Have you ever felt like the car you were in was rolling backwards, only to realize that your car was actually still, but the car next to you was moving forward?
You inadvertently judged your own movement based not on what was truly happening, but on what your mind thought was happening.
Sometimes what we see, experience, and believe is not completely valid or true. Like an optical illusion where what the eye sees isn’t accurate, it can be difficult to gain a correct perspective at times.
Here are some questions to consider when trying to gain a better understanding of the accuracy of your experience.
- How does what you are feeling or experiencing right now compare to things that you know are true? Your husband always sends you flowers on your birthday. When your birthday comes and goes without flowers this year, you might jump to the conclusion that he doesn’t love you. By remembering all the times he has acted lovingly, the words he says to you, and understanding that he’s human and makes mistakes, can help you gain a stronger understanding and perspective about what is really going on.
- Is there something going on that might get in the way of having an accurate perspective? There are many factors which can distort reality. When people are under emotional stress, intoxicated, depressed, anxious, or lacking sleep, things can seem bigger or out of proportion than they really are. This is why emailing or texting after you’ve been drinking is never a good thing to do. Take time to rest, eat, or sober up before reacting to a situation where you feel strong emotions. You may find that your perspective has changed drastically, and you no longer want to quit your job, get back together with your ex-girlfriend, or post embarrassing pictures on Facebook..
- If in doubt, ask someone you trust.This could be your best friend, your brother, your mother-in-law, or your therapist. Asking someone else to share their perspective on things can help improve your understanding: “I’m thinking about [sending blackmail pictures to my boss/divorcing my wife/going back to school/disinheriting my son]. What are your thoughts?” Often people who are not as close to the situation as you are have a more accurate perspective on things than you.
- Remember that everyone is entitled to their own perspectives. Someone who struggles with severe depression who manages to get out of bed by noon each day has every right to feel like they have accomplished something important. A woman who miscarried may not be able to attend a baby shower. Don’t judge someone on how they view things; you most likely don’t have a clear idea of what they are going through.
Gaining perspective is something that grows with experience. Having friends and mentors who can share their experiences with you is a helpful thing. This is one reason why support groups are so vital for people with with addictions, medical issues like cancer or brain tumors, or people experiencing loss. Learning from people who have traveled a similar path can make your own journey much easier.
photo from Shutterstock
Last reviewed: 26 Aug 2012
Harmon, J. (2012). The Importance of Perspective. Psych Central.
Retrieved on May 22, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-life/2012/08/the-importance-of-perspective/