We all know the phrase, seeing through rose colored glasses and understand that it means a way of viewing life but I do not think most of us realize the many different filters we see through each day. Life circumstances contrary to these filters have been referred to in psychology as cognitive dissonance. We find these filters pervasive in our everyday lives but we really pay little attention to their presence. They tend to only allow in info that resonates with our deeply held beliefs or personal attitudes. Do you know people that are extremely lucky and find yourself wondering why they always seem to be fortunate? Well, there is science behind this; studies have found that "lucky" people have a very acute filter for identifying subtle opportunities that not so lucky people tend to filter out. To better understand these filters in practice, watch the video below:
Lets look at some of these filters in everyday life;
1. The nutrition and fitness filters: We all have our own ideas of what constitutes healthy nutrition or the ideal fitness routine but what happens is we set up filters for these ideas. We tend to latch onto and promote any study or article that supports our beliefs while quickly dismissing anything that states otherwise. In doing so our brain tells us that we are well supported in our views. I like to refer to this as cherry picking data and studies. We also tend to rally around others that share our beliefs thus further reinforcing that filter. The key is to recognize these filters and understand where they come from. Being a physician in the primal/paleo community, I see these filters often. When presented with these views, I step back and ask myself if I am truly being objective in my reviews or whether my filter is setting me up for denial.
2. Health & medicine filters: As a practicing physician, I am inundated with conflicting medical studies on a daily basis. From hormones, to statins, to nutrition, there is little consensus. I believe there is no such thing as an unbiased study; just asking the question to begin with will influence the outcome. Because of this, I try to read as many articles supporting my belief as I read that deny my belief and then see which resonate with my medical observations of my clients. Many researchers may not have much clinical experience or their clinical experience is lived through the filter of their belief. Here is a TED talk that covers bias in statistics:
Here is one of my favorite articles from The Atlantic: Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science.
3. Life filters: These are the most pervasive of the filters and the ones that make you who you are. Filters are the way we interpret the objective world, what I mean by this is that multiple people can take a situation and interpret it very differently. As an example; two people stand on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon and one person is full of exhilaration and wonder while the other person is paralyzed by fear or the same two people are in the presence of a crying baby; one feels empathy and the other annoyance. In both of these, the objective situations are the same for each individual but the interpretation of that data is altered by the filters they apply. I have also heard the example of two people who walk out to a warm sunny day, one says, "what a beautiful day," while the other states, "it's too hot out here." Same situation but one chooses to see the day through a filter that is more optimistic. Some may refer to this as PollyAnna but studies show that people with this filter tend to be happier and have less health issues. The other group we refer to as possessing the "Eeyore filter." The Eeyore filter is a difficult one for us in our medical practice. Eeyore types tend to be people that have developed such a strong filter over the years that it is truly a part of their identity. We all know these people, the ones that have to have some sort of drama going on in their lives. They must tell you about how difficult their lives are and when one drama ends, there has to be another to replace it. Despite saying that they do not want to feel that way, they tend to thrive on it. Most people avoid asking them how they are doing or feeling because they know they are in for a spilling of misery. The challenging part is that after seeing through this filter for so long, many of them do not want to get better. They sit in fear as they begin to see improvements in their health and will often begin to sabotage their progress to stay in the comfort zone of their Eeyore filter.
Filters are not permanant, they can be changed but it takes practice and over time, it becomes second nature. Just like learning to juggle, when you start, you have to focus on all the intricate movements and concentrate all your efforts on making it work but after many hours of practice, you do it without thinking.
Think about the people you surround yourself with and understand that filters can be contagious. We all know that being around people that whine and complain about things can influence us to do the same. The flip side is also true and certainly attractive, being around happy optimistic people feels good and many are drawn to that energy. What filter do you prefer to see through?