Seeing What You Actually See,
Hearing What You Actually Hear:
A Breathtaking Story

Nowadays, there are far easier ways.....

I had to overcome a lifetime of conditioning, the hard way. That's what this brief tells. While, today, simply to know and practice Image Streaming is infinitely easier and more effective than the way I had to come at:

--Seeing what I was actually seeing;
--Hearing what I was actually hearing;
--Noticing and responding to what I was actually perceiving, instead of to what I expected to be seeing, hearing, etc.

Learning this the hard way, though, taught me something else important, though. That something else is the "breath-taking" basis of this brief, as you will see a few paragraphs hence.

Some years after I had overcome, the hard way, a lifetime of conditioning and begun to become able to notice and respond to what I was actually seeing and hearing...

...but before I came to fully appreciate fully what was involved:

My Purpose in Writing This:

My objective here is to encourage you into simple practices which enable you to make your own immediate actual perceptive observations--

I can at this point hear most people, and perhaps most of you reading this, saying, "Well, I'm a pretty good observer now. I don't need you to tell me to make my own independent observations!"

A Bad Joke Showed Part of What Is Involved:

During 1980-86 (at which point I recorded the observation in a book and afterward stopped keeping count), I was beginning to travel a lot in connection with teaching workshops and at conferences. During those years, I had occasion to be in restaurants for breakfast 70 times, on occasions where the waiter or waitress spoke reasonable English and the surroundings were reasonably quiet. It started as a silly joke...
...That when the attendant asked me how I wanted my eggs, I'd say, "strangled." Although I am reasonably articulate and have a strong voice, 62 of those 70 times the waiter or waitress never noticed that I'd said anything other than "scrambled."

This was the first I'd begun to realize to what extent I previously had not been alone, and I invite you to devise your own experiments along similar lines. I predict that you will find that by and large, people see only what they expect to see and hear only what they expect to hear.

--But those were only waiters and waitresses, you say, not sophisticates like us.


Someone Else's Bad Joke:

A friend of mine worked in a high security area of the Pentagon. Name plates, picture badges, the whole bit. One day he folded up a $5 bill so that only the picture of Lincoln showed, pasted that portrait of Lincoln (not a look-alike!) over his own picture on the badge. Every day he wore this Lincoln badge past the inspection of an ever-changing set of guards, coming and going. No on ever noticed. After a year, he discontinued the experiment.

--But those were only security guards, you say, not high-powered people like you and me.


Surely It Must Be a Recent Problem Only--?

Reportedly the main frustration expressed by Jesus was with people who have eyes but do not see, and who have ears but do not hear. --And He didn't find very many people at that time, either, who would see and hear.

In 1937 Catharine Grant reported, in the encyclopedia of studies then coming out of Stanford University under Lewis M. Terman on the topic Genetic Studies of Genius, that in any age of history, virtually all the real contributions to the advance of culture, science, technology or civilization generally has been made by only the tiniest handful of people, a vanishingly few "original observers." Everyone else either just carried out orders or was along for the ride.

--And High-Powered, Intelligent People?

--Not only not immune to such blindness but, if anything, peculiarly susceptible to it! This writer has had occasion to work, one way or another, in more than twenty different academic and scientific fields. Every such field he's been in is dominated by glaringly apparent oversights and errors which the prevailing herdvision has failed to notice.
For example, some few thousand historians have had occasion, the past several centuries, to comment in print on Edward Gibbon's theory of why Rome fell. For a century at least, Gibbon's Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire has been constantly available in every library and in half of the bookstores. --Yet in that most scholarly of all disciplines, history, it appears that no one ever bothered to go to source, and simply cribbed off each other's notes and commentaries. At most one, maybe two out of those tens of thousands of professional historians, picked up what Gibbon actually said on the matter--

You can check for yourself what he actually said, near the end of his first volume, first published in 1789...

...That the reason Rome fell, and the reason why modern Europe of his time was not about to fall, is that in Rome everything and everyone came to depend upon more and more centralized structures and arrangements (he almost spelled out "supply lines" though he didn't use those two words verbatim). When these fell, as all such structures and arrangements sooner or later must, everything which depended upon them fell with them. Whereas, in modern (1789) Europe, "Every household, hamlet and village has the requisite means and (knowhow) of survival. If the superstructure of society should be swept away for any reason for a time, life will go on much as before until a new one arises...."

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Had those thousands of historians, in that most scholarly of all disciplines, have bothered to obey the prime stricture of their own discipline and gone to source in their own commentaries, instead of cribbing off each other's mistakes, I believe that our own society, which is now far more vulnerable to what felled Rome than Rome ever was, would definitely have made some very different choices along the way!

The same kind of outrageous error and oversight is there to be found in every other academic, and scientific, field that I've worked in and at this point, I've no reason not to believe that such errors and oversights don't also characterize most or all other such fields as well!

Reality Check:

Whether you and I are high-powered people, sophisticates or whatever, it seems that very few of us, too few of us, are numbered among Catharine Grant's tiny handful of original observers instead of simply going along with what other people are saying (and not saying!). And we are paying for that, paying dearly, and might soon pay very dearly indeed.

Fine, you say. Maybe we haven't been quite as observant as we might, so all we have to do is remind ourselves to pay attention to what we are really seeing.

Let's indeed!, how?

A Problem With Problem-Solving:

One thing which suggests the problem may run a bit deeper than that is the problem with problem-solving.

When faced with a problem, it seems natural to you or me to attempt to solve it based upon what we know. Alas: any problems that can normally be solved that way have already been solved--and we are left with problems that don't normally solve that way.

Worse, it has become apparent that the main barrier between us and solving our problems IS what we know!

--Like the now proverbial tale of the truck stuck under an overpass. Trying to take off some of the load only made it rise and wedge more tightly against the overhead. Crowbars, wedges, revving the engine, all the ways people know for dealing with vehicular problems or for things that are stuck, only were making matters worse. A six-year-old boy, looking at the height of the truck's axis above the pavement, tugged at many annoyed sleeves before he was finally allowed to point out the solution: let some of the air out of the truck's tires. Problem solved!

Most of the problems you and I have around us now: what we know is only getting in the way of their solution. When we can shift some attention from what we know, and to what we are actually perceiving, most problems solve very quickly!

The problem With THAT, Though, Is--

That's fine as a general prescription. Problem with that is that most people, when I've asked them not to recite what they know about their problem situation but to tell me what, with their here-&-now senses, they are actually perceiving about their problem, they pause and then go on telling me what they know about the problem instead.

--About the third time I make this insistence, they "get it" and tell me the start of some actual perception of the problem--but in five seconds or less are back into telling me what they know about the problem.

About the fifth or sixth time, when by sheer force of whatever I finally get them telling me what they are actually perceiving: usually within minutes, often seconds, I hear them saying, "--and...oh, well that's it! That solves the problem, doesn't it!"

--And the NEXT time I hear them working on a problem, their attention is wholly on what they "know" about that problem situation and not on their perceptions of it!

Houston, I think we have a problem!


On the subway and in the streets, you're not supposed to look at other people.

As small children, we were almost always shushed if something caught our attention.

In the science "lab," in high school and college almost everywhere, we all learned to make sure that our "experiments" came out the way they were supposed to (which is as opposite to actual science as it's possible to be!).

Virtually all of us are trained, indeed very heavily conditioned, not to pay attention to and respond to what we are actually seeing or perceiving. That, ultimately, is why we get stuck in our problems. Why we let what's going on around us go wrong and stay wrong.

Conversely: what we control or act upon, especially what we control which in turn affects us, we build brain circuits to handle which then are there for other things. The very building of the conscious mind itself is, in large part, an accumulation of even those few occasions where you have acted upon your own perceptions of something and thus reinforced those perceptions and your handling of them, and the consequences of your having done so. That you have some conscious mind tells me that you have had at least some few occasions of dealing with your own perceptions.

--But then there's the fun of deliberately doing so and building for yourself more of a conscious mind.....

Image Streaming Is Now The Easiest, Most Effective Way--

--In which you practice noticing and responding to (reporting or describing) not only your perceptions but your subtlest perceptions. --In which it is so much more rewarding to report accurately, objectively and in detail and thus reinforce your perceiving in such directions, that the process itself shapes you more and more into a keen original and effective observer.

--But this is not an article about Image Streaming. It is an article about noticing what you see and hear, and about one hugely significant observation which resulted from early efforts to do so, an observation which profoundly affects you, me, everyone.

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Away....

Only not so far at all, and not very long ago, there was a young college teacher who had read admiringly about a young Swiss biologist who had been trained to make observations about shellfish. Indeed, the first few published papers of that young Swiss biologist were about what amounted to the sex life of oysters. One day, that biologist married and started having children. Reportedly, he wondered what he might learn if he applied his oyster-observing skills to his own infant children. This he did - and the results became a half-dozen different scientific disciplines on the development of the human mind. The most noted such new science was that of cognitive psychology, and his work became a main reference point for nearly all teachers as well as many psychologists.

That young biologist was, of course, Jean Piaget, and his work is still consequential among us. He it was who showed how basic concepts emerge in young humans and become the working tools through which other concepts, and other experiences, are understood, and for lack of which essential experiences, our grasp of things is enfeebled. If the child hasn't adequate experience of the reversibility of actions, he cannot in turn encode the concept of conservation of quantity - leading to those famous demonstrations in which many children and even some adults have no idea that the amount of water stays the same in a container no matter what the shape of that container. He is surprised - or beyond surprise - no matter what happens when he pours the one container into another. He also has no way to build the concept of the irreversibility of some actions. --And his grasp of all the things around him is weak, his understanding enfeebled, on all the things around him which in some way reflect these most basic very universal concepts built from experience....

(One of Piaget's concerns was that adults and schools are in the business of teaching the fact of such concepts to our young, instead of letting them build them from their own raw experiences. To the extent that this substitution is made, we grow up with enfeebled understanding....)

What Else Can Be Learned From Watching Our Own Young?

This story of Piaget much intrigued our young college teacher, who knew that we had been trained to not observe; who knew that even in science people these days are trained to go down the rows of other people's instruments taking readings as their observations, which is why nearly all the real discoveries in every scientific field come not from the experts but from amateurs from outside the field and newcomers to the field, who haven't yet learned to restrict their vision to those rows of instruments.....

What if, argued our young college teacher, we turned our own observations onto the children around us? With regard to Piaget: here all of us have been children and nearly all of us have current experience with children. Why did it take a Piaget to discover something so very important just from observing children? More to the point,

What else of importance might we discover if we turned our attention and observations onto our own children? What might we learn which, being so universal we had nothing in our experience to contrast it with, we've been overlooking like a fish doesn't know he is wet? What new vantage on the human condition could we gain if we simply paid some observational attention to our own children?

At the time first asked, those questions were only rhetorical since that young college teacher, yours truly, had no way at the time to do anything about observation-making. Everything but everything had trained us away from being able to make original observations. Those questions being rhetorical did not prevent yours truly from making a hairy nuisance of himself with them, both with his captive audiences--his students--and with his fellow faculty who didn't know and could care less what in the world he was talking about.

In the course of events yours truly married and started having children of his own. At which he decided to make those questions more than rhetorical and see if he really could learn anything useful, from observing his own infants as closely as possible.

Take A Deep Breath! Here It Comes----

Babies breathe transparently! By that, I mean that if you look closely enough for awhile, you'll begin to notice that babies have different ways of breathing in response to different situations and to different internal states. You can begin to tell when that baby is comfortable or uncomfortable. When that baby is sick, when that baby is well, when that baby is in some ecstatic transport. --When that baby is glad, sad, mad, bad or whatever.

Keep looking, and you'll also find - that the same is true of the adults around us as well. And that each of us, including you yourself, have identifiably characteristic ways of breathing in response to such situations and states of being.

--And if you make little experiments on yourself from those observations, as Piaget began making little experiments on his children from his observations, you will discover that this breathing is a "two way street!" --Not only because of inhaling and exhaling a two-way street. Not only do you have characteristic ways of breathing in response to such different situations and feelings: you can also change such situations and feelings by breathing deliberately in the associated breathing pattern!!!

Give Yourself Some Immediate Relief!

Whatever may have been bothering you or pressing you, you can give yourself relief from this very minute! All you have to do is set up the proper pattern of breathing, in the way you breathe when you do experience profound relief. 5-6 slow deep sighs of relief will bring you the experience of relief from just about anything! --from the symptoms of a cold, to stress on the job. How do you set up what, for you, is the appropriate pattern of Relief Breathing?" Here is how...

Imagine or remember carrying a heavy load of groceries, just a bit too heavy, for just a bit too long and too far. Now experience, as completely as you can, at last coming to the table and at last being able to set that load down there. As you're setting down that load, breathe your first breath of relief at setting down that load!

When you get around to breathing your next breath, make that your first breath of relief as you're setting down that load!

When you breathe your next breath make that your first sigh of relief as you're setting down that load at last......

Slowly, over the space of several minutes, make each next breath that first profound sigh of relief as you're at last setting down that load.

Now compare how you're feeling, with what you were feeling before starting that simple relief breathing.

Over the years, I've identified more than one hundred different breathing patterns, associated with different conditions or different situations. Half of them are desirable or reflect situations or conditions which are desirable; some are healthful. Many of the best breathing patterns are in a cluster which we call "the Calm Breathing Patterns." Here are the names of some of these desirable or useful patterns: Deliciousness Breathing; Satisfaction Breathing; Noise-Removal Breathing or Clarification Breathing (literally removing noise and disturbance from the body, from an experience or from various situations); Blowtorch Breathing or Dragonbreath (removing anger or irritation as a prelude to reconciliation); Mirror Breathing (combining Satisfaction Breathing with a mirror-examining experience as a way to restore or build self-esteem); Energy-Building Breathing; the Insight Pause.

You Can Observe and Categorize Your Own Patterns

These are not yoga, nor are they technical instructions how to breathe, to move the third rib from the right 45 degrees clockwise or whatever. You identify - from how you've breathed before in a situation or from what you observe in an infant's breathing in similar situation, the patterned way you breathe in those conditions. Breathe that way again, deliberately, to re-create those conditions. You don't have to depend upon our identified patterns of breathing; by observation and test, you can develop your own classification system and body of breathing techniques appropriate for you. Or, a bunch of those we've already identified are conveniently published, in Beyond O.K. (op.cit.). There is no mystery here, just looking. We will mail, from P.O. Box 332, Gaithersburg, MD 20884-0332, hardcopy of Velvety-Smooth Breathing, Deliciousness Breathing and Mirror Breathing, for free in return for return postage and a self-addressed mailing label, but appreciate that these demonstrate only a very few of the many useful things you can do with your own breathing.

Yawn-breathing releases anxiety energy, stored in the shoulders, to travel up the eustacians and out of the body. It is one of the more amusing, but also one of the more profoundly effective, patterns of breathing.

Where NLP "grounds out" distress experiences and anchors in pleasurable ones for various purposes, we first strengthen the pleasurable aspects of the Calm-Breathing Patterns, in the presence of which no distress can last very long - and often just the general practice of such breathing is enough to clear away all the specific problems. If one does have to go target hunting, usually it takes about 10-20 minutes to orient on and hold on a distress exposing as much of it as possible to each Noise-Removal Breath or Blowtorch Breath until that episode is thoroughly cleaned out -- then finish it off, still oriented to that episode, with several minutes of Deliciousness Breathing and/or Satisfaction Breathing, so thoroughly reconditioning that stimulus that that episode can never again be a bother or help to trigger others such.

Burns in the kitchen, scrapes in construction work, mashed hands from fallen loads--many times, people equipped with these breathing patterns have literally breathed away all signs of injury, not merely the discomfort, within a minute or so. The way we figure it, after a billion years of arduous evolution in which our precursors were often tested beyond the limits, our bodies got very good at self-healing. Quick and complete recovery is the normal response of the body; other outcomes have been learned under the artificial conditions of civilization. The breathing helps us intercept the responses and factors which get in the way of that rapid self-healing. Whatever the explanation, it's nice to have such quick and complete recovery working for you.

Becoming an Effective Observer:

Don't take our word on this or on other things, just check these simple things out for yourself and go on from there. --Just please pay attention to what you, yourself, observe, as distinct from what you expect.

Practice of "Noise-Removal Breathing" or Clarification Breathing also made a big difference in the development of this observer, so I no longer had to force myself to notice what's actually happening. With perceptions clarified, noise in my information system reduced, it was easier to notice and pay attention. Today, of course, I have Image-Streaming and its many related procedures, another technique called Sidebands of Awareness Capture and another called Portable Memory Bank, which we've both published widely and taught widely, which build observational skills far more easily and directly. (I'm still using Noise Removal Breathing, though, to help me get myself through impossible schedules and tasks.) By paying attention to your own perceptions, you may find yet other procedures which are a better help to you.

Parthian or Parting Shot:

In paying attention, I've determined that easily 90% of everything I've ever been taught has been contradicted by what I could plainly see for myself. Frankly, I've come to trust what I can see plainly for myself, first hand, more than I do what I've been taught and more than the things that "everyone knows."

This does lead me to wonder about what you've been taught. --And about what I'm teaching currently!!! The best bet?--pay attention to and respond to your own first-hand perceptions first. If you haven't made a point of so doing up til now, we strongly recommend that you learn how to and begin doing so. Every now and then, the herd of lemmings does things you don't want to do if you but knew. --And the path of all of us is littered with unnoticed positive opportunities......

©1998 by Project Renaissance (regarding this internet version only, other copyrights may apply). While we encourage the free distribution of this article (complete text only, including this notice and acknowledgement of source), we do require that expressed permission be granted by Project Renaissance for any major republication. For minor printing and sharing, we only request that you notify us.

To reach Win Wenger, please visit his website at Project Renaissance.

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This version originally published on Anakin's Brain (now Genius By Design)

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©1996-2004 Matthew Turco unless otherwise noted

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