Recently I have been exposed to a few individuals who are all experiencing pain due to the same basic issue: reality vs. interpretation. The issue appears in different ways but the core problem is similar. It appears as trying to force reality to fit their perceptions and expectations. Or it appears as layering so much of their own judgment on situations that the reality of the situation is completely hidden.
This issue can appear and hurt others by placing one’s own expectations on others. Expectations the other can not only not live up to, but that the other person does not agree with or even recognize. This appears when we see the world and others through the lens of our own life and goals. We expect others to have the same goals, values, beliefs, and actions as ourselves. Every snowflake is different, and so is every person. Trying to force our own choices on others or worse yet, assuming that everyone should believe what we do, only creates conflict.
The issue can also hurt our self directly. This occurs when we add the thoughts, fears, and attacks of our “inner critique” onto a situation. Here we add the baggage of our own negativity making the situation and the pain even worse. So much of life can be challenging but adding personal attacks or allowing our inner critique to attack and stifle us is worse.
The way to catch interpretation creeping into reality is by being aware of your choice of words.
Here are some hypothetical examples of how this issue can materialize:
Bob is livid with his co-worker Gary. “Everyone knows that it is important to complete the TPS Reports with a blue pen not a black pen. Using a blue pen is the proper way to fill out the report. I can’t believe how stupid and inconsiderate Gary is. And it is so unfair that he gets away with it.”
Susie has a tendency to focus on the negative. “You won’t believe what happened yesterday. Some jerk pulled out in front of me and almost hit me! I could have been killed!” But Susie, you weren’t hit, right? “Yes, but I could have! I can’t believe what a bad driver he was. They shouldn’t let idiots like that get a license.”
Matt is trying to buy a new car. “I don’t know where to start. I’m just not smart about these things. I will probably be taken advantage of because I am so dumb.”
Are you guilty of letting your interpretation bring pain to your life? Your language holds the key to making it better.
Watch for words like “everyone”, “should”, and “have to.” These words point out the expectations we have for others and for our self. Most times these expectations are our creation but we take them as law. When these words pop up, investigate what is reality and what is your preference and belief.
Watch the adjectives you use. Are you adding derogatory, attacking, or minimizing adjectives to others or yourself? Take these words out and begin to see the reality of the situation and the person.
Watch for the way you tell the story. Are you telling a nightmare? Are you exaggerating or focusing solely on the negativity of the situation? Try telling the story again with a different focus. How does your pain decrease when you tell the story factually without adding your perspective on what happened?
Our words are powerful. Which ones are you choosing?