Recently I have noticed an interesting comparison, and I’d like to share with you my thoughts about it.
But first let me show you some famous optical illusions. Most likely you’ve already seen them somewhere on the Internet, but let us look at them one more time.
For example, here is the well-known illusion of the girl who rotates in an undetermined direction. I recall a number of lengthy discussions, when it first appeared online, as to which way she is really turning. Some people were able to “switch off for a second”, but then they would “lose” one of the directions. Some managed to see it in different ways quite consciously. And finally, some got cross and decided they were being tricked. I shall leave the mystery picture here with two “neighbours”. If you watch the girl on the left first, it will appear that all three are turning clockwise. If you then look at the girl on the right, they will all seem to be turning anticlockwise:
The Venetian masque illusion is another one in the same vein. What is inside the masque – one face or a kissing couple? With due practice you can learn to switch voluntarily your perception of the image from one to the other:
And here is another well-known trick: if you focus on the black dot, the grey cloud surrounding it will begin to fade away:
Finally, my own favourite illusion: if you concentrate on the + between the photos, the celebrities’ faces will begin to look cartoonish and grotesque:
Now, what else? The familiar illusions based on the same/different colour of fragments, depending on their surroundings:
Or a picture’s “aftertaste”: if you watch the black dot in the middle for 10 seconds, the town that had initially seemed black and white will appear coloured in delicate pastels:
Why did I bring all this up? If you think of it, these illusions demonstrate the uniqueness and lack of objectivity in the workings of our brain, the very organ that rules our whole life. Just as it happens with the rotating girl or the masque, sometimes we may not perceive the situation as a whole, at best being able to switch between two viewpoints. On other occasions, we may focus on one thing and remain genuinely oblivious to what is happening around us. Or we may see somebody’s traits as ugly and grotesque in comparison with others. We may also apply double standards and see the situation as black or white, depending on context. And we are likewise left with an “aftertaste” or a mental image following a particularly memorable or lengthy experience.
The mechanics are very similar. No one perceives the world in an entirely objective way, as we all live in our own space, filled with illusions, images, and projections. Change may be brought by applying consciousness and attention. Some are quite satisfied with their vision of the world, but others will want to change or at least to understand some mechanisms of their subconscious. Psychotherapy can help with that.
If you wish to learn more about the tricks of your brain’s work, watch these videos, where they are explained in an accessible manner: