learned a set of instructions related to what is good or bad behaviour, along with skills that enable us to function as an individual. Our mental models influence the decisions that we make and the course of our life.

The rules of society can differ across the world and factors such as social class can effect the home environment within which we are raised. There is also evidence that genetics can influence human development. Patterns of behaviour established as we grow to adulthood can effect how easy or difficult each individual will find they are able to achieve success in their personal or working life.

Although you cannot change past experiences or alter your genetic code, you can change the way in which you perceive past experiences. Doing so could help you to create an improved personal narrative for your life, with healthier mental models. Along with learning new skills and gaining relevant experience, this could lead to a more positive outlook on life, that will help you to achieve your goals.

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Posted in Wellness.