What is perception? Lately, I’ve been faced a lot with situations where the simple fact that perception is subjective, winds up being the biggest catalyst in finding closure.
Have you ever faced an issue where you felt like you couldn’t resolve it, but there was a purpose for you in trying to, anyway? When you still can’t resolve it after trying — Do you feel as if you have failed in your purpose?
I had a profound experience this weekend that alerted me to the fact that sometimes our purpose within a situation is so small – almost insignificant in its size and yet it is still necessary to the situation as a whole. I’ve had this issue that I have been trying to find an end to for almost two years now, to no avail. This weekend I decided to try once more to face it head on, hoping to attain closure. I felt my gut twisting and bending every which way, urging me to make the phone call as the piercingly loud voice of fear and doubt screamed, “DON’T DO IT!!!!” I had people who care, assuring me that maybe it was time for me to try again, and I had my own internal voice that just wanted peace. I sat for an hour talking myself into hitting the call button as my heart pounded out of my chest and I grew more nauseous by the second. I pressed the button and the phone started to ring on the other end.
“Hello?” They answered.
“Hey, it’s Elizabeth.” I responded with great hesitation.
Answering with a belligerent tone, “How can I help you??”
Immediately I felt the weight of the entire conversation now on my shoulders. I could feel the energy of the person on the line as though they were a lion and I was their prey and I knew in that second, that this was going to be a fight. One that I would walk away from again, with no resolve. Within the first sixty seconds of me stating my reason for calling, they responded with argument and the rest of the conversation followed suit. I managed to get in a few truthful answers, but wound up trying to defend myself yet again, about a situation that never happened. And then, a dial tone.
After that uncomfortable encounter, the next day I came across an article regarding the four different types of color blindness, that unexpectedly opened my own eyes to a new perspective.
The four types are:
Deuteranomalia – Everything looks a little faded,
Protanopia – Everything seems a little green,
Tritanopia – Greenish-pink tones,
Monochromacy – Seeing only black and white
The article had a series of paintings, and images that showed one “normal” picture and then four examples of what a person with those four types would see. I was amazed at how one image that looked so stunningly vibrant to my eyes was glim or without as much character in the rest of the pictures. The exact same image seen through a different filter, somehow translated for me, into different emotions. In a few, I felt uninspired, as though some valuable element was missing, along with all of the tones of each shade of color removed. Some normal pictures that spurred joy in me, while seeing them through the eyes of someone with any one these types of color blindness — Sparked feelings of sadness or introspection. And then, I imagined what my world would look and feel like if I could never see the vast and multi-colored brilliance of nature. Never seeing the season of Fall come in as the leaves of a tree change from variations of greens, reds, yellows and browns.
It dawned on me that what I was seeing right then, was a physical representation of how perception works in its process of being subjective to the observer. Except that instead of having only four different types of perception, we each have our very own. Therefore no one can ever truly see the same reality in the same way that you do! Any other set of eyes, will perceive a completely different truth, and yet each truth is accurate to the particular person observing it. In that, no one is ever really wrong in what they observe — They are just seeing it through a filter different from your own.
Then I was reminded of the uncomfortable conversation I had this weekend, and how it landed like a lead balloon. I walked away from it feeling like I should have never called to confront the issue and that there was just no way this individual would ever see my side of things.
And then out of nowhere, I started to feel this unexplainable peace. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this. Just looking at the exchange, I reached zero understanding, the talk ended abruptly, I barely got a word in edgewise — For all intents and purposes I should’ve felt awful about how it went. Instead… I felt finality. It was as though I had put a period on the last sentence of the final chapter, to a story that had been gnawing at me, my every waking minute while trying to write it.
I sat wondering why I felt such peace when nothing had actually been resolved. And I realized that sometimes all that you have any power over, is the steps that YOU make towards resolution. That it isn’t always about the end result. I knew right then that my entire purpose in this situation was in reaching out with positive intentions toward closure. It didn’t matter how it was received because I have no control over that part. It only mattered that I took the step.
After coming to this realization, I saw the article about color blindness and it was another light bulb moment to add to my collection. I understood that the difference in perception is where the disconnect is between me and this person in finding common ground to resolve our issues. Because perception is really just an illusion, how do we possibly change someone else’s in order for them to see what we do? The answer is, through empathy.
Empathy is the thing inside of us that allows us to connect to each other. To step outside of our own perspective and for a moment be in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world from their own eyes. To feel what they feel. That is what changes our own perceptions and expands our minds to fully understand someone else’s point of view. If we completely did away with forming ideals based on what we perceive and switched solely to how we understand and feel through placing ourselves in someone else’s shoes — There would likely be no more conflict in understanding.
When we choose to act with empathy, we make the choice to see outside of our own reality. We choose to see the monochromatic picture that is someone else’s perspective, in order to understand their view. A lot of people shut this ability off or just overlook the fact that it’s even there. But in doing that, we then put too much distance to fill — between ourselves and everyone else. However, when we activate our ability to empathize, we engage the most powerful tool we have in the box that will bring about a deeper level of understanding.
Finally I feel free from the entire ordeal that has plagued my mind for far too long. I feel a kind of peace and joy that given how the conversation transpired, could have only come from the mere action I took toward the positive. Not in how I was received, nor perceived, but in the fact that I took the step. In just doing that, it brought me the closure that I sought.
Sometimes, the roles that we play are very small, but the purpose of those small roles are much greater beneath the surface than we realize. They serve as that defining moment of when we broke through the cobwebs of our comfort zones to both see and do things differently in our lives. Those small steps can leave the biggest impact.
For me, this has been a year of trekking through unfamiliar territory to reach the light of forgiveness. Forgiveness for myself and for others. And I’ve finally reached it. There is no more doubt of, “Did I do all that I could?” But instead, peace in knowing that I did.
I love that each day we are given endless opportunities to discover new truths in the most random of ways. That it can come from a simple article having nothing to do with where we are, but yet it teaches us anyway. I love that as my life changes, my perception of life changes with it. How amazing is it that we get to live a life that never stops teaching us, so long as we pay attention?! In that, what we see is always changing and in how we choose to see it — It can either be beautiful or it can be depressing, but the choice of that view, is ours!