of a mirror
is to reflect that
which we are,
and yet the best mirrors
are not made of glass,
One of the more poignant statements about perception
is very often credited to essayist Anais Nin
or to the motivator Steven Covey.
However this is the ancient
“We don’t see things as they are,
we see them as we are."
By Rabbi Shemuel ben Nachmani,
as quoted in the Talmudic
tractate Berakhot (55b.)
Relating to dream analysis
Although remembrance of the oldest source is lost to the course of time,
the concept has repeated, often verbatim, throughout the worlds history.
Modern iterations have spanned the centuries,
each an earnest attempt to say the same thing.
In 1890 “The Popular Science Monthly” printed an article titled
“The Psychology of Prejudice” by G. T. W. Patrick.
Which included a version of the adage about perception.
A few months later the periodical “Current Literature”
reprinted an excerpt with the saying:
"The results may be summed up in the form of two laws:
We see only so much of the world as we
have apperceptive organs for seeing.
We see things not as they are but as we are – that is,
we see the world not as it is, but as molded by
the individual peculiarities of our minds."
In 1891 an instructor of elocution at Harvard College published
a textbook about oratory which included the following:
It has been well said that we do not see things as they are, but as we are ourselves.
Every man looks through the eyes of his prejudices, of his preconceived notions.
Hence, it is the most difficult thing in the world to broaden
a man so that he will realize truth as other men see it.
In 1914 a newspaper column presenting homilies
contained an instance of the expression:
As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
As a man sees in his heart, so he sees.
Through unclean windows,
we see things not as they are but as we are.
In 1991 an edition of “Think and Grow Rich”
written for black Americans included
use of the idea:
To put it plainly, seeing is not believing—believing is seeing.
We see things not as they are, but as we are.
Our perception is shaped by our
The best-selling book
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
by Stephen R. Covey also included a version:
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are,
that we are objective. But this is not the case.
We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or,
as we are conditioned to see it.
When we open our mouths to describe what we see,
we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions,