Last week I was struck by a quote my friend Miyuki Miura posted on Facebook together with one of her beautiful pictures:
When we look at a person, we really do not see that person, we only think we do. What we’re seeing is something that we fixed in our mind. Anthony De Mello
How often have you been in a conversation with someone without really paying attention to THEM? Did you notice the particular way they smile? Did you listen to what they communicated underneath the words? Did you notice if they put attention and time into their appearance?
We get used to people and things.
When you’re in a new environment or with new people, you pay a lot of attention to details. You do this instinctively to ensure you’re safe.
Once you figured it out and it feels safe, you stop paying attention at that level of intensity. Your senses and perceptions habituate to what you now know and the information gets filed under: No threat, I can relax.
Over time, these files lose their freshness and excitement. You become somewhat oblivious to what you see, feel, hear, taste and touch. It’s like kids with new toys. Initially, they play with their new toys all the time and then they lose their attraction and sense of specialness.
If you think about your home, how often do you move your furniture, your collection of books and trinkets, and the paintings on the wall? Have they been in their places for a while? Do you pay close attention to all the items or are they now sitting quietly in the background, creating a comfortable feeling of familiarity?
You may have experienced it in relationship. When you initially meet someone you’re romantically interested in, you observe everything! Then you move out of the honeymoon into the habitual phase. You know for the most part what to expect, how the other behaves in many situations, and you begin to move towards having assumptions.
Assumptions are tricky!
The problem with making assumptions about another is that you’re basically locking that person into a fixed perspective. They are now playing a role that you have predetermined in your mind. You have set up expectations that become limiting, as you’re not being open to that person showing up in a different way. Usually it is an unconscious process propagating the status quo, which always appears easier and safer.
However, we all are evolutionary beings and cannot help shifting and changing. I still get a bit upset when someone who has not seen me for a while, tells me I haven’t changed. It is usually intended as a compliment, but it just means that for whatever reason, they don’t want to look too hard to see what my current version of myself is. How does that sit with you?
We all need wiggle room.
You can hold people back by your perception of them. Sometimes it feels safer not to see the world and people as evolving. It offers you more of a sense of control: you feel you know how they will react and can be prepared to be with them accordingly, good or bad. However, for another, it may feel that they are continually pushed back into a younger version of themselves that they are no longer in alignment with.
You may have had an experience of this when visiting your parents as an adult: within a day or two, everyone moves into their old operating system and it usually does not feel that great.
Fresh air, fresh perspective.
So, my invitation is to be open to change your point of view. Allow yourself to look at someone you know with new eyes. Perhaps remember how you saw them when you first met them. Most importantly, though, be curious about what you see now. Connect with the freshness and sparkle of new discovery.
Allow anyone to show up as they are and not as your preference. Make the box bigger. Open the windows and doors and let those beautiful spring winds blow through: out with the old, in with the new!
And then let them know what you appreciate about them…
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