Good evening/morning/midday/midnight my dears! I have once again managed to be absent for an indecent period of time, and have come back with some new perspectives.
Exactly. Perspective. That’s what my brain has been mulling over in the very slow and painful process of thinking these past few days. So allow me to just as slowly and painfully take you through the reasons why, and what is has finally come up with. Oh, and don’t expect anything grand.
A few days ago my lovely boyfriend came for a very enjoyable visit; we went out to a great restaurant, set out on a midnight hunt for chocolate in dangerous territory, went dress-hunting but found only pizza and Zippo lighters and most glorious of all, talked. We discussed little things and big big things, and somewhere in there, I gained new perspective. The realisation that some things you just cannot understand until you have actually experienced them yourself! “Huh. Well that’s fairly obvious” you might say. But just stop to think for a second.
We are the centre of our universe. From within our heads, we observe, think, smell, sense, calculate, remember and react to everything that happens around us. From within our heads, we imagine what it feels like to be someone else, or to be in a different situation, one so very foreign to you that your brain has to conjure images from movies long ago seen, stories long ago read and cat pee long ago smelled. Yet there’s a funny part of our brain that tells us that we understand exactly what the other person is talking about. A part we’d like to think of as not only imaginative and creative but also very empathic.
Dead wrong. Assuming that you understand someone else perfectly is the exact opposite of empathy. Empathy is to attempt to relate to what someone else is feeling, knowing that their situation is unique and you can only try to imagine what it feels like. But for some curious reason, this part of our brain – let’s call it the “I’m awesome because I can relate perfectly to everyone” part. Or maybe imo for short. – tells us that we in fact know what they feel, know what they think and so in some strange sense are connected to them and can not only offer kind advice and solace, but give instructions, and tell them that they are wrong.
Well, let’s just for a second try to tell that part of our brains to go screw themselves. I know that right now you’ll have to stop yourself from thinking either “I know exactly what she’s talking about, I feel like this all the time!” or “Whoa, she’s gone batty, she must be this and this kind of a person to talk like this, I have her pegged” but whichever one it is, that’s the part of our brains that we somehow can’t seem to switch off in the interactions we have with other human beings. Just try though.
From this place where we are standing now, isn’t it somehow easier to understand others? Because when someone says something, instead of our brain instantly jumping to five thousand conclusions about how they feel, what they must be thinking and what would make them feel better/what they ought to do about it, we can just sit back, watch, listen and actually hear what they are saying, and not what we think about what they are saying. I know it gets eerily quiet in there when you do this, but it’s also kind of fun, and a relief.
Maybe people would sometimes just like to be heard, to be listened to, and not to always get a pat on the back or a “The sun will come up tomorrow!”/”There are other fish in the sea!”/”Get off your high horses!”/”You’re doing it wrong!” etc. Maybe if we take the little imo in our heads and bundle it up in a roll of duct-tape and tuck it away in a dark corner for a few hours each day, we could honestly see what is going on around us, and not just what we think and feel about it all the time.
Studies (can’t remember where I read this now, was some kind of medical or psychological journal) made with 3 and 4-year-olds has shown that it’s around that age when, if put in front of a model of say, a small mountain, it’s around that age that children develop their ability to see the mountain from someone else’s perspective, and not just the side that they see. So we obviously have that ability somewhere. Unless we grew up and lost it. But are we really the people with “different-coloured lenses on our glasses” (thank you Fynn and Mr. God, This Is Anna. Still one of the best books ever) or do we have it in us to take those lenses off from time to time, open our eyes and see things as they truly are?