Journey Monologues: Do you see what I see? #compassion

The nature of individual thought systems makes it impossible for us to see anything the way someone else does – or for others to see things precisely the way we do.
— You Can be Happy No Matter What, Richard Carlson, PhD

Your experiences are unique to you. It follows that you have not had the same experiences as anyone else. Nor have they. It is impossible. Yet, we see life through the lens of our experiences. Therefore, you do not see what I see. You can’t, as I cannot see what you see. In fact, two people can view the same event and experience what is happening in a completely different manner, dependent on their personal experiences, make up and memories.

This is a critical concept to understand. If we believe everyone must see things as we do and that things are exactly the way we see them, it cripples our thinking. The way in which we perceive something, though it is true for us in the moment, may actually be clouded by our experiences. We may have a lack of trust, insecurities or anger towards a certain person, place or situation. These conditions can warp our reality of the situation. We may act or make decisions, based on this reality, that are not healthy for us or in our best interest.

Furthermore, we can actually start to project our beliefs in our mannerisms and the way we conduct our lives. If these beliefs have somehow been clouded, those negative concepts can show up in our actions or how we treat people.

Take, for example, a person who was deeply hurt by someone they trusted and loved, like a family member or close friend; perhaps more than once. This person may see the world as unkind. They may shut other people out as a way to keep themselves from getting hurt – ultimately causing their own isolation.

What is important here is to recognize this Principle of Separate Realities that Richard Carlson writes about in his book. The mere understanding that the way we see things isn’t the way anyone else see things can start to open our hearts. We can begin of contemplate that perhaps there is a different way to view a particular event, person or situation.

Moreover, we can start to better understand why people act the way they do. They are simply acting from their own version of reality. They may be completely asleep to the fact that their version of reality isn’t held by anyone else or the lenses they see through.

Here is the beautiful part. We can start to find compassion for others and ourselves in recognizing the clouds we may all be living under. This compassion can serve to dissipate our fears, anxiety or anger towards others and therefore change our own lenses. Compassion is contagious as through our new lens we may act differently towards others causing them to potentially soften.

So the next time you see someone acting strange or doing something that may anger you, take a look at your lens. Can you change it? Can you understand what the other person is feeling and why they are acting that way? Can you image what the world looks like through their lens?