I was wide-eyed awake at 1:30 am this morning. I had a dream that our girls were trying to 'skydive' from the balcony of our house and I was trying to run, in the middle of the night, to catch them. Naturally, after waking up to this odd dream (100% random) I couldn't go back to sleep. My dream felt so real, even though I knew both of my girls were sleeping upstairs (and yes, I checked their monitors to be certain).
Perception and Reality-- it's interesting how the first impacts the latter so often. Take this dream for instance-- not real, not remotely real, yet it felt that way for a few hours. This got me thinking-- what if I started acting on those feelings from that dream? What if I started viewing the girls in light of that dream, wrapping them up in bubble wrap because they can't be trusted in the middle of the night from shenanigans? Forcing them to sleep within eyeshot just in case? And then take it a step farther- what if I viewed them and treated them accordingly for the rest of their lives, all because of one perception of their judgement?
How often do we let our feelings and ideas and mischaracterizations guide us in operating as if it is the truth, most especially about people? I know I'm guilty.
Perceiving someone as rude and therefore he/she is rude. Perceiving someone as cold or harsh therefore he/she is cold and harsh. We stamp people with labels and then hold fast to that label for a lifetime, sometimes.
Some people would argue-- 'But this is intuition, I'm a great judge of people'. Or-- 'I had a gut feeling so I acted on it.' I think there are times when intuition is in play-- especially as a parent, I see this. Often, when we advocate for others and their needs, we do have an intuitive ability to read the situation especially for someone in the midst of struggle.
But oh-so-often, this becomes a statement to justify our feelings that are dwelled on or acted upon, turning perception, warped or maybe justifiably, into an operating truth.
While we shouldn't operate as nieve, foolish individuals who can't see a pattern that negatively impacts people, we should filter thoughts, ideas, and feelings through lenses of empathy, asking ourselves 1) where our perceptions might be incorrect or not real 2) what world is this person coming from. Not a literal part of the world, although this might be true, what is this person's framework for life? For today?
"That is, when we judge the actions of others, we should put ourselves in their place, trying to understand how they see themselves and their world. And when we judge ourselves, we should see ourselves as others see us, overcoming the ease with which we find extenuating circumstances for ourselves." -Riso/Hudson (Personality Types)
What I appreciate about this statement is that it brings into reality that we are constantly judging or determining more about those around us. (Don't view "judging" in the same way we use this word in society.) When we start to operate in this manner-- a manner of grace and a filter for feelings-- I have found, that relationships flourish tenfold, that we let people off the hook, our own hooks of perception. (Also the direction of this post was less self-reflective but that last line-- 'overcoming the ease with which we find extenuating circumstances for ourselves. Put a pin in that.)
For young professionals, this could be a game changer in the workplace, allowing for both empathy and accountability. A balancing act, not something that naturally happens, but with intentionality, we can choose to filter our perceptions.
Also, side note: We will continue to study this idea-- the Enneagram-- on the Sharpen podcast in the coming months. Stay tuned!