Dr. Glasser explains that the only way we experience the real world is through our perceptual system. Information about the real world comes to us first through our sensory system: our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. Next, these sensations pass through our perceptual system, beginning with what Glasser calls our total knowledge filter, which represents everything we know or have experienced.
When information passes through our knowledge filter, one of three things happens:
When information passes through the valuing filter, we place one of three values on it. If it is something we have learned and is needs-satisfying, we place a positive value on it. If it is something we have learned and hinders our ability to meet our needs, we place a negative value on it. If it neither helps us nor hinders us in meeting our needs, we may place little or no value on it; it remains neutral.
Because we all come to every situation with different knowledge and experience, and therefore different values, our perceptions of the real world are different. Thus, we don't all live in the same "real world." We live our lives in our Perceived Worlds.
By "values" Dr. Glasser means that which is important to us, not necessarily being limited to moral or ethical values.
Our Perceived Worlds are, for each of us, our reality. Because they are made up of perceptions, our Perceived Worlds are:
Often our perceptions are chosen. We can frequently choose to perceive people, places, and situations in a number of ways. For example, in driving to work, I might choose to think of the person who just pulled out in front of me as an inconsiderate jerk who is intentionally ruining my morning and feel all the stress that that perception carries with it. Or I could think of the person as someone like myself who just made a mistake in judgement because he/she is in such a hurry. Then I could try to relax so as not to do the same. In choosing our perceptions, it might be a good idea to ask ourselves which perception is better for to us hold.