Penelope is a good friend of mine.
She has a handsome husband, Kevin, who in some ways is almost perfect.
He comes home right after work and plays with the kids, giving her
a break. Heís a fledgling poet and writes her love poems from time
to time, and he even brings her flowers once a month or so. They
talk about things and Kevin is a good listener.
However, Penelope has a "problem." She often fears that
Kevin will leave her for another woman. While he's at work, sheíd
think maybe he was flirting with his secretary and sheíd start to
get mad at him. Then when he walked through the door in the evening,
she would be cold to him or pick a fight just because of her own
fears during the day.
When they would put the kids to bed and then snuggle on the couch,
she would often feel distant and unable to enjoy intimacy because
of her fears that he would leave her sooner or later.
Penelope wanted to know why, when she had almost the perfect
marriage, she couldnít just relax and enjoy it. Even though
there was no evidence he was cheating on her, no late nights at
work, no strange perfumes or lipstick marks, she was at times almost
tormented by her fears and angers about him possibly leaving her.
Eventually, she went to a therapist, and began to understand what
was happening. She remembered when she was five her father used
to come home every day from work and lift her in the air and spin
her around and give her a big hug. She loved to play with Dad that
way and would look forward to him walking through the door.
Then one day he didnít walk through the door. She didnít know why
and she didnít know why her Mommy was crying when she asked about
it. The next day, he didnít come home either, and Penelope began
to understand that something horrible had happened.
In fact, her father had abandoned the family. He had been fighting
with the Mom a lot and one day when she was five he left, never
to return or call.
Penelope was crushed. At five years of age she felt awfully sad
and lonely, and after listening to her mom rant and rage about her
dad she figured something out about life that changed her forever.
She figured out that
"Men canít be trusted. Men leave."
And with the emotional force of her hurt feelings she imprinted
herself with that perceptual filter.
One of the first things to understand about developing emotional
IQ has to do with perceptual filters. Perceptual filters are unconscious,
they are very powerful, and can affect our lives tremendously for
good or ill. They are like blue sunglasses, they make the world
look a certain way to us even though its just the filter, the sunglasses
that are blue, not the things we actually look at. Perceptual filters
operate "before" the conscious mind, filtering what we
perceive so that the world shows up a particular way.
Now, Penelope at the age of 5 didnít just think a few angry thoughts
about her dad and how men canít be trusted. She had an internal
shift inside, she found a way to avoid feeling all that pain and
the anguish of loss. She Ďfigured something out about the world.í
"Ah, I know, I hurt this much because I hadnít figured it out.
Now I Ďknow.í Men canít be trusted.í I'll have to be careful
That internal process, imprinted by the force of her anguish and
loss, shifted the way she saw the world. She didnít go around thinking
about it, it wasnít some mental decision, it was an actual Ďontological
shiftí in the way she was being in the world. Thereafter, men showed
up for her differently. They could and would be lovely and entertaining
and fascinating and interesting, but theyíd leave. Underneath it
all, she just knew this to be true, this is just the way things
are, like sheíd figured out that trees were a color called green
and water was blue.
HOW WE LEARN IMPORTANT THINGS
Now, perceptual filters have powerful impacts on our lives. They
are closely related to perceptual shifts. We all make perceptual
shifts as part of learning and figuring out the world. For example,
at one time you didnít know how to swim. Someone coached you or
talked to you about keeping your head above water, kicking your
feet, moving your arms, etc. You had all this intellectual knowledge
and then you got in the water and struggled for a few minutes and
then you "got" swimming. You had a perceptual shift, your
body knew how to stay afloat and keep breathing in water that was
over your head.
Once you have a perceptual shift, you no longer have to remember
all those intellectual instructions about swimming. Youíve taken
something from intellectual knowledge to working knowledge. When
you learned how to ride a bike, you had to struggle to learn "balance."
Once you got the perceptual shift called balance, you didnít have
to remember it, it was permanent.
Perceptual shifts cause us to see and deal with the world in different
ways. Once you got "balance," bikes showed up for you
differently ever after. You could ride them or not as you pleased,
go further, go faster, learn a finer point of balance called riding
with no hands, etc.
Perceptual shifts are powerful and often life enhancing. There was
a time you couldnít read the words on a page. But then you had a
perceptual shift called "reading," and suddenly whole
new worlds opened up for you. Another word for perceptual shift
is "distinction." You distinguished "reading,"
and all those lines on paper meant something entirely different.
You also distinguished writing, addition, subtraction, and that
pesky relative, division. Sure, you could get that 8 + 8 + 8 equals
24, but how in the world does 24 divided by 8 equal three? It doesnít
make sense to kids until they struggle with it and have an internal
perceptual shift the world calls division.
Once we have a perceptual shift, we have it forever. It helps keep
us from cluttering our mind with all the intellectual knowledge
and facts, we donít have to relearn how to read every day or how
to drive a car every day.
Now, back to Penelope and her perceptual filter. A perceptual filter
is a form of perceptual shift that we create usually with strong
emotional energy. Penelope was feeling anguished loss over her dadís
abandonment. Those feelings were too overwhelming for a five year
old girl. So with the force of those emotions she imprinted herself
with a view about men. "They canít be trusted."
And just like swimming and biking and reading, she didnít need
to remember that or go around thinking it the rest of her life.
It just became the way things are, like when Iím in water I swim
and on a bike I balance and around men "they canít be trusted."
So here she is with a great husband and she doesnít feel intimate.
She gets mad because she thinks he may leave her. When they snuggle
on the couch she often canít just relax and feel loved and loving.
Why? Because, once youíve created a perceptual filter, it isnít
conscious. Perceptual filters are subconscious, they occur or show
us their view of "reality" before we can consciously think
Perceptual filters even color the evidence! If you know men canít
be trusted and your man writes you a love poem, what does it mean?
It means that he wrote it for someone else, really!
If you "know" men canít be trusted and your man brings
you flowers, what does it mean?
It means he cheated on you and heís feeling guilty!
Once weíve created perceptual filters, we tend to organize/rationalize
reality to fit our filter. It doesnít matter what the truth is,
weíll color it to fit into the world view of our filter.
Our distinctions color the evidence in our lives.
So here Penelope is with a huge problem. She wants intimacy and
canít get it. Sheís got all the external signs of a great marriage,
and yet she feels uncomfortable, anxious, and often cold towards
Now, through her therapy, she discovers this perceptual filter called
"men canít be trusted, they leave me." Does it go away
because sheís aware of it? Does it disappear?
NO! Because perceptual filters, once distinguished, donít disappear.
Once you know how to ride a bike, you donít forget how. Once you
know how to read, you can read. Once youíve got men canít be trusted,
thatís the way it is.
However, bringing this filter into consciousness does make a difference.
Just because you know how to read books, you donít have to read
horror stories. If you donít like horror stories, you donít read
them. Just so, making perceptual filters conscious allows you to
begin to not automatically see the world through that view.
And with Penelope, this is what happened. She began to work with
relaxing into intimacy and appreciating him rather than just automatically
fretting and doubting his fidelity. Knowing about the filter allowed
her to begin to make different choices. It doesnít happen overnight,
but Penelope reports its getting better as time goes on.
What is the point of sharing Penelopesí story? Well, to begin with,
you may be thinking "poor Penelope, what a tough thing, sheís
got what she wants but canít enjoy it. Too bad for herÖ"
Actually, however, YOU AND PENELOPE ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. Youíve
got perceptual filters operating in your life that get in the way
of you having what you want. We ALL do.
Everyone taking this course has distinguished things just as unworkable
to protect themselves from some pain or anguish, and they are affecting
your life just as detrimentally.
Your thing probably isn't "men leave me." YOU ARENíT EVEN
AWARE OF WHAT YOUR THING IS, for the most part. The filters weíve
put in place are long since unconscious, but weíve all got core
distinctions that get in the way of us having and or enjoying the
kind of life we want. Weíll be getting into what your "thing"
(core distinctions and perceptual filters) is as the lessons develop.
But for now you are starting a course to develop powerful new relationship
and emotional skills. THE PROBLEM WITH MOST KINDS OF TRAINING AVAILABLE
IN THE WORLD TODAY IS THAT THEY ONLY DEAL WITH GIVING YOU INFORMATION.
You donít need more information to dramatically enhance the quality
of your life. You donít need more intellectual knowledge about emotional
To substantially change anything in your life, you need to deal
with WHATíS ALREADY THERE, the filters and core distinctions that
are operating beneath the surface that keep you from having or enjoying
what you want. The filters that are operating in your life now are
giving you the life that you have. To change your life, what you
need more than information is to make conscious what is creating
your life to be the way it is now.
This course is, wherever possible, going to ask you to look at some
of the filters and distinctions that ARE ALREADY OPERATING IN YOUR
LIFE RIGHT NOW that get in the way of you having what you want,
that make your life show up for you the way it does.
In one of the first lessons, you are going to learn about the biggest
emotional mistake we all make every day. But more than that, youíre
going to bring to conscious awareness the perceptual filter that
causes you to make that emotional mistake. IT WOULD DO NO GOOD TO
JUST SAY IN TWO SENTENCES WHAT THE MISTAKE IS AND HOW TO STOP IT.
Thatís just more information that wonít make a difference. The value
of the lessons is for you to "see" what core distinction
is operating in your life that almost forces you to make that big
mistake time after time.
In another lesson youíre going to learn a core intimacy skill. This
skill is powerful and can alter your experience in all of your relationships
forever. REALLY. But what youíll actually be doing in the lesson
is making conscious some of the filters that automatically get in
the way of true intimacy. Once you "see" those, you can
begin to make different choices.
The point of the Penelope story in this introduction is to simply
have you begin to see that developing emotional IQ is not really
about having more intellectual information. More information rarely
makes a difference in peopleís lives. Working with the perceptual
filters you've already got operating and creating new ones, however,
can make a dramatic difference in a short period of time.
So as you work with the lessons, DO THE EXERCISES, play along, have
fun, and allow new understanding to dawn as old filters are revealed.
There is no pressure to learn, here. Take the lessons at your own
pace. Kinda like going to school, if you just show up day after
day eventually difficult lessons like reading, writing, and division
make sense. Enjoy the journey!