The keepers of our own reality
Have you ever had the experience of being in a conversation with someone about something you went through together and as you talk it feels like the two of you didn’t actually go through the same thing at all? This person says it seems like you were experiencing/thinking/feeling x and you’re like, are you kidding me? That’s what you think?
What happens for you in that moment?
Are you defensive? How in the world could you think that? Are you dismissive? You obviously don’t know me at all. Do you try to explain yourself? Wait, wait, it wasn’t like that. Do you question your sanity? Oh my goodness, is that what was happening for me?
Or do you get curious?
Do you get curious and ask yourself what might have been happening/is happening for that person that might cause them to see things so differently than you - even when these things are your own actions/intentions/emotions?
Do you even realize that’s a thing?
I didn’t. Not for a long, long time. I thought that someone else’s interpretation of my reality was my reality.
If someone told me I seemed stressed, oh crap, I must be stressed. If someone told me I sounded snotty, oh man, I must have sounded snotty. If someone told me I felt a certain way, then inevitably I began to believe that’s the way I felt.
I internalized their interpretation and wondered how I could misconstrue things so badly. How could I not have known? I mean, I know what it’s like to be stressed and I didn’t know I was stressed; I know how I sound when I intend to sound snotty and I didn’t intend to sound snotty.
Or did I? In the face of someone else’s disagreement about my internal environment, I often trusted them over me, which is a very, very confusing place to be.
It’s also not an easy mindset to undo. But just realizing that it can happen, and getting curious instead of defensive, or dismissive, or whatever makes a big, big difference.
For one thing, it can just be a big deal to accept your own, internal interpretation of something. It says you are you and you have the right to experience something your own way; to think how you think; to feel how you feel.
But it might have another cool benefit too. If you can accept your own reality and at the same time see that someone else has a different reality colored by their own personal experience, you might start to realize that you can both be right at the same time…
I know right?!? Mind. Blown.
Because get this: if you’re both right at the same time, then neither of you is wrong.
Doesn’t this perspective seem like it would be hugely beneficial to our relationships? At the very least, it helps to reinforce a concept that I am forever trying to pound into my brain: we cannot know another’s experience.
But also, when I can realize that someone else can see something that happened to me not at all as I do, it makes me realize that I can do the same thing to them too. It makes me more compassionate to myself - of course, your reality is valid in the face of theirs - but also more compassionate toward them - of course, their reality is valid in the face of yours.
We all underneath I think, just want this very thing - to be seen, to be validated, to be understood - and it’s amazing what can be diffused when this is possible. When we can start with clarity that allows curiosity which then leads to compassion, we can all make so much more sense to each other.