Our perception is rarely the truth

“How we see things aren’t always the way things are” Kain Ramsay

Over the last 3 years, I have been on a crazy life journey of self-development; learning to understand myself and others, changing embedded behaviours and the art of self-control. None of these things are easy, but Id love to share some of my thoughts and findings with you over the next few blogs.

My parents split when I was teenager, like many kids from broken homes this affected some of my life choices. Whether we like to admit it or not, our past affects our present. What I was told, and what I assumed when I was a teenager were the perspective of someone who was hurt, and heart broken. The emotional pain I witnessed as a teen, has always led me to believe that someone was wrong, and someone was right. The victim and the persecutor. However, this is just assumption and perspective. As I have got older, my understanding of relationships and marriage is completely different, and I understand how emotions and thoughts can reap havoc on self-control. One parent was unfaithful, and I don’t condone this (without sounding too judgemental), but there were a long list of reasons behind that decision, and it doesn’t make them a bad person. No one is perfect.

Pre-judging is one element of self-control which is difficult, how can we not pre-judge when our past makes us see things in a certain way? The right question to ask here is why? What was happening at that time? Did they intend to cause pain and hurt? How were they feeling? What was lacking from the relationship? What were their expectations? Were the expectations being met? Were they open to honest communication? Did they both feel able to openly talk to one and other? Did they have a support network? The questions are endless. My perception as a teenager was that the parent who had ‘caused’ all of this pain, heartache and who broke down our family network was the devil, and I held on to those thoughts for a very long time. Feeling betrayed, hard done by, jealous of other ‘perfect families’ and never being able to see all perspectives, because my emotions were clouding my judgement.

Working with clients of all different ages, back grounds and beliefs has been great for me to delve into different perspectives. I’ve spoken to people who have never married, who have been married for 30+ years, people who don’t want children, people who have lots of children, those who are still with their high school sweetheart, step mums, step dads, other half who work ways 5 days a week etc and the big thing in common in all of these situations is everyone is imperfect. There is no perfect set up, no perfect family network and no perfect relationship. Perception is not reality. What is perfect anyway?

“Self-control is the only expression of maturity in life” (Kain Ramsay)

My relationships over the years were impacted by my choice to not understand other perspectives and allow emotions to get in the way. It is so much easier to leave a relationship, than to work together and learn from each other to make it work.  Recently my relationship nearly ended, I would love to say it was all his fault, because that’s the easy thing to do. Blame him and then runaway. Victim and persecutor.

My partner did some things, that I defined as betrayal. He didn’t see it that way though, because our perceptions of what the situation was were different. My emotions were all over the place, and I couldn’t see past the stomach cramping, up all night crying and the upset that ‘he’ had caused me. As difficult as it is for me to say this (as I would prefer to blame him) I chose to allow my emotions to get the better of me. When we are emotional, we can’t see the big picture, we are stuck in the small frame and it’s impossible to hear as well as listen. If you’ve read any of Brene Brown’s books, she talks about the ‘shitty first draft’, that first draft of the story that we are telling ourselves of what really happened, and then the brain gives us that lovely dose of dopamine as a reward because we’ve figured out the truth. (eye roll) The truth is though, that shitty first draft I created in my head isn’t reality. How we view a situation, or an experience is only one view of 6.7billion different views of looking at something. So, the reality of my current situation is that I have to trust my partner, control my own thoughts and my own brain from trying to create a new reality.

There are so many situations where perspective repositioning can help, how many times have you go the wrong end of the stick? Or left a conversation wondering what the hell did she mean by that? On a recent coaching course I was told this story…

It was 530pm and Peter was on his way back from a busy day in the office, his commute from York to Newcastle was just over an hour, so he got his laptop out to get some more work done. Just over from him were 2 kids, laughing and joking, throwing things at each other, making lots of noise and running up and down the train aisle. Peter was getting more and more annoyed tutting and rolling his eyes at the children’s dad sat across from him. 20 minutes in to the journey, Peter yelled across the kids father who was just sat there doing nothing, allowing his naughty children to run up and down the aisle laughing loudly, “why the hell are you letting your kids behave like that? I’ve got work to do, and I can barely hear myself think. You need to sort them out, or Ill get the train guard…” The man looked at Peter and replied, “ I am so sorry, I didn’t realise, we are just on our way back from the hospital, my wife has just died. It’s not really sunk in yet, and the kids are too young to understand. I just want them to have a little bit longer as children before I explain that they will never see their mum again…”

Reading that story, and understanding the two realities that those two people were living in, shows how each life is so unique, and so different. Have you ever been in Peter’s shoes? What would you have done?

Try to understand other perspectives, see it from the other point of view, visualise yourself in their shoes, what would you have done? We never know what’s going on in other people’s lives, we shouldn’t judge (but we all do), and we should try to control our emotions, reaction and responses to situations and experiences around us.

Our perception is rarely the truth…


Our perception is rarely the truth