I like things done my way and somehow I seem to believe I have the best ideas. Oftentimes I do. But I have (at times painfully) learned that my way is not always the right way. I was raised the way I was raised, and somehow what is familiar to any of us makes us think that’s just how it happens for everyone, and that’s how things should be. Until you learn differently.
I once had a client tell me that they grew up in an aggressive and conflictual household and then met a partner whose home climate was quite the opposite. They were stunned to know that’s not how everyone acts toward one another.
I live with a man who eats with his elbow on the table. It irritates the heck out of me because I was raised to keep my hands off the table, and elbows to your side. I am ridiculously pedantic and correct his grammatical errors. It irritates the heck out of him. I grew up with a crossword and a dictionary in hand doing the daily Advertiser (I’m a South Aussie) crossword, and valued correctness.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Neither of us!
We live in a world of difference, a global community trying its best to get along. We see divisiveness between nations, within countries, in communities and families. There is no better example than the recent U.S. election that trumped even the experts in their predictions.
So how do we accept and tolerate such differences? We all have different perspectives based on the environment we were raised in and our accumulated life experiences, the belief and value system we’re exposed to, religious beliefs, our cultural background, social mores, level of education, intelligence in its many forms, and how we express that according to our individual temperament.
In my clinical practice, the biggest struggle I come across for the people I see, is that the vast majority only see one perspective, their own. They are so invested in their own viewpoint that they have blinkers on to the fact there just may be another way to look at things. My best tool that I direct them toward is a good old STOP sign.
I like to give my clients a brilliant STOPP card (see www.getselfhelp.com), which as an acronym effectively guides you through the process of literal thought stopping, observing and then looking for another perspective. Unless we do this we are at the mercy of our own perspective, and likely to keep perpetuating those patterns that may not be serving us well.
It’s not easy. Each time I feel that niggling irritation around arms on the table, I too need to STOP, and recognise that it’s no big deal. After all when we were in India we reluctantly ate with our hands. When we were in China, we drank from a bowl as large as a salad bowl, and discarded our food scraps onto the floor of the restaurant! My father would not be happy if I did that when I visited!
It’s all about perspective.