You don’t really see what you think you see, you see…

Do you actually see what you think you see, hear what you think you listen to? Our minds distort perception by the act of interpretation, and labeling.

How much do you do this?

This is an ugly experiment, but it’s telling. Draw a portrait of that person in the newspaper, or on the cover of that magazine on the coffee table.

Can’t do it? Most people can’t. It’s put down to a lack of a “gift” of drawing.

Sorry to pop your balloon, but if you can’t draw that portrait properly, it’s because of interpretation, labeling, simplification… in short, distortion. You’re not seeing it clearly.

Photographing the Bean Bill Dickinson via Compfight

The same thing is likely happening to every word you hear. They’re all warped and twisted up as well. It’s something the brain just simply does. We boil it down, and categorize, to save work. This is the actual basis for most mood disorders, and the basis for cognitive therapies.

But you know all that, right? Mood disorders are generated from cognitive distortions.

Work with me here. Try an experiment. Give yourself 30 minutes, and try to draw that portrait. Then, for the next 30 minutes, turn the picture upside down, and just draw shapes.

You’ll get a better result if you draw from the elbow, and with a pen, and just draw over mistakes. If you find yourself labeling something, like “lips”, draw something else.

Look at your product.

We have to work at labeling, every minute of our waking days. That’s the person in front of us, what they’re saying both verbally and non-verbally, in clinic. It’s the open wound in front of us as we hold a needle driver. It’s the professor giving feedback.

It’s all labelled, warped, and forced into something not exactly like it is.

Simply happens.


Edwards, B. (1999) The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. New York:Penguin