Sherry McClurkin is not only a nationally and state certified counselor and pastoral counselor, she is also one of the most awesome people I have ever had the chance to know. I am so happy to share her thoughts on perspective here with you today and I hope you’ll check out her blog for more information on her practice in Frederick, MD and her wonderful writing! Take it away, Sherry…
So I’m driving and making a left turn, following all traffic laws of course. The car behind me is also turning and following me closely. I then watch that driver speed up and quickly pass me. I am not a slow driver, so it surprised me to have this guy pass me. Next thing I know, they’ve pulled in front of me at the next traffic light, which is now red. Here’s where I really get annoyed. The lane we’re in is for both going straight and turning right. I needed to turn right, and this rude driver has now cut me off from my turn by pulling in front of me, sitting at the red light to go straight, and taking up enough of the lane that I can’t get by. This is a true story and a great example of perspective. Perspective is shaped by our past experiences, our emotions, and our thoughts; and it’s changeable. We need healthy perspective to not overreact to unimportant things or under-react to important things.
Look at my emotional reactions and thoughts along the way in my story. I first used the phrase “the car behind me,” which is a generic and without emotion. Then I went to “that driver” which is a bit more personal and showed my growing aggravation. By the end of my story, I’m saying “this rude driver.” That’s far more personal and emotional. My perspective at that time was: this person was purposefully speeding around me and knew he or she was cutting me off from my right turn; they did it To Me, and they did it On Purpose. That’s a perspective loosely based on facts and highly based on the emotions and thoughts of the moment.
Since perspective is shaped and changeable, we have choices. We can simply go with whatever pops into our heads, or we can look more closely. Maybe there are aspects of the situation that are being ignored or overlooked. Perhaps there are assumptions being made that aren’t based on facts or truth. In my story, the facts are this person does not know me nor me him/her. Since they don’t know me, they can’t purposefully do anything to me. What they did was done to some driver in some car who just happened to be me. They’ve probably done it before to others and will probably do it again to others. It’s not about me. It’s not personal. This person had no way of knowing I wanted to turn right, so they couldn’t purposefully cut me off and prevent me from making my turn. By re-looking at the situation and by using facts and truth, I changed my perspective. I could have stayed with my initial, emotion-heavy and personalized perspective, which would have irritated me all day. Instead, I took the time to look more closely. My new perspective is I just happened to be involved with someone who was driving in a somewhat rude way those particular moments; and I probably have done the same to others without realizing it. My new perspective is based more on facts and truth and is not personalized. My new perspective lets me relax with no anxiety, no anger, no annoyance, no feeling victimized. That’s healthy.
Healthy perspective of what is going on in our lives and around us lowers anxiety, helps alleviate depression, strengthens relationships, and has many other benefits. Take the time to evaluate, look at, and reshape as needed any emotion-heavy or highly personalized perspective. Healthy perspective results when we’re willing to challenge our assumptions, challenge making it personal, and pull in facts and truths we’ve overlooked. Treat yourself to a healthy perspective. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.