A few years ago, I thought that the woman that I was dating at the time was seeing someone else. She seemed distant and cold, and I never felt like she wanted to spend time with me. She would always seem to go out with her work friends, and I felt that she was getting too close to a particular male colleague of hers. However, when I went to confront her about the issue, I soon was informed that nothing had been going on, and that I was simply mistaken. They were just hanging out as friends, and she was simply busier than normal – it had nothing to do with the status of our relationship. This was an example of perceiving something as being far different from how it actually was.
This difference came about as a result of my own jealousies and insecurities, which acted as perceptual blocks that directed my nervousness into that sense of judgment. I would see the slightest evidence that something was wrong and blow it out of proportion. Anything that I could think of was a potential threat to my relationship – the slightest look, admiring behavior, distance from me and less time spent together. I took all of these things and formed a narrative that was not correct in my mind, taking it as truth. Language did not help me in this process, because I was unable to accurately articulate what I thought was going on. I was not able to find the words to accurately justify my concerns, and therefore revealed my utter lack of understanding. Looking over the situation again, I soon was able to realize that I should not make assumptions and fill in blanks in my head as to events and motivations of the people around me.
Certain personal barriers in thought and communication that prevented me from addressing this issue included my own uncertainty regarding the situation – I didn’t really know for sure whether or not it was happening, and I did not want to reveal myself as jealous and controlling if it was unjustified. My own insecurity and pride also contributed to this problem, as I did not want to even admit to myself that there was a possibility my girlfriend was cheating on me. At the same time, that refusal to admit it consciously pushed the thought towards my subconscious even more, and so it dug at me incredibly.
My thoughts at the time were varied and complex, all contributing to this overall feeling of unease and change in perception. It all stemmed from the basic idea that I felt I was not good enough for my girlfriend, and so that contributed to an overall feeling that she would leave me after realizing the same. I would also ask questions that were not meant to immediately address the subject: when I asked how her day went, I would simply mine her answer for clues that she was lying to me. I would watch out for facial cues, changes in voice, a lack of sincerity – anything that would point me in the right direction. I would eventually interrogate her about more details, not really wanting to know the answer, but searching for inconsistencies in her logic or the events that she was describing. This was all meant to confirm my suspicions, though it was couched in this seemingly innocuous conversation.
Thought can be changed by personal barriers in many ways – prejudices, biases, and your own perception of the way things are, both for yourself and the world around you, can color your thoughts and make you think something that necessarily isn’t true. Even if you know someone who is arguably extremely attractive, but you have a negative opinion of them due to some other factor (they shut you down for a romantic date, they have more money/influence than you), that personal barrier of jealousy or resentment can make you think that they are not attractive at all. It is a way of justifying to yourself the negative opinion you have of them. If you expect something bad to happen to you, like in the case of me thinking my girlfriend was cheating on me, facts and events can color themselves toward that outcome as well.