If everything is a matter of perception, through what lens do I see the world? It is a question I have been asking myself lately and frequently, having read Emotional Alchemy by Tara Bennett-Goleman, a book which I very highly recommend. In it, she discusses the cognitive habits and beliefs we have that skew our perceptions of reality in all manner of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Work gave me the perfect opportunity to observe exactly the dangers such habits can wreck on an otherwise happy life. One day, I received a phone call from a woman asking to speak to our accountant. I asked her who was calling for him, as I always do in order to announce the call, as is considered standard procedure. She became very irate without ever simply answering me and hung up. Several minutes later, we received a fax that said, “Tony, I can’t seem to get passed the person who answers the phone. Here’s the information you wanted.” It made me laugh because all she had to do was tell me who she was. But, she must have had some belief in place somewhere in her subconscious that morning that made it true for her that I was giving her a hard time, singling her out, making her unimportant. None of that could be further from the truth for me.
The incident made me wonder, how often do I react “as if” something is true making my life harder than it has to be? It saddens me to think of all the times I’ve taken something personally and then suffered emotionally over what was nothing at all. No wonder one of the four agreements is to not take anything personally. It reminds me of a song that Ella Fitzgerald sung, “we made up and then, quarreled again, all over nothing at all.”
That same day at work, I got a call from a woman who wanted to be added to our audition mailing list. She was upset that she hadn’t been getting mailings as she used to “get them all the time and someone must have removed” her from the list. I then asked for her birth year, again standard procedure. She answered and then asked why I needed to know. I explained that we use birth years to save costs on mailings that only apply to certain age groups. For instance, it would be a waste to mail audition notices to people over 30 if the show calls for children and young adult actors. She became furious admonishing me not to judge her without seeing her. There was no comforting her, and the call thankfully ended. When I ran her name in the computer, her name was still on the list. It turned out that she had moved; she just never updated her address.
It became so clear to me that she was seeing everything through the lens of deprivation. Her belief that she would be mistreated, forgotten, and unwanted is exactly what she set herself up to experience. She reacted to me as if that we already so. Ironically, I got another call a few minutes later from a woman asking to be added to the same list. When I hesitatingly asked her for her birth year, she too wanted to know why. I explained, and she responded, “Oh, that’s a really good idea!”
We all do it. We all look perceive through the lenses of our previous wounds and experiences. We set ourselves up to experience exactly what we most fear. Seeing things as they really are and taking responsibility for what we’ve created is a stepping stone to freedom. Now that I am becoming more aware of my ability to choose which lenses I use, why not rose-colored glasses?