Broken Perceptions: A picture is worth a thousand words

Recently I was very excited to find a Christmas picture from my childhood. I was so excited about this picture that I shared it with my father. He was, however, less pleased with the photo. While for me, this picture brought back fabulous memories of a happy childhood and celebrating my favorite holiday, for my father, the picture represented a less pleasant time in his life. It is interesting to find out how different our perspectives are on this shared memory. This same phenomenon occurs every day as we interact with each other. As we build relationships, we all build different narratives around our shared experiences. And from those different narratives, spawn our thoughts and feelings about the situation, which in turn influence our actions.

Unexpected events can unsettle these narratives by bringing different realities into our consciousness. These events are often interpersonal such as an infidelity by our partner, a death of a loved one, or even a significant career change. If such an event interrupts the pattern of conscious narrative that we have created, we sometimes begin to ruminate over that event. We think about the event again and again, often not understanding the situation or what “went wrong.” In reality, what “went wrong” is that someone else’s narrative has disrupted our own. Just as I have described above with the picture, I perceived it in one way and my father in a different way. It can be difficult to overcome these broken perceptions when they occur. Below are some coping skills to begin reconstructing our narratives and help quiet the persistent rethinking that can accompany such an event:

  1. Meditate for a short amount of time each day or when the thoughts begin to be overwhelming. Meditation can help you gain control over your thoughts. See my post on mindfulness for some tips on how to get started meditating.
  2. Speak to a close friend or confidant. It is ideal to have at least one close friend or family member that you can speak to without judgement.
  3. Engage in self-care. Take time for yourself. Know that everything doesn’t have to get done right away. You are okay where you are at.
  4. Engage your problem solving skills. Using your resources and problem solving skills will help you to overcome the situation at hand.
  5. Seek professional help. Seeing a therapist to help reconstruct your own narrative can be helpful in most situations. It is good to have an unbiased third party to hash things out with.

How have you overcome the misconceptions in your life? Let me know in the comments below.

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