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Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

"Helping You, Help Yourself"

Sometimes All You Need is a Little Perspective

Sometimes All You Need is a Little Perspective by Shea Alvarez-Cussen“We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.”

-Anais Nin

{4:24 minutes to read} This memorable quote by Cuban-French author Anais Nin emphasizes the concept that things are not always as they seem and that there are usually multiple perspectives to be taken. Look at the image:

Do you see two people looking at one another? Or do you see a candlestick?

Like the image, every situation, event, or conversation has the potential to be interpreted differently by the individuals involved, and those interpretations don’t always fit neatly into a “right” or “wrong” category. Our interpretations of the world around us are based on judgments and opinions stemming from our core belief system, which stems largely from our past experiences, the influences of those closest to us, and culture.

While the image above is an overly simplistic example of how one thing can be interpreted from multiple points of view, perspective taking in life can often be difficult and complex, especially when emotions are involved. Many of the problems that develop in relationships and interactions with others originate in the inability or unwillingness to see things from their perspectives. On the other hand, we may experience depression or anxiety stemming from our own negative thinking patterns that prevents us from considering alternative explanations.

To add more complexity to the issue, when past experiences are painful, we may develop a distorted lens through which we see the world. Take Patrick for example:

Patrick grew up in a dysfunctional household with a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. Patrick’s mother was rarely home to help him with schoolwork. She was overwhelmed and impatient, often yelling at him and calling him “stupid.” Patrick was forced to wear poor-fitting clothes because his mother could not afford to buy new ones. They often didn’t have enough money for food.

As a result of his home life, Patrick was bullied and his grades were poor. He developed distorted core beliefs like “The world is dangerous and unpredictable” and “I am unlovable and unlikable.” He often interpreted situations and events as threatening and interpreted people’s responses to him as critical. His behavioral style is passive and avoidant. He often feels anxious and has low self-esteem.

The lens through which Patrick sees the world makes him judge situations and people quite differently. Where you may find a situation enjoyable and fun, Patrick may find it anxiety provoking. You may appreciate a kindness by another person; Patrick interprets it as pity.

When something is particularly distressing, it can be difficult to stand back from what is happening and see the bigger picture; to see beyond the close-up view. It is important to be self-reflective and understanding of both where our own perspective comes from, as well as where others’ may be coming from.

We are often unaware of the factors impacting other people’s perspectives. The next time you are in conflict with yourself or another person, stop and consider the factors that may be influencing the situation. Ask yourself, “Would others view this the same way?” or “Might there be other ways to view this situation?” You may even consider whether you will feel the same way in an hour, a day, or a week from now. In other words, be mindful of how your experiences and emotions are impacting your reactions, and consider multiple perspectives. As a result, you may find you are better able to regulate your emotional reactions, communicate more effectively, and experience fewer negative consequences.

Shea Alvarez-Cussen, PhD
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

2017-11-01T14:47:15+00:00 By |0 Comments

About the Author:

Shea Alvarez-Cussen, PhD
CBT Psychological Associates
2171 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 345
Commack, NY. 11725
(631) 486-5140
Office@cbta-ny.com

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