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You Create Your Own Reality: The Invaluable Life Lesson my Sons Taught Me at the Pet Store

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We are perceivers.  We are an awareness; we are not objects; we have no solidity.  We are poundless.

—Don Juan/Carlos Castaneda

Descartes wrote, “I think therefore I am.” But I think it might be accurate to say “I perceive therefore I am.” This is because few of us ever experience the world through thought alone. We are rarely observers, taking in life as it comes without judgment or preconceptions. Just the opposite.

Everything is filtered through our perception. This is why two people can walk down the same street and have completely different experiences. One person might experience the street as dirty and dangerous. They might notice the trash on the street or the hostility in a stranger’s eyes. However, on that very same street, another person might notice the beauty of a raven sitting in a tree, or the laughter of a child coming from a nearby apartment.

What made the experiences so different? The street stayed exactly the same. But one person came to the environment with his perceivers set to “positive,” while the other was set to “negative.”

Quantum physics teaches us that our perception can do more than just affect our mood. The person who walked down the street with anxiety and doubt likely gave off a “Stay away from me” vibe, while the positive person was open and energetically attracting positive things. As a result, maybe he caught the eye of a beautiful woman, or maybe he saw a ‘help wanted’ sign in a nearby office building. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Our inner perceivers can dictate our reality.

I experienced this firsthand with my sons the other day. I took them to the pet store to let them pick out a fish for our home aquarium. However, things weren’t going as planned.

“I KNEW the fish I wanted wouldn’t be here, Mom,” complained my son Sammy with sadness in his eyes. “I just KNEW it.”

As I tried to comfort my middle child in the aisles of our local pet store, I couldn’t help but look over at my youngest son, Jackson. Joy suffused his small face as he excitedly examined his new pet fish. Unlike his older brother, Jackson’s trip to the pet store had been a great success: He had found a colorful fish he adored, and he was now excitedly thinking of names.

And my middle child? Disappointment crowded his face as he forlornly walked home with us. The particular fish he had in mind was not available at the moment and so, rather than settle for something else, he left empty-handed.

His sadness was difficult to watch, but it also got me thinking. As I watched my two dark-haired sons walk home, I wondered why one always seemed to have life go his way, while the other always seemed disappointed.

Despite their similar looks, the two boys are quite different in many ways. Sammy, the middle child, is deep and sensitive.  He thinks about things a lot and can be unnecessarily hard on himself.  Like most middle children, he tends to have the story that his younger brother is the favorite.  Meanwhile, Jackson is a typical youngest child, more carefree and forgiving of himself.  As a result, he tends to be more in the moment and more quickly adaptable to life’s experiences, good or bad.  Sammy is adaptable too, but he doesn’t necessarily assume from the get-go that things are going to go his way in the manner Jackson does.

In fact, from the moment we got to the pet store, Sammy was anxious and worried that the fish he most wanted wouldn’t be there.  And sure enough, it wasn’t.  Jackson, on the other hand, was thrilled to run up and down the aisles and look at the brightly colored fish, easily finding a fish he fell in love with and wanted to purchase.

Some observers might look at the pet store situation and think, “Sammy was simply disappointed because the fish he wanted wasn’t there.” However, I think the answer is a little deeper than that.  Sammy already had a story going into the pet store, a story of scarcity and insecurity.

On the surface, it might seem like the afternoon’s disappointment was just about a fish, but I think the true hurt was much deeper.  Sammy believed from the moment we arrived that the fish he really wanted wouldn’t be there, not just because of the natural realities of product inventory, but because he has a fearful belief that he isn’t going to get his needs met and that he isn’t as “lucky” or as loved as his brother.  The missing fish wasn’t just a disappointment to his hopes as a pet owner, but it also served as a painful validation that what his inner perceiver was telling him was right; his brother is the favorite and everything always goes his way.

Of course, as adults we can easily look back and see that this isn’t the case; Sammy’s fish wasn’t there because he liked a popular and highly specific type of fish, while Jackson was just happy with whatever swam his way.  However, Sammy’s inner perceivers are highly attuned to any hint of injustice and unfairness, particularly when they seem to highlight that his brother gets more than he does.

Even though it is easy for adults to see when kids are taking offense where none is meant, the fact is that most of us can fall into similar thinking without realizing it.  We have all been in Sammy’s shoes; hurt children leaving a fish store empty-handed, at least in a figurative sense.

We have all left a job interview, hurting and rejected, thinking “Of course, I didn’t get the offer. I am not good enough,” or blamed ourselves after a breakup, thinking “No wonder my boyfriend left me. I’m worthless.” And the more we attach ourselves to these stories of negativity, the more we find pain and rejection. We date partners that don’t treat us with respect, or we stay at dead-end jobs because we don’t have the confidence to explore other options.

Ironically, this just leads to a vicious cycle: We feel poorly about ourselves, so we attract negative things into our lives and we are blind to the opportunity and love all around us. Then, when we find more heartache as a result, that solidifies our belief that we are worthless and that the world is a bad place. Essentially, we walk around all day thinking, “I KNEW the fish I wanted wouldn’t be here.”

The good news is you can alter your inner perceivers and change your internal story. Check out my next blog to learn more.  And to learn more about your inner perceiver and how it affects your relationship, read my book Quantum Love:  Use Your Body’s Atomic Energy to Create the Relationship You Desire