Perceptual position is a fancy name for the positions we take in relation to ourselves and the environment. Learning a little bit about these 3 positions can help us in our goals to have more self-awareness and become the CEO of our lives. We are going to look briefly at the positions and talk about being your own “fly on the wall.”  I will end this article with a little exercise and some questions for your consideration.

When it comes to confidence building, stress management and addiction recovery I speak often about the need to discipline our thinking and imagination. If we do not, we run the risk of stinking thinking and a “messy” mind that doesn’t serve us. Perceptual positions can help us make adjustments to our ways of being

Being able to move from one position to the other gives us flexibility, offers insights, helps us discipline our thinking and imaginations. In addition, it allows us to gather information and make better decisions about the actions we intend to take.

Interestingly, we live our lives from “positions” without even realizing it. But ideally, we should begin to do this more consciously. We should know what position we spend most of our time in and we should learn to move between them.


When we are in first position, we are looking at the world through our own eyes and focusing on what we see, hear and feel, through our own filters. We are fully present and experiencing life through our senses.  We know what we are thinking. We know what we are feeling.  We know what our body is experiencing.

  •  First position can be a good place to be if we are in a positive resourceful state
  •  First position can be an uncomfortable place to be if we are in a dis-empowered un-resourceful  state.


When we are in second position, we are looking at the world through someone else’s eyes and focusing on what they see, hear and feel, through their filters. It is like stepping into someone else’s shoes and standing in a place of empathy. In this place, we can imagine how another person thinks or feels. When we are in this position, we might find ourselves naturally mimicking another person’s body language and word choices. Second position can be a challenge to access if we are caught up in our own drama and highly self-focused.

  • Second position can give us helpful insight if we choose when to enter second position wisely
  • Second position can promote co-dependency if we stay in this position for too long or take on an unhealthy person’s state.


When we are in third position, we are looking at the world through the eyes of an observer and focusing on what they see, hear and feel, through their filters. This can take a little bit of practice.We want to do is to become the fly on the wall, watching ourselves. 

It is mentally stepping back and watching yourself, almost as though you are watching a movie with you as the star. When we are in this position we are detached and impartial.

We need to consciously and deliberately choose and identify characteristics of the “observer fly.” Your observer fly should not just be some Tom, Dick or Harry, or old tapes running amok in your head.  Rather, it should be an element of the “you” that you intend to strengthen. You might want to think in terms of an avatar.

  • Third position- “the fly” should be assigned the identity of you as the “CEO” of your life.


Assign your “observer fly” some characteristics. You can review the complimentary workbook for ideas.

Decide whether your “observer fly” will be on the wall in front, behind, or to the right or left of you.

Imagine your fly observing you during low drama, easy activities for a few days and take note of any insights.

Eventually, begin imagining your fly on the wall when you find yourself in highly charged situations and take note of any insights.

Use the fly on the wall to review a highly charged situation, after the fact, and take note of any insights.

Note-Using your fly during highly charged situations, or after the fact is not easy for everyone to do. It may require some practice, so be patient with yourself/


1. What position do you spend the most time in?

2. Would you behave differently if your “observer fly” was your Mom, the kids, spouse or boss?

3. What does your observer fly have to do with confidence building, stress management or addiction recovery?

Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW