No Immaculate Perceptions


A casual stroll through a lunatic asylum shows that conviction means nothing

- Nietzsche

Some clerics are certain that their religion is more valid than all the others. The same certainty that my perspective is correct and others are wrong holds for sports fans, politicians, and nutritional supplement vendors, among others.

People with Bipolar Disorder experience the world differently when manic than when depressed. In either case, they are certain that their current perspective is objectively valid. Even those with the insight to know better often make irreversible decisions during states of mind that are likely to change.

The tacit premise of perception is: My current perceptions are accurate and complete depictions of objective reality, and I will always perceive things as I do now. In fact, they are creative constructions of a nervous system that is biased by its perspective and emotional state at that moment [see Illusions]

Just as there is no "most valid" perspective for a photograph, there is no "most valid" perspective from which to appreciate objective reality. I may not like how I look when a photograph is taken of me from a particular angle, but, sadly, that is how I look from that perspective. However, because I am motivated to look attractive, I want my photo to be taken from the most flattering [advantageous] angle — although that perspective is no more or less valid than any other.

When I look at something, I have to stand somewhere, and so what I see is only the image as it appears from that angle. There is no such thing as a single complete visual image; no particular vantage point is the correct or valid one.

Likewise, all ideations take place from particular perspectives. This means that there are many possible conceptual schemes, or perspectives in which judgment of truth or value can be made. No particular perspective can be taken as definitively "true."


Since validity cannot be the basis of choosing one or another of these perspectives, Nietzsche recommends useful in promoting one's interests and principles as the basis of perspective selection.

A critical perspective is no more or less valid than a loving perspective, but they have different consequences for the beholder. So, from the perspective of perspectivism, it makes no sense to seek the most valid perspective. Instead, seek the most advantageous perspective — that is, the perspective that brings the best out of you according to your interests and principles. [Methods to discover your interests and principles are described at: What Am I Supposed To Be Doing With My Life?]

Pathogenic Perspectives

While some perspectives are factually false and hence not worth considering, the important ones are neither true nor false. Consider these: "My future is hopeless." "I am a worthless failure." The first is a prediction and the second is an opinion.  Neither is objectively true; neither is objectively false.  Nevertheless, accepting either as valid will have a profound effect on my emotional state, how effectively I handle real-world challenges, and my course through life.  It would be more advantageous for me to take a perspective that promotes strength, perseverance, and heroism.

Some clients resist changing the perspective from which to observe the things that happen on the grounds that their perspective should be valid and not chosen because there is some kind of payoff for doing so. Nietzsche would point out that your current perspective will always bias your appraisal of which is the most valid perspective, believing that it is more valid than any other.

The perspective from which you perceive and appraise the things that happen determines your emotional reaction to them. To escape self-sabotaging reaction tendencies you can purposely change the perspective from which you evaluate the things that happen. After all, the perspective that causes the unnecessary suffering is no more valid than any of the thousands of other perspectives you could take.  In fact, since there are no "most valid" perspectives, you are free to "Try On" and work with perspectives that promote your interests and principles, and refuse to entertain the pathogenic ones.

Associative and Dissociative Perspectives

When you dream about yourself do you see your face as if you were watching a movie? Or, do you see the world through the actor's eyes, so you would only see your face if you were looking into a mirror? The former is called the Dissociative Perspective; the latter called the associative perspective.

You may react to an emotionally provocative event differently in retrospect than you did when it happened, because to make sense of the memory you have to step outside of the event and look at it. However, when the event was happening you likely experienced it in the here and now from the actor's perspective.

The actor's perspective tends to evoke more passionate, impulsive reactions. The observer's perspective tends to be more mindful of the big picture and the long-term consequences of emotional reactions.

Thought Experiment: The Dispassionate Observer's Perspective

Imagine that you are a wise and kindly observer who knows something the actor does not. For this thought experiment, instead of rocks beneath the surface of a lake, or a situation that elicits a self-sabotaging emotional reaction, imagine how the trajectory of your life looks to an observer who is loyal to your core values and motivations, and has unconditional positive regard for you.

Make notes on your observations and conclusions. What suggestions do you have for the actor?

Switching from the Associative Perspective of the actor to the Dissociative Perspective of the helpful observer does not give you access to the "true" perspective [for fallible humans like us, the truth always depends upon your current perspective]. However, the exercise of "trying on" different perspectives and noting how they effect your reactions will give you insight into the relationship between your inner reality and the objective world. Meta-Cognitive Awareness — the understanding that your current perspective is just one of many you could take — can free you from the illusion that there is anything special about the particular beliefs and perspectives you buy into at the moment. This awareness is particularly valuable during emotionally charged moments.

The key to using this method of changing your perspective is to select a persona who will promote an advantageous reaction to the things that happen. Shifting into a relentlessly critical dissociative perspective is counter-productive, but for many people and for many reasons it has become the default perspective from which to observe high-risk situations. Whenever they step outside themselves to evaluate how they are doing, they take on the persona of a scolding critic.

Our mission is to promote your path of greatest advantage. While the intention of self-criticism is to improve your performance, the judgmental, shame-inducing strategy is misguided. We want you to be strong, confident, and competent. So we seek a persona whose perspective will promote those attributes.


Applied Perspectivism > >

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