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“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” A. A. Milne

This quote inspired me to think about filters. Each of us has our own way of looking at things. We have predispositions, opinions, and a filter we look through that is uniquely our own. Some call this our internal map, a paradigm, or a worldview.

Have you ever experienced a paradigm shift? It is quite an interesting feeling to look at something one way and then have that view shattered with something someone says or writes. Sometimes this shift causes us to be ashamed, other times we get that rare “Ah-ha” moment, which opens us up to a whole new level of thinking.

The challenges we have with our minds is the way the mind works. The mind is a good collector. It collects. It takes snapshots and recordings of everything we experience. It interprets by comparison. Is this good? Is this pretty? Is this bad? Is it ugly? Subsequently, we are slaves to the way our mind interprets these comparisons and the subsequent feelings that are derived from these comparisons.

Is this wrong? Not necessarily. The ancient parts of our brains make comparisons and interpret certain things to scan for danger and react appropriately. This is the “fight or flight” response many of us feel when we sense danger or see a pattern that brought pain previously. We know, for example, that touching a hot stove will hurt us. We know this from personal experience or what we experienced when a friend or loved one burned themselves by touching a stove.

The problem inherent in this system is that it applies to every input we receive. This interpretation, which is hard-wired into us with years of reinforcement is our internal map, our paradigm, or our prescribed, self-built, reaction to our interpretation of the world. We each have our own definitions of what we like, what we don’t like, what tastes good, what tastes horrible, what we consider beautiful and what we consider ugly.

Maybe we get caught up in gossip about another person we work with. The input we receive from another person will affect us, depending on the credibility we give to the person transmitting the message. Based on our previous experience, we may be quick to judge someone based on how they look, how they dress, or how they act. Many times, these assumptions are incorrect. They are our mind, applying the filters we’ve built over the years of our life, and automatically placing judgment.

Think about the last time this happened. We see a news story, read an article, or see a posting on one of our favorite social networking sites. We immediately jump to conclusions based on that input without verifying our assumptions. We assume.

Think about the many dating services that are available today. We swipe left if we dislike someone; we swipe right if we like someone. We make mindless judgments using the same mechanism we use daily for our very survival automatically, just by looking through a few pictures and reading a little “blurb” this person is using to try and find themselves a potential mate. We do the same things when we evaluate another person on hearsay. All because we depend on the automatic evaluation system we built from our life’s worth of experiences.

The quote: “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” demonstrates the need to be more aware of our internal maps and to consciously use our awareness to circumvent this system to truly understand another human being. When you read something, verify it. When you see something, try to understand the underlying story. When you meet someone, listen to them. They have a story to be told, learned from, and cherished. By doing so, you may discover that the person you think is a weed, really is a beautiful flower that hasn’t bloomed yet.

Until next time…