The two things that are most likely to cause trouble between family members, partners, close friends, colleagues, strangers, and pretty much anyone who interacts with anyone else, are assumptions and projections. We all have our experiences, and they shape the way we think about things, people, and the world at large. They also inform the way we respond to the data coming at us; we can only know what we know, we can only have the frame of reference we have. A big part of maturing has to do with the awareness that your way of seeing things is only that — your way — and with the understanding that your frame of reference may be severely bent, the glass may be distorted or warped, and you might need an entirely new prescription.
If, for example, all you’ve known is abuse, fear, loss and grief, then your experience has taught you that the world is an unsafe place, and no one can be trusted. You’ve also learned that your feelings don’t have an impact on the world around you, and that they aren’t important. What’s important, according to what you’ve known, is that you don’t upset the apple cart, that you learn how to maneuver, or how to be invisible, or how to be invaluable, so that you can survive. This is an extreme example of a warped frame of reference, but hopefully it illustrates my point. If that’s the kind of life experience you’ve had so far, you can bet it’s going to affect the way you respond to people, the way you move through the world, and how much value you place on your own feelings, needs, wants and dreams.
If your experience has been that love is conditional, something you have to earn, and something that can and will be withdrawn if you don’t measure up, that’s also going to bend your frame and affect the way you operate; the way you are in relationships, at your job, with your friends.
If your experience has been that people are loving and kind and interested in how you feel and what is exciting or inspiring to you, that will certainly affect the way you think about people, and the way you lead your life, so your perspective is hugely important, and so is knowing that you have one. A lot of people assume how they feel is how everyone feels, especially if they’re young. Usually, enough time teaches us that people have wildly different ideas about everything, but for many people, this feels like a judgment against them. If someone is making different choices or has different opinions, they’re rejecting me and my way of thinking about things. All it really is, though, is a different framework.
We can be so quick to judge and assume, and put people into the “us” camp, or the “them” camp, and it’s so sad, because fear drives a wedge between people. It’s hard to drop our stance and just listen, just explore how someone else looks at the world. We can cling to our ideas and beliefs like our lives depended on it, we can insist we know what someone else is thinking, so there’s no point trying to talk. We can make all kinds of assumptions about what someone is feeling based on nothing — a face they’re making, the fact that they didn’t say hello when they walked by.
We tend to move through the world and respond to it as if it is all being directed toward us, individually. This makes sense when we’re young. As babies, we don’t differentiate between ourselves and our mothers; it takes us awhile to understand we’re separate, which is kind of cool–we come in knowing we’re connected, we’re not “just us”, but as we grow, we discover autonomy, which is also good. We think about what we want, or where we’re headed, or what we’re contributing, or not; about our relationships, and our jobs, and keeping a roof over our heads. We think about dinner, and a conversation we had with someone we’d like to do over again, but sometimes we forget we’re connected to everyone and everything around us. We forget that “our story” is overlapping with everyone else’s; the threads are intertwined. We are not at the center, with everything else in orbit around us. We spend so much time on the inside, looking out; we’re in there with our internal dialogue, our expert on everyone and everything we encounter, and we process things through our own filtering system. Sometimes we need to flush the system with new information.
I think a big part of healing has to do with wiping our lenses clean, especially if they’re blocking us from living life in a way that feels good, full of meaning, joy and inspiration. Recognizing that everyone has something unique to offer, everyone has a story, and that maybe, the way we’re thinking about things or other people, is not the way they actually are; to understand that what we think and feel may be greatly impacted by what we’ve known. That’s part of being accountable, and of knowing yourself; it can be the key to liberation if you’re suffering, too. Sometimes we’re just stuck. There are many ways to clean, repair, or release your frame of reference if you need to; seated meditation, yoga, therapy…you have to figure out what works for you. (I’m a big fan of a combination of all three).
We can never know the interior world of another person, unless they’re willing to show us. We can make all kinds of assumptions and projections based on what we would do or say in similar circumstances, but that’s like expecting someone from another planet to believe and accept what we do, it’s not any different. If you want to know what’s happening with someone else, ask, care, listen.
Sending you love, and a big hug,
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