“If you are truly open and receptive to another person, it can be quite a revelation to realize that they aren’t exactly the same on Friday as they were on Monday, that each of us can be perceived freshly any day of the week. But if that person happens to be your parent or sibling, your partner or your boss, you are usually blinded and see them as predictably always the same.” ~ Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
When we think we know who someone is, there is a tendency to cubbyhole them into that identity. And while it is true that we all have tendencies, those habits that make us so incredibly predictable at times, we also have the capacity to change. The brain is plastic. Bad habits can be broken. Good habits formed. If you’d ever been sitting at the Thanksgiving table with your birth family, you know what I’m talking about. The people who have known you the longest are the ones who are often the most blind – the least able to see who you have grown into.
In my experience, if the folks around you think you’re stupid, you will start to behave stupidly. You will jump blindly into the mold they’ve handed you. Even if you have an IQ of 160. Even if you have awards and degree that attest to your brilliance. It takes gargantuan strength to do otherwise.
The power of expectation is a formidable force.
I bring this up because during a discussion with a friend of mine yesterday, he mentioned a shift in his perception of a woman he works with. The description of the situation made me realize that his perception of the players in the saga allowed for little room for evolution. The guy who was a rogue twenty years ago was still dishonorable. And don’t even be stupid enough to think the gold-digger was after your love!
We size people up, slap labels on them and then in our minds, that is who they are. Even though we all change moment to moment. Even though experience can and does shape us.
Granted, nothing may have changed. The man may still be a rogue. The woman may still be a gold-digger. We humans can be shockingly stagnant is our progress sometimes. But everything may have changed, or maybe just a few things. I can see definite progress in my friend who at one time had a reputation as a bit of a lady’s man. He no longer wants to be that person, so he is evolving into someone else.
But, I notice that if any of us is to make progress, it is helpful to be seen with fresh eyes. If those we surround ourselves with treat us as if change is impossible, than I think it’s harder. Not impossible, but certainly more difficult.
I often say that there is no one who actually “sees” you less than your spouse. I’m talking in terms of noticing things like haircuts and the size of your waist. Because when you see someone (or something for that matter) regularly, we don’t actually see it. Efficient creatures that we are, our brains file the known into the “doesn’t require further investigation” file. We tend not to look with fresh eyes.
And sometimes that’s a shame, because we miss out. We don’t allow for possibility. We limit ourselves and others unnecessarily.
Yes, it’s efficient to know you can count on your teenage daughter to try to manipulate you into taking her to the mall, but could you overlooked the fact that she was trying to tell you she really needs to talk to you? That she misses you and wants to spend time with you. Or that she is starting to run around with the wrong crowd because she is desperate for your attention and needs to know you love her and care enough about her to say “no.”
How many people have kicked themselves in the butt for failing to notice the signs that were right in front of them?
Today, I invite you to look with fresh eyes. To notice what is right in front of you. To give up what you think you know about other people and to see if what was true yesterday is still true today. I invite you to give others the room for growth that you want others to give you. To assume you know nothing. To allow yourself to be surprised.
Because, in allowing for the possibility that surprise is possible, it has room to blossom into brilliance.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.