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What Is a Personal Experience?

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  • Written By: Elizabeth West
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2016
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Personal experience is the perception of events filtered through a particular human being’s thoughts, senses and philosophy via direct contact. Psychology and postmodernism have different explanations for the relevance of stimuli in shaping it. The sum of actual experience and the mind-set someone is in when he or she it produces opinions and interpretations, and they influence advice given to someone in a similar situation.

Psychologists are divided as to whether perception occurs from the stimulus itself or from inferences made from knowledge the person already has. The beliefs of postmodernism seem to support the latter, stating that everyone shapes his or her own reality. Thus, each person’s thoughts and perceptions are the truth for him or her, and personal experience cannot be made universal. Still others believe that certain aspects of a stimulus will be interpreted by the history and cultural background of the subject, marrying the stimulus itself with outside factors that influence internal philosophy.

In the case of the person’s personal experience, new situations will be filtered through the attitudes already formed. A familiar scenario might be romantic disappointment. Someone who went through a particularly bad breakup might have formed an idea that all persons interested in him or her are untrustworthy. The person might even ascribe traits or agendas to the current paramour that really applied in the prior encounter. This tendency can create problems not only in romance but in work or other circumstances.

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Individuals will often have vastly different personal experience with the same thing, such as performing a figure skating program. An Olympic-level skater will have sensory awareness of the intense pressure of competing at that level, a larger ice surface and the extensive training that brought the skater to that moment. A skater who has performed recreationally in a local setting might understand the technical aspects of jumps and spins and even the same stage fright, but in a different context. The stakes are not as high.

Someone giving advice based on personal experience might try to find the similarities and tailor the advice to those, but always from his or her own perception. The Olympic skater might help novices prepare for an upcoming competition by offering technical help from a more assertive viewpoint, perhaps even by officially coaching. By contrast, a recreational skater might urge the novices to practice but also to enjoy themselves. The difference between building a career and doing an activity for fun can result in conflicting guidance. Sharing the personal experience will, however, help others gain knowledge of aspects they might not have considered, both negative and positive.

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clintflint
Post 3

@Ana1234 - I think that can be done without leaving the country as long as people attempt to put themselves outside of their own comfort zone regularly.

There's a reason that college entrance requires a personal experience essay and it's because they want to know whether the student can apply personal experience with the greater world. Even if you haven't traveled to other countries, you might have worked with refugees in your own country, for example and that experience could shape your opinions.

It's equally as likely that someone might travel and stay in a resort the whole thing that is no different from being back home.

Ana1234
Post 2

@croydon - I'm always interested in that kind of personal experience and how it colors a person's perception of the world. It's one of the reasons I think everyone should travel overseas at some point if they can, when they are young.

No matter how much you've heard about it, you can't really imagine a very different country until you've experienced it yourself. It changes your whole way of viewing the world and your own country as well.

croydon
Post 1

Your perception of how sport should work really does change a lot of how you see a game. My father was a professional coach for a while and then eventually started working as a teacher who occasionally coached a school basketball team. But in the end he had to quit the coaching on the side, because he was just too upset by it. He couldn't let go of the mentality that his personal experiences in sports had taught him to cultivate.

I remember riding home with his team on the bus once and they had just lost a game but were joking around, and my father, who was usually very gentle and supportive yelled at them all for not feeling terrible that they had lost the game. He understood that wasn't a great attitude to be teaching teenagers, but he still couldn't quite change his personal reaction.

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