most people see things from their own perspective. or at least they think they do.
i was in the kitchen a few minutes ago and an interesting thing happened. i am still only allowed to lift a few pounds at a time, but even that little bit of weight can really hurt. i was trying to help clean up (my *daughters can only deal with so much on their own…) and i was carrying some greasy icky things toward the dishwasher. one of my sons stepped in front of me, and then just stood there chatting with his sister. i waited patiently for what felt like 86,ooo minutes (so it was probably about 1), and i finally grabbed him by the shoulder and moved him out of the way. “didn’t you see me trying to put stuff in the dishwasher?” i snarled. “oh, sorry,” he said. that seems to be his latest mantra, which shows me that i need to back off on this kid. but that’s another exploration for another time. and then, in a flash of a second, i saw the scene unfold exactly the same, except it was him who shoved (guided??? hahahaha- let’s be honest) his sibling aside. my first impulse would have been to say to him, “why don’t you say ‘excuse me’?” and i realized that i would have been telling him off for exactly what i JUST did.
so, i did what most humans do: i justified my actions. well, i was carrying greasy stuff. i was in the kitchen when he walked in, so he should have seen that i was clearing up and stayed out of my way. i am hurting and i shouldn’t even be cleaning up at all, so why wasn’t he sensitive to that (hahaha- nothing like unrealistic expectations to get in the way of effective parenting!). and on and on- until i realized that when i have to grasp at straws to justify being right, i am not usually right at all.
and i realized that, rather than seeing things from our own perspectives, we tend to not see things at all. we are on auto-pilot so much of the time that we do a lot of knee-jerk reacting and not a lot of thinking or seeing. i don’t analyze a situation in the moment and determine an appropriate reaction; i react and then i try to create a story around the events that transpired that will shore up my version of why i did what i did.
most of my actions and inactions and reactions are nothing more than mental misfires into the ether of the universe. sometimes i hit right. sometimes i end up in the general vicinity. and, many more times than i care to admit, i am just off target.
with so many people doing the same unquestioning things, it’s no wonder we bump up against other people so often. it’s no wonder that a whole lot of those interactions are not the great experiences we would like them to be. it’s actually quite amazing that anyone can get along with anyone. it’s mind-blowing that we ever have good interactions.
being in a medical situation is a good paradigm for how to do things with a bit more thought. when i tell a doctor that “everything hurts”, they (no offensively sexist pronouns on this blog!) ask me what hurts the most. when i tell them i have pain, they ask what kind of pain: burning, crushing, like electricity, constant, intermittent, etc. talking to a doctor, if they are any good or are trying at all to help you, should help you achieve a greater clarity about your situation than you had before.
but it’s the same with my moods and my thoughts. if i ask myself why i lost patience with this particular child, it gives me much more workable material than asking myself why he never pays attention. if i wonder about why i put my hands on him instead of speaking to him kindly (which i’m trying to teach him to do, right?), i will be in a much better position to make a much better choice the next time around.
if i ask myself why i am on the computer right now instead of playing with my kids (“because i deserve some time for myself, darnit!” is probably not the right answer :) ), i will realize what i am avoiding, and i will figure out a way to modify that activity to make it less objectionable. or i will delegate the task to someone who doesn’t mind it.
but the point is that i will actually be seeing things, and that is a pretty good perspective to have!