Perception v Reality

“Perception is the brain’s best guess about what is happening in the outside world. Perception is inference.” Atul Gawande

Our brain does a fair bit of guess work. It is constantly reviewing, sorting, filtering, ignoring, acting on a constant barrage of conscious and subconscious information that it receives both from inside the body and from the environment. It has to prioritise. It has to decide what is important and what isn’t. It has to decide when to act and when not to. The net result of all this is what we perceive or experience at any given time. The brain is fallible – it doesn’t always get it right.

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Pain is the brain’s ‘best guess’ at the amount of danger you are in. When you experience pain, it is the resultant perception of how much danger your brain thinks you are in….not necessarily how much you are actually in. It will do a better job of this with good information. With chronic pain, the brain starts to take notice of information that it may have even ignored and discarded in the acute stage. It places importance on this information – more importance that is probably warranted. The evaluation of the amount of danger you are in gets skewed. Managing persisting pain becomes a process of untangling your unique danger evaluation and starting to change things that will stack the odds more towards safety.

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