The above allegory beautifully summarizes the importance of perspective. For some time, I have wanted to write about “perspective” but have found the task rather daunting. Now I realize the overwhelming feeling resulted from the fact that psychological interventions mostly target maladaptive perspectives. Consequently, many previous blog entries pertain to challenging or accepting harmful perspectives.
Now consider mental health. Some people may accuse me of oversimpliflying problems by suggesting that a mere shift in perspective can dramatically alter your emotional wellbeing, but those people would also be mistaken to assume perspective-changing comes easy. I had to create an entirely new human being to gain my new perspective! Many people do in fact heal psychological pain with a shift in perspective.
In each of the following scenarios, note possible shifts in perspective that could help the person heal. Furthermore, also identify at least one element to which the person may be blind, which in turn limits his/her perspective. Bear in mind that the person would have to actually believe (at least in part) the new perspective in order to experience a shift in psychological functioning.
judgment and suffer from low self-esteem.
Ben gets laid-off and concludes he is a failure. As usual, the thought
leads him to another depressive episode.
Christine’s mother dies and she is stricken with grief. People tell her
“time heals all wounds” and she hates them for their clichéd words
Debra insists the only way she will be able to feel psychologically
better is if her husband goes to therapy and learns how to treat her
better. She resents him for showing no interest in therapy.
Each person could represent one of the aforementioned blind men. Armed only with one limited perspective they continue to suffer. To help you offer these individuals new perspectives and determine what they are blind to, I will offer one of many possible suggestions for each person.
New perspective: “The trauma I experienced as a child had nothing
to do with my judgment. Even if it did, one instance of poor
judgment does not define who I am as a person and it wasn’t on my
radar to mistrust the judgment of an adult.”
Blind to: She was a child when the trauma occurred and no child is
expected to have “good judgment.”The person who should have
had “good judgment” was the abuser. Like the blind man feeling
the elephant’s tusk, she only sees that she was present for the
abuse and likely overestimates her power to have prevented it.
New perspective: “It sucks that I lost my job. This economy is
horrible, so I can’t take it too personally!”
Blind to: The economy is horrible right now and people get laid-off
every day. It likely has less to do with his abilities and more to do
with the company cutting costs. Like the blind man feeling the
elephant’s leg, he only sees that someone terminated his
New perspective: “My mother died and there’s nothing I or anyone
else can do about it. It’s a helpless feeling and people say what they
do in hope that it will help."
Blind to: Most people don’t know what to say when someone dies.
Like the blind man feeling the elephant’s ear, she can only
interpret the world through her grief and is blind to the fact the
people want to help, but death makes everyone feel a bit helpless.
New perspective: “I can’t make my husband go to therapy, but I can
change how I deal with him.”
Blind to: She can change the way she approaches her marriage
without her husband changing what he does. Like the blind man
feeling the elephant’s trunk, she cannot see solutions outside of
her husband changing.
Now consider your own life. What gets in the way of you living the life you want? To what might you be blind? What is limiting your perspective?
* The Elephant story was borrowed from The Happiest Baby on the Block.