I have been always fascinated by gestalt pictures, in which two pictures are hidden but we can only see one at a time. What we see depends on what we choose to see. Take the one that the artist calls "My wife and my mother-in-law" which depicts both a young woman and an old woman. Another one depicts a vase and two faces. When choosing one over the other, we don't have to change the picture in any way—both possibilities already exist. We choose through our perception.
What is even more fascinating is the closure principle of gestalt, which proves that we are very good at drawing conclusions. Briefly, the principle of closure says that when we are shown an incomplete picture, our perception fills the gap to form a complete image. According to design expert Andy Rutledge, we fill in the missing information based on common or easily recognisable patterns from our past experience and understanding. He goes on to say, "Since we almost never have the full picture anyway, the principle of closure is at the core of almost every decision we make, every understanding we claim, and our every effort to grasp the complexity of the world around us."
A matter of perception
What do you see...two faces or a vase?
So the reality that we experience is subjective. Indeed, much of it is a result of our perceptions filling the gaps—we draw our own conclusions about reality. In other words, if we change our perceptions, we could change our reality too.
This reminds me of a famous story about a rich man who, in order to show his son how privileged he was, takes him to visit a poor friend, who lived in a remote village. On their way back, the man asked his son, "Did you see how poor people live?" "Yes," replied the son. The man then asked, "So what did you see?"
"I saw that we have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our veranda reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We buy our food, and they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, and they have friends to protect them." The son finally stunned his father by concluding: "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."
In this issue's cover story, Martin Brofman shows us how we can come to different conclusions in our lives. I'll let you discover the details on your own.
Once you finish reading the cover story, you may come to the same conclusion as celebrated author and speaker Dr Wayne Dyer, who said, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Buy the February 2013 print issue of Complete Wellbeing
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