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The Camera-Check of Perceptions

Oh, the many ways we express our situations……”she jumped down my throat”, “he went off the deep end”, “they had a fit”,  “she just blew up”.  In almost all cases, these are inaccurate descriptions of what happened.  “But, come on“,  you say, “we all know they’re not true..it‘s just semantics.“   Truth is “in emotional and behavioral self control, it isn’t just semantics – it’s all semantics” (Maxie C Maultsby, MD).
The Camera Check of Perceptions (Maultsby, 1984) makes people aware of mental images that do not describe obvious facts.  The human brain and a camera are very much alike in that they produce a visual image.  The camera does not add, delete or edit the image.  The human brain, on the other hand, has more features.  It adds to, subtracts from, or changes the image based on our perceived notions, beliefs or what we already think of what we are seeing.  In fact, “what people see is never right before their eyes; it’s always a mental picture or image formed in the back of their brain.”
Take a Picture

Using the Camera Check of Perceptions technique helps people make sure their brain is working at least as accurately as a simple camera would work.  If you were to take a picture (camera check) of the events expressed in paragraph 1, would it  accurately describe what was happening?  Of course not.  These irrational metaphors cause thinking that does not mean what we say and does not say what we mean.  Why are these inaccuracies problematic?  Because they trigger different (usually more negative) emotional feelings than the ones people would have if they say what they mean and mean what they say.
Example: Your spouse comes home from work and exclaims, “My boss really chewed me out today.”   Unless the camera check of perceptions shows his boss taking a bite out of him, this is a false description of what happened.  Maybe it gave a greater impact in the telling, but it also impacted  more negative emotional and behavioral consequences.  Whereas a more accurate description, “My boss had some critical opinions of my work today” is less demoralizing and can result in a manageable self-appraisal.
Most of us – most often –  carefully select the words we say to others.  We understand how the words we say directly influence the way others feel and act towards us.  The words we use to talk to ourselves directly influence our feelings and actions towards ourselves.  Click the camera for accuracy…
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