Is the Problem Fancied, or Real?

Feedback to a Friend,

On Seeing Herself Clearly


Hi Marilyn,

I read your e-mail with interest this morning, and as always with thoughts stirring.

It was surprising that you interpreted my comments to be negative and directed toward you. I’m glad I realized you had misheard, and that I was just wise enough to know to call and leave a voice message to put a stop to the mischief.

Here’s the really intriguing part. You really did hear what you heard, even though it is not what I said. Curious, isn’t it? That’s a perfect example of how we make things up. Our old ideas, the lens through which we experience the world, are always filtering reality consistent with what we believe. Then, we make up an interpretation that is consistent from which we act accordingly. That's why it’s so important to determine whether or not what we perceive is imagined or real.

So let’s get back to your situation with Connie. After all those years as close friends, when you see her in public what you remember is that she just stopped talking to you. And now she won’t acknowledge you when she sees you. Your interpretation is that you need to do something to make it right, even though all the evidence is that you did nothing wrong. That’s how you see the world, Marilyn. Then because you feel obligated to do something.

That’s what we mean when we say humans are “self-centered.” We experience the world based on our perception, which we then believe to be true even though it often is not. It never enters our awareness that the "problem" may not be real, or may simply be a misinterpretation. In other words, we take it into our "self-centered" viewpoint, and are unable to see it through another lens, i.e. one that is not about me.

I remember a young man who discussed this with me a few years ago. He had a moment of clarity about some of his behavior. He realized with some chagrin that his good deeds weren’t actually for other people. He did them so he would feel good about himself. So his seemingly other-serving actions were in fact self-serving. It disturbed him to realize that he couldn’t even do nice things for others without it being for himself in reality.

He asked me whether there was anything we could do that was truly altruistic. I told him the evidence was not encouraging. For most of us most of the time, unless there is a benefit to us we do not take any action no matter how well advised it may be.

Anyway, that’s probably all a bunch of blather though I hope it makes sense. If you want, here’s another link where I blogged on this issue of story making.

I can’t express how cool it is to see the progress you’re making in your life.

Let me know when you want to talk this through further.


Seeing True

While there may be an objective reality, all we can see is our interpretation of reality. When we can remember we may be misinterpreting, the world and its people no longer present the problems we imagined.

Seeing True in Action

The first key to a challenge with another person is to verify the facts. Or at least to realize what we believe to be the facts are not very reliable.

A very useful experiment is to take a grievance you have with another person and propose alternative interpretations. For example, the disrespect you believe someone showed you might be that they were simply distracted by some difficulty with their loved ones. Or maybe the way they acted was appropriate to their culture or values, though not to yours. Or they may actually have some kind of communication problems.

As you propose alternatives, it is useful to notice how the nature of the grievance changes. In many cases, it simply vanishes.