We all have a story. A large repertoire of experiences that have created the definitions we give to life, people, situations and ourselves; our story board. This is our personal inner weaving of associated ideas, assumptions and attitudes serving to help us understand living. Cultivated initially by what we’ve learned from family and society and our reactions to life experiences, our storyboard is an essential tool to navigate both inner and outer realities. It is vital to our survival yet becomes a hindrance and obstacle when we live as if our storyboard is the complete truth and so are less open to other possibilities.
It’s for this reason that misunderstandings and misperceptions seem to be a more constant experience than communication, togetherness, and unity. Taking offense because of misperceived action, a word, a tone or a look occurs so quickly. I’ve heard it said that at least 90% of our interpretations of what we perceive are inaccurate, a result of a distorted lens through which we perceive. That we don’t see things as they are; we see how we are. Most of our perceptions are based on reaction not reflection, they are automatic and totally biased to fit to our story.
A sweet parable I recently read depicts this perfectly. A couple moves to a new neighborhood, the wife continually makes judgmental comments about her neighbors ‘dirty sheets’ that she sees weekly hanging on the line. Weeks later the sheets appear clean and she comments to her husband, ‘finally they have clean sheets’. ‘No my dear’, replies the husband, “I merely cleaned the windows’.
Personal perceptions are a very slippery slope. Too often conclusions are made without any real investigation. Something is triggered, we don’t like it, and it goes against a belief we hold, or appears to match a previous experience, so we make up some kind of story about the person or situation to not have to look deeper and to justify our beliefs. Yet it is simply a story in our head.
The fact is we are all human, we are all imperfect. We all live by an incomplete, and quite often entangled, storyboard that tends to give us a false sense of being better or knowing more. Were this not so, the rampant amount of gossip and judgment that prevails would not exist. Otherwise we would be o.k. with the fact that we are not all knowing, that we are just as imperfect as the person we are talking or thinking about and that no matter how much we may think we see and know, as long as we experience conflict, there are still many layers to every situation and person that we have yet to encounter and explore to see a more complete truth rather than the half truths we satisfy ourselves with. Expanding our vision and mind beyond the comfort zones of our storyboard removes all interest in pointing fingers, accusing, labeling or judging. Instead there exists a genuine willingness to explore, share and understand; qualities we all once embodied as children.
I can’t count how often I have been misperceived and misunderstood, and also vice versa, when all that stood in the way of connecting was taking the time to inquire, put conclusions aside to reflect and uncover the deeper truth. Fortunately I have had the opposite experience too, where the time was taken and then magic happens. The magic being, touching the depth of what is possible when two people explore what is true in innocence, vulnerability and a sincere desire to meet.
That is one of my most favorite experiences of all because a whole new world is opened of intimacy, freedom to be and of love. It lays down the walls of protection and defenses that otherwise stifle and restrict.
In massage school, there was a lady in my class who I could feel had something against me. I observed it and wondered. The end of the training came, all that was left were the practical exams and still we had not worked together. Surprisingly I noticed a shift in her energy towards me. I thought ‘great!’ and went up to her and asked her if she wanted to do the exam together. She said yes. I told my teacher and he said, “well you know she has issues with you, I suggest you talk to her about that first.” I went to her and told her what he said and asked her if she was willing to share before we partner up. She laughed and said’ oh ya, you really ticked me off, but then I uncovered my story and it dissolved.’ She told me how it irritated her that I always asked for what I needed. She thought to herself ‘who does she think she is?’ Then she asked herself why it bothered her so much and a light went on, she realized it was because she didn’t give herself permission to do the same. It was an amazing experience for both of us. In the end the only thing between us was warmth and gratitude. She took the time to investigate, if she hadn’t, and if I hadn’t been open for other possibilities we would have missed out on a great connection. An interesting element in this is that for me to have come to a place of feeling o.k. to ask for what I needed was a huge accomplishment. The result of previous traumas had denied me of that right for most of my life until then. We never know the experiences that make a person until we look deeper.
It does take two though to make it happen. When one is still projecting a story, the force field created is impenetrable, like the saying “the tension is so thick…’. When I witness someone seeing me with eyes tainted by a story, no matter how I try on my end to share or reveal who I am I have realized it is futile unless they step out of the story. So what’s left for me to do is disengage, let it be what it is and do my best to maintain a good space in me regardless. We can’t control what others choose to perceive, we can only let go, see the humanity in it, bless it and move on.
With an open mind and heart grievances can be resolved, wounds can heal. The basic qualities of goodness, honesty, kindness and self-reflection are the remedy.
If we are ever to create peace on earth as we claim to want, it starts here, with me, with you, being accountable for our feelings and reactions, dropping the stories that feed separation, violence and judgment. We all need to do our part to restore that which is good, clean up our stories, be accountable, make peace, and extend friendship and love, even when it’s hard, for that’s when it counts the most. As Gandhi says, ‘Be the Change you want to see in the world.’ And it will change.