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What Filter Are You Looking Through?

Searching For Truth

Some years ago, I was being professionally mentored by a delightful woman in my hometown. I was struggling with finding myself and putting the pieces back together after surviving a 15-year marriage to a man with narcissistic personality disorder. I was questioning my beliefs on everything and searching for purpose. I was trying to separate who I really was from the negative programming I had received during my marriage.

It was during a pretty intense session where I was questioning my religious beliefs that I found myself quite frustrated by the fact that my mentor would not just tell me what to believe. She asked me if I realized I was seeing everything in my life through different filters, some good, some bad. She also told me that asking someone to create yet another filter for me was unhealthy, hence why she wouldn’t just simply tell me what to believe. She told me I had to figure out what my filters were, remove them, and then see the situation for what it really was for myself, not what I had been taught to see. This left me both confused yet fascinated. What did I really believe about anything, and why did I believe it? Were my sources of information reliable ones or was my faith based simply on hearsay from unreliable sources? How often had I asked, “What should I believe [about anything]?” and received the wrong answer?

Searching for purpose, a sense of self.

Searching for purpose, a sense of self.

Filters Affect How We Relate to Others

My mentor explained to me that filters were how we’ve been taught, either by experience or information (whether right or wrong), to view the world and everything in it. It’s seeing everything through our experiences.

I immediately recognized what some of my filters were. Every time I had been in a relationship up to that point in my life it had either been abusive or neglectful in some way. I now viewed relationships in an unhealthy way. I had been controlled and abused so severely by a narcissist that I had sworn off relationships of any kind with men forever and I didn’t trust any of them. I was quite cynical on the whole topic. I truly believed no one would ever love me the way that I love, especially not a man. I was seeing love through a filter of negative experience and information. I recognized this one easier because my belief didn’t make sense. I mean, if all relationships are horrible then no one would want to be in a relationship, ever.

Another filter I discovered was affecting my opinion of God. I understood where my struggle was coming from to connect with Him. My first experience of a father and his love through the first 8 years of my life was very corrupt and full of abuse, thanks to my dad. Almost all the authority figures in my life had been picky, judgmental, abusive, or hurtful to me in some way, especially the men. I avoided authority, knew they’d never approve so I didn’t even try, and scoffed at anyone who attempted to control me especially through threat of punishment. I had already experienced the worst forms of abuse I could imagine, therefore there was nothing they could do to hurt me any more than I’d already been hurt. I never viewed authority in a positive light. I never appreciated that they were trying to keep me safe or guide me in the right direction because perhaps they cared about me.

Ultimately, I found myself struggling to connect with a sovereign ruler who I had been viewing as judgmental, picky, and who would send me to hell for misbehaving. Why have a relationship with someone that forces you to love them with threats of an eternity in hell? That’s not free will. In my opinion, he had already broken the only promise he’d ever made - to allow me free will. What is love that is forced? It has no value. I sat out on a mission to figure out reliable sources to base my education on. I looked within myself for answers too. I had to learn to trust myself. I learned to listen to myself before anyone else and to trust my instincts. I listened to people and their experiences as well, but not more than my instinct. My mentor assisted me in locating all the proof I would ever need as to what kind of ruler God was. It eventually enabled me to remove all my preconceived notions and truly base my feelings, thoughts, and opinions on facts and reality. I finally, for the first time in my life, made a decision about my faith for myself and by myself, and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. It was so liberating to realize what I had accomplished!

Fear is a Learned Behavior

I didn’t stop there. I looked for other filters in my life as well. I discovered that 99% of my fears were learned behaviors. I had been taught to fear so many things through abusive programming in my marriage. I feared crowds and strangers. I didn’t trust a word anyone said to me and only half of what I saw with my own eyes. I feared myself, my feelings, my thoughts. I feared trying to do new things because I saw myself as a failure before I ever tried. I even doubted things I had always been successful at. All these things were me seeing myself and situations through the filters of negative programming I’d endured for so many years. I believed everyone was against me, everyone viewed me as worthless, a failure, insignificant, naïve, a sex object, and so on. It has taken years for me to reprogram myself with healthy truths.

I still sometimes second guess myself and I stop and analyze everything, but it has turned out to be healthier for me to do this instead of relying on impulse. I’ve discovered so much while analyzing myself. I finally feel like my life is mine, my mind belongs to and is controlled only by me, and I have 1/10 the fears I used to have. Depression no longer haunts or debilitates me, and I like who I see when I look within myself.

Discovering Your Own Filters and Setting Your Mind Free

I’ve found the easiest way to discover a filter, especially an unhealthy one, is to look at the areas in my life I struggle with the most. I own it and then I analyze it. I ask myself what has been my experience with any situation like it in the past? Why do I feel the way that I do? What caused me to have the thoughts that I have. Am I the only one that feels this way? If not, then why do we all feel the same? I confront things as if they were all unique and individual; for example, now instead of saying all men are bad, I will ask myself why does this particular man upset me so much? I am fully honest with myself and then I am able to learn to change my perception and correct the problem. Both my internal and external behavior changes when my perception changes. I can stop allowing someone to upset me when I figure out the real reason I am upset. I can also stop avoiding all things when I figure out the specific thing I am trying to avoid.

It is very liberating! Ask yourself, what are some of your filters and how can you find freedom from them?

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