Perspective is powerful.
Our way of seeing becomes our way of being. Our perspective shapes how we act and speak, the responses we make to one another and to the situations we encounter. The capacity to see a range of perspectives, to recognise that our perspective may only be one of many and that other perspectives may have something to offer, is critical for our growth and for an expanding sense of ourselves and our place in the world.
We reflected on a variety of quotes about perspective… both serious and humorous.
“What feels like the end is often the beginning…”
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective , not the truth.”
“One of the best gifts you can give someone is a wider perspective.
It’s also one of the best gifts you can receive.”
We discussed what such thoughts said to us about the importance of perspective and ways we can gain new perspectives. People shared some of their strategies for shifting perspective when things were difficult. Strategies like slowing down and taking some time to be reflective, asking oneself thoughtful questions like “Will this matter in a year?” or “What about this will matter in a year?” Some people have someone they talk to when they need help seeing in a new way. This is a really important strategy that helps us stay connected and feel supported.
The Lens Through Which We Look
The profound children’s picture book, Mr Huff (by Anna Walker), tells the story of a small boy’s experience of a bad day, in which the character Mr Huff symbolises the boy’s moods – anxiety, gloominess, anger, frustration. Mr Huff feels like a tangible presence that the boy just can’t shake off. then suddenly the boy sees Mr Huff differently and befriends him. This changes everything – how Mr Huff is felt and seen and how the day looks.
We made our own Mr Huffs…
We considered our experience of Mr (or Ms) Huff in our daily worlds and asked questions like:
Who is Mr Huff for us? What emotions does he/she represent?
What kind of power does Mr Huff have?
What are the usual ways we react to Mr Huff?
We then reflected on some different questions around perspective:
What might befriending Mr Huff look like and feel like?
What gesture or dialogue could we have with Mr Huff?
What is our experience of an inner shift changing an outer experience?
This story enabled us to consider how the lens through which we look influences how we see things. The mood we are in, the emotions we are feeling, change our perspective. We can see the same things in completely different ways when we look differently, change our filters, take a different angle, broaden our point of view.
The Place From Which We Look
Landscape imagery features in our way of talking about how we see things – mountains into molehills, feeling bogged or swamped, going with the flow… We shared some of the ways our perspectives had changed when we were in different natural environments; next to mountains, swimming in a river, in wide open landscapes, under the night sky. These can be helpful ways of stepping back from the intensity of something, taking some deep breaths and opening ourselves up to new possibilities.
A clever book ‘The Atlas of Experience’ (by Louise van Swaaji & Jean Klare) offers a range of maps that depict landscapes labelled according to experiences and perspectives. We studied the map “World of Experience” noting places such as the Mountain of Work, the Swamp of Boredom, The Forests of Changing Colours, the Green Grass, and the many peaks and rivers of various emotions. Inspired by this map we created our own lands, labelled according to our experience of the past year (or two or three). A rich discussion followed in which we shared the places we had ‘been’ and the meaning we attributed to our experiences. We considered how some of these experiences looked from different angles – such as later in time or in the light of what came next – compared to how they felt for us when we were in the midst of them.
Mapping our experiences enabled us to consider how the place from which we look also alters our perspective. When we look from different places, things seem different to us. We can gain new insights by looking from different vantage points.
The Meaning We Give
The parable called ‘The Three Stonecutters’ illustrates how the same experience can be given different meanings, depending on how we look at it, depending on the meaning we attribute to the experience. So also the meaning we give to our daily experiences and life journeys can have a profound influence on us. Lenses and viewpoints enable different perspectives and so too does meaning. How we interpret our experiences, how we tell about them, how we create our story about our life is very much about our perspective. As we shape this, so it shapes us. The invitation always is to keep reviewing and expanding our perspective. When we are open to discovering new meanings, new perspectives, we are able to tell a richer, truer story about our unfolding lives.