I don’t know what has suddenly made me publish three posts in a fortnight, which BTW has to be some kind of record for me. Anyways, good things don’t last long so I suggest that you revel in my blissful writing as long as it lasts.
(Shouldn’t there be a rolling eyes emoticon here? I guess I’d better leave it up to you.)
As the title suggests, today, I’ve decided to lay my creative writing aside and come back with the other brand of posts my blog presents. The analytical and metaphoric type.
Cheers! (Sarcasm?…… Maybe. Either ways I suggest that you better get used to it. For it’ll be present in potentially toxic doses.)
To prove that I’m serious about this, I’ll be starting with the ‘most basic’ of any concept. The definition.
If you’ll Google the word ‘perception’, you’ll come across two explanations. The first is a primitive one while the second is it’s practical application. Kind of like a ‘building block’ thing.
Just so that you don’t run away, I have taken the immense ‘pain & efforts’ of copy pasting them.
(😒 There! I finally did it for you.)
The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
If you’ll think about it, it’s our analysis of those very senses, or that ‘awareness’ that leads to the way in which we regard, understand and interpret them. That’s why I’ve said that it’s like a building block.
There are various modalities by which we become aware of the things around us. Our eyes, ears, nose, skin etc. And I’m not really interested in discussing basic life science here. For you know my speciality…
It’s rambling on behavioural science.
So let’s directly jump to the next part. The analysis.
If you have paid attention to the feature photo of this post….
(I’m assuming that you’ve not. Even in the highly unlikely scenario in which you have, I’ll be pasting it here regardless. For it’s been pretty long without a visual. Don’t know about you, but I start snoring if my professor goes five minutes without one.)
You might ask a number of people what this picture represents and I’m sure you’ll get atleast two different answers.
1. A half empty glass of water
2. A half full glass of water
(All other weird answers such as ‘Oh! It’s a shot of tequila! or any other beverage for that matter, have been ‘kindly’ discarded.)
A vast majority of us already know what this is about. Answer number one denotes pessimism while number two denotes optimism and hence regardless, we almost always answer the above question as number two.
Either that, or we tend to roll our eyes, having ‘grown old’ for such kind of tricks. For they are way too common. I’m pretty sure atleast someone must have asked you this question by now.
Honestly, both the answers stand correct. It’s only a matter of our outlook. Of our perception.
That being said, even if we know this, do we actually ever apply this concept in our real life?
The most common response that I’ll get to this question will be this:-
Does it matter?
Does a positive perception actually help? Or does a negative one actually harm?
Let’s start with the positive. For some strange reason people always like the ‘good news’ first.
A. Benefits of the positive.
Here you go!
Drugs? What kind of proof is it, you ask.
It’s not actually a drug. Just read the label.
I’m pretty sure that the word must have either confused or depressed you. And the people who are confused right now might as well get depressed once they realise where they might come across this term….
Science?! Not again! Weren’t those two extra- looooong (Yeah, they were that BIG.) posts enough?
Explaining human behaviour through physical science has apparently become my latest (and sadist as some may add) hobby. Although Placebo by itself is a much more murkier concept, and really doesn’t fit into your classic definition of ‘Science’.
As is my ritual, I really can’t make do without forcing a few definitions down my reader’s throat. So here we go!
A placebo ( Latin:- placēbō, “I shall please” from placeō, “I please”) is a substance or treatment with no active therapeutic effect. Common placebos include inert tablets (like sugar pills), inert injections (like saline), sham surgery, and other procedures.
Excellent! Now that we know what a Placebo is, we are now qualified to see what it does.
It doesn’t really change things, although it does change things.
(Source: As you might have guessed, it can’t be Wikipedia. Such bullshit has to come from only one source. Me.)
What do I mean?
For you to understand that, what we are going to do is to get a general picture of the Placebo effect before continuing onwards.
(Side note:- Anyone who actually knows exactly what the Placebo effect is can jump through the next few paragraphs as they are going to be just that.)
The more you’ll read about the Placebo effect, the less you’ll actually understand. Because though it has a sweet and promising start, it then rambles onto ‘Neuro-regulation’, ‘Psychiatry’ etc only for you to hear that it’s still under research and the exact mechanism is…..
Great! What a waste of time!
Fortunately for us the mechanism isn’t what we are concerned about at all. We just need to know what it actually does…. i.e the end product.
Basically, the Placebo effect states that an ordinary substance can bring about effects of a therapy if given in guise of the same. So it’s all about fooling your brain into believing it to be something that it isn’t and your body will do the rest. Improve on it’s own.
Not that this works all the time, but sometimes it can bring about remarkable changes.
However…. the moment the patient realises that it’s not the drug that they’ve been consuming so far but just some stupid sugar pill…. The action stops by itself.
That’s the beauty of placebo.
Hence…. what really changes in a placebo effect?
Are you really getting your medication? No.
But you think that you are.
The only difference between an untreated patient and a patient receiving a Placebo is that he/she thinks that they are being treated. The only thing that has changed is the outlook.
So that should answer your question as to whether it really matters. Yes, it does!
The way you think or perceive can have a paramount effect on the outcome.
For one must remember the statement Master Oogway once made when Master Shifu exclaimed that a peach could not defeat Tai Lung.
(BTW, to those cavemen who haven’t seen the movie, it’s Kung Fu Panda. Oh and yes, you can laugh at the reference. But also pay attention.)
Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide it, to nurture it. To believe in it.
Never underestimate the power of believing in something. And for those who don’t ‘believe’ in spirituality, I’ve also offered you the scientific proof. Placebo.
So now that we know that how a positive outlook can help, let’s have a look at how a negative can harm.
B. Drawbacks of the negative.
Actually, I’ve already written an entire post on this one.
It’s 99 Luftballons .
For the forgetful old and the confounded new, a summary might be mandatory.
(Ye old faithful who do remember can skip the next paragraph.)
99 Luftballons is a German anti-war protest song written in 1983. The song tells us a story in which a General makes a fatal mistake of ‘perceiving’ 99 innocent red balloons as 99 UFO’s simply because they came from the other side of the border. The enemy nation. What results next is a multitude of events, each one worse than the other, culminating in a 99 year long war in which the entire world is destroyed. Except for that one last balloon, which is all that remains.
One may argue with the most obvious, ‘It’s a song for God’s sake!’ Or ‘Be erudite, not poetic!’
Fine. Then let’s have a look at some real life, ‘scientific’ examples. Something much less grander and much more common.
When I told you about Placebo, did the thought that ‘Hey, it may have a cousin brother!’ cross your mind? The world after all is a duality. So let’s have a look at the opposite of Placebo.
(Image is for representative purpose only. This isn’t actually Nocebo. Refer definition below.)
A nocebo effect is said to occur when negative expectations of the patient regarding a treatment cause the treatment to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would have.For example, when a patient anticipates a side effect of a medication, he/she can suffer that effect even if the “medication” is actually an inert substance.
See? Yet again, the only difference between an untreated patient and a patient receiving a inert substance is that they think that they have been given a drug and hence not only dream up, but also experience it’s side effects.
That’s why I inserted the photograph of an injection. Though we all know that it’s beneficial, we are still scared to receive it, thinking that it’ll cause pain. And hence we withdraw our hand, cover our eyes, hell even experience ‘pain’ before that injection has been put in.
To cement my point, I’ll throw in a bonus example.
White coat syndrome.
(This time the image is not merely representative. It really is what it is.)
White coat hypertension is a syndrome whereby a patient’s feeling of anxiety in a medical environment results in an abnormally high reading when their blood pressure is measured.
Is the blood pressure actually high? Nope. Why does it become so? Because of the anxiety of being in a medical environment. Or, to put it in better words, it’s because of their perception of the medical environment.
Why just high blood pressure?
Any type of anxiety disorder is basically caused by the same. A negative perception of their environment.
By now, I’m hoping I’ve managed to crack even the hardest nut. That pessimism can’t be good.
But don’t worry pessimists, cause I’ve got a silver lining for you.
‘Cuz pessimism is necessary.
After spending so much time and energy on convincing you otherwise, why would I say that?
Am I crazy?
(I’ll leave that to you. But before you refer me to Psychiatry, you’d better read the remaining post.)
Deal? Okay then. Ploughing on!
C. The negative of the positive/ The positive of the negative.
(Complicating matters. It’s just so…. me!)
To explain matters further, I’m going to take help of someone of whom I’m pretty sure even the cavemen have heard of. If not, then I’ll simply presume that they are lying.
Hang on! Don’t call 911 yet! Let me speak! Or rather… write.
I’m referring to an object Harry comes across in one of his many nightly prowls in the castle.
‘The mirror of Erised’
Ever heard of it? I’m sure the Harry potter fans must have regained atleast a little confidence in me. But just so that everyone is brought to the same page, let’s have a look at what it is.
A special mirror which reflects the deepest desires of those who look at it. The mirror reveals, to anyone who stands in front of it, a reflection of their heart’s desire. It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.
Before I begin rambling and analysing, let’s also cast a glance at the words of none other than J.K.Rowling herself, the creator of this magical universe who has successfully enchanted us by her literally ‘spellbinding’ quill. I’m sure you’ll be more convinced in her million-fold able hands.
(It’s certainly more. I just thought that million was a good figure. That’s all.)
“Albus Dumbledore’s words of caution to Harry when discussing the Mirror of Erised express my own views. The advice to ‘hold on to your dreams’ is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy. Dumbledore knows that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be – or ought never to be – fulfilled. Harry’s deepest yearning is for something impossible: the return of his parents. Desperately sad though it is that he has been deprived of his family, Dumbledore knows that to sit gazing on a vision of what he can never have, will only damage Harry. The mirror is bewitching and tantalising, but it does not necessarily bring happiness.”
The mirror of Erised is a very crude yet very precise reflection of one of the saddest human flaws. Often our wildest dreams are something that will possibly never come true. Yet we tend to cling to them as though they are all that really matter. We hope, desperately hope that maybe someday they will be true. While in fact…… they won’t.
Whenever in doubt, always consult Master Oogway. For he has great knowledge.
Right before he told Shifu to believe, he also taught him yet another important life lesson.
No matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.
Yes, perception helps. Optimism helps. But only upto a certain extent. While one should definitely concentrate on the positives, one must also not forget the negatives whilst at it.
The negatives aid us in keeping us grounded to the reality. They help us realise that what is Not.
Simply saying that a glass is half full of water really doesn’t stop it from being half empty.
Just because a placebo has had therapeutic benefit really doesn’t mean that the patient shouldn’t receive the rightful drug for the same.
- Pessimism helps us realise that though there are things that perception can change, what it can’t actually change is the reality.
Remember the statement I had made about Placebo?
It doesn’t actually change things. But it does change things.
All this time, we had been focusing on the second half. That it does change things. Now, as we conclude our session here today, we revisit this statement and understand the first half as well.
Perception doesn’t actually change things.
What it only does is change how you look at things.
In short, don’t forget to be ‘real’. Don’t forget that in the end…..
It’s all just perception.