2007-11-30 / Columnists

The Inner Voice

Commentary by Marilyn Gelfand

While one's own perceptions are so much a part of an individual's experiences, they are also so influenced by the events and thoughts surrounding the person from the society at large. We all have had different holiday experiences and expect different things from festivities and the people we celebrate with. The surrounding society, for example, may demonstrate how a holiday should be celebrated.

Television shows us families and how they behave. While we go through our lives, these outside sources can create self-doubt or fear and become part of how we view anything, so we may doubt our own interpretations and behaviors. We may not trust our instincts on a particular issue.

For example, if a holiday has always been about just having fun and playing with new toys and gadgets, and suddenly someone you know starts talking about the religious aspect, it will have an effect on you if inside, you believe it to a certain extent.

If you are sure you don't, the other's comments will be dismissed without another thought. If you feel a conflict in your own values, you will feel them both pull at you, and the stronger one will come to the forefront. When someone else expresses what he or she may feel, it may pull the other value up to the front.

The key is to remember that when I feel the fear or self-doubt, I should look at the issue myself and decide what is important to me. What exactly do I myself want here?

Outside forces, especially if they are repeated, can be quite strong and change our own perceptions. I have always believed, for example, that all mothers would protect the lives of their children at all costs.

However, the mothers of suicide bombers have expressed their pride in their children taking on a national selfsacrifice. The outside can definitely play a role in our actions. It is so important to be able to separate myself from those around me and make sure that what I am feeling is what is coming from my instincts. Everyone knows that in the extreme case, brainwashing can be used to control others. But, with detachment, I can observe myself and make sure that I believe in my own actions, even in small everyday events.

People are always looking at the behavior of others and seeking to interpret it. I have often heard people question the motives of those who believe in kindness. Love or kindness can be interpreted by some as weakness, or just an action to get something in return. Some believe giving should be about one-way giving, rather than a two-way give and take.

I have watched a few people continue to observe a kind person, knowing that if they wait long enough, the true motivation will come out. There is no changing that perception. They will even come up with some interpretation of an action that may seem ridiculous. But, they will feel right. I am happy to know how other people think, because it gives me clues as to who they are. Their perceptions guide their actions. Personally, I prefer to surround myself with people who can appreciate love and kindness and enjoy participating in equal relationships. But, perceptions are the interpretation of their owner, and can be very revealing if one pays attention to them.

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