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Anxiety and Your Perceptual System

The point of contact between your internal world and the external world is your lens, your perception- how you see reality. But what you see is a whole-body experience, not just a visual one. Perception is the active unfolding of a neural process that is continually integrating information received from your five senses- touch, taste, sight, sound, smell- in order to organize, interpret, and make sense of the world around you. Perception is thus not only how you see the world (for example, a person, relationship, situation, or circumstance), but also how you understand, make meaning of, and experience the world.

Your perceptual system also helps you see and experience the world as constant and stable, despite the ever-changing stream of sensory information flowing into the system. However, seeing the external world as steady and stable is possible only when your internal world is steady and stable...When old, unresolved fears continually rattle your nervous system and keep you primed for the worst, then your perception of reality is going to be that the worst is coming. And when you expect the worst, you are going to focus your attention on those things that support this expectation, so that you are not caught off guard. Such focus will create a perception of the world as a dicey, unreliable place demanding constant hypervigilance and precaution to ensure your safety and survival."


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