Perceptions and Reality: What Do We See When We Look at the World?

Cathy Presland
3 min readJun 10, 2021

And what’s it actually made of?

Photo by author.

How’s It Going?

I posted this cute picture (well cute to me) on social media this week, snapped on a bike trip, with a witty comment about sharing the lady’s pain over her lockdown locks.

It got a few laughs, who doesn’t like a nice animal picture?

But I also know that any presumption on my part, is completely that, it’s on my part.

I saw one interpretation, who knows what you will see, and, of course, we neither of us have any idea what the experience of being photographed was like for the lady in the picture.

Seeing What’s On Our Mind, Not What’s in Our World

There’s a deeper message here though.

My first thought was,

How sweet!

And I leapt to make a connection between the scruffy straggly wool, and my experience of months without a haircut.

But this is my experience…

I have no idea whether this lady was eyeing me with curiosity or fear (sheep are prey animals so at some point I expected her to turn away, which she did.)

And that’s the point, it was my experience, not hers, not an abstract one, not a shared one, not a systemic one. It was my experience of waiting for a haircut and I happened across an image that fitted my experience of the world, of course, it isn’t her experience.

Mind Your Assumptions

It’s an ‘of course’ moment with respect to the pretty lady, but it’s good to notice this from time to time, or at least know it foundationally, because we base all our experience with fellow humans off our own-rarely do we actually take the time to ask. And, if we do, our questions rarely come from a completely empty place from which to hear what’s really going on for someone.

It’s very subtle.

I found myself doing it when I interviewed some past clients recently for some research and I asked about how the last year had been. I was about to qualify, ‘given it’s been a strange year’, but she rushed in with an answer…

Cathy Presland

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