How I Learned to Get Perspective in an Instant
When you’re in the midst of anxiety, stress, or suffering, the fear is that it won’t end. It feels as if life is breaking and healing will never come.
If you talk about this pain, perhaps you’ll justify it with “I know it could be much worse, but…” You want to get perspective, but you can’t seem to empathize with a pain worse than the one in this moment.
This takes me back to a particularly difficult breakup. I understood that things could be much worse, but that didn’t help with the pain. I was so eager to ease the breaking that I’d soak up every word, quote, and song lyric like a sponge.
Adele’s lyrics “Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead” were my moment-to-moment mantra. These sad words were creating a dark reality.
Then I’d hear something enlightening and think, “I can see that my breakup is not so important in the scheme of things. I have a new perspective! I’m ready to recreate my life.”
Sometimes that illuminating idea would be the cure, but more often I’d need ten more AHA moments before a shift in perspective sunk in. I had no idea how to repeat that shift, however, so I felt at the mercy of the suffering. Consequently, I lost a lot of my life pining over the past.
After that breakup storm cleared, I became intent on figuring out how to shift my perspective in an instant, sans traveling to a distant land or melting into another person. Here are the three steps I now use when I catch myself stuck and suffering:
1. Breakdown what’s real and what’s a mental creation.
Distinguish what happened, meaning the real, cold hard facts of the situation and the meaning you’ve added to the event.
In my situation, my ex told me, “I no longer wanted to date you.” Period. That’s what happened. How I interpret that situation isn’t real. It’s simply one perspective of the event. In other words, what did I take those words to mean? I heard that I’m not enough – pretty, smart, confident, generous, and every other enough.
This is the separation between pain and suffering: my ego obviously stung when I heard that someone no longer wants to date me. Emotions came in that moment. This occurred as pain. After that moment, however, it was the past. When I thought about the past, I recreated only one perspective of the event. The problem was that I forgot that this was only an interpretation and I took it as truth. This occurred as suffering.
(And clearly, attaching a dramatic Adele song to the event only prolonged my suffering!)
When we can separate the facts from the story, we’re able to see the infinite other ways of interpreting the event and new perspectives begins to emerge.
2. Invent a new possibility.
Since possibilities are endless, it’s up to you to consciously choose an empowering interpretation. There is no way you should act, be, or feel. All of these will come out of the story that you choose.
I decided that I would change my disempowering ‘enough’ story. All I needed was another possible perspective: It was possible that this breakup had absolutely nothing to do with me being enough and had everything to do with us not being right for one another. Therefore, it was possible that this event was an awesome blessing, strengthening and preparing me for a better partner.
Is that blessing possibility truer than my enough interpretation? Perhaps, but that’s irrelevant. I invented the possibility and I decide in every moment what reality I want to experience.
3. Take action and breakthrough.
So far, all this story-morphing, pain, and suffering was happening in my head. In order to make my new possibility real, to go from the breakdown to the breakthrough, I had to share it.
I proceeded to share with friends and family that I was thinking in a disempowering way and that I’d make this event as empowering as possible. Each person was moved and inspired by my show of vulnerability and my effort to see this as an opportunity for growth.
As a result, not only did I shift my perspective and broke through past ways of thinking, I transformed how similar situations occurred for others.
Not to mention, I traded in the previous suffering Adele lyrics for “There’s a fire starting in my heart – Reaching a fever pitch – And it’s bringing me out the dark.” Things got brighter from thereon out!
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