“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi
Only Aha moments can break open your old models of thinking. They open the door to new possibilities by loosening the screws that nail down the concepts and ideas that make your world appear the way it does. Some ideas are in your consciousness and some are lurking, unacknowledged, in the shadows. Either way they run your life. You need a perspectives check.
First your identify ingrained beliefs about people and events that don’t serve you but you’ve become stuck in.
Next you play at adopting different perspectives. The operative word here is play: you play with your imagination to come up with different points of view, to ‘try on’ these alternative perspectives in your mind and body; you step into them like an actor and really ham them up. These perspectives may not be ‘rational’; in fact sometimes the more imaginative and downright whacky these perspectives can be, the better. For instance you could use what’s right under your nose as a prompt for a perspective. If there’s a fruit bowl on the table in front of you, you might say to yourself: How would this situation/event/person look from the banana perspective? All it takes to free ourselves from our controlling beliefs and judgments is a little inventiveness. And of course the beliefs that have the strongest pull on your emotions are the ones that should be played with first.
This client’s beliefs about himself were making him feel very insecure. But by taking a meta-view, he was able to see a new perspective:
“Having to make a flow-chart of what happens when I get insecure really helped me see myself from the outside. Great new perspective.” (H.M., client)
Switching perspectives offers new choices:
“I have learned to analyse situations from many different perspectives. I am no longer stuck in a particular point of view. I can choose a perspective that works for me instead of against me”. (K.M., client).
Transforming your life means becoming authentic. Instead of presenting a self-image, perspective taking can give you the freedom to abandon role-playing and just be yourself:
“In taking different perspectives I realized that all I had to do was strip away the artificial layers to be who I always was. It was liberating in the true sense of the word, the freedom just to be” (P.S., client)
Perspective taking can also change relationships with others:
“A change of perspective regarding a person that I must cooperate with in my new position. From a threat to a possibility” (E.W., client).
Imagination functions at a higher level of intelligence than the rational mind. Imagination fantasy, metaphor, humour, compassion and all the other post-rational intelligences function in the right brain, the one that is atrophying in our uber-rational society. This coach reports his client’s “Aha” moment as the latter was discussing a co-worker whom she feared. Employing metaphor supported her in breaking down her resistance to discussing this man. The coach is responding to the question, “What ‘landed’ most with the client?”
“Metaphor (co-worker as animal). Used animal image as a starting point for different perspectives”. (T.C., coach)
You will never be able to truly connect with another human being so long as you’re stuck in rigid perspectives. This is why you must loosen the screws that hold your beliefs in place. They form your ego mind with its insistence that only your beliefs are legitimate and so everyone should agree with you. Wake up to the fact that we all see the world differently and you must listen to other views and opinions without judgment. Whether on an individual or a cultural level, when we lock ourselves into a dogmatic belief system, we make enemies of those who do not share it. It is so obvious that had we been born in a different country or at a different time in history we would be indoctrinated with very different beliefs. How ridiculous, then, to identify with our beliefs to such a degree that we allow them to define our very being. The next time you notice that you’re stuck in an old way of thinking, get up and get some perspectives. Your beliefs are not bolted down – they are nothing but habits of mind that you have failed to challenge. Choose again. Play with perspectives and choose one that your bodymind intuitively knows will work for you instead of against you. The way you see the world is yours to choose; your perspective, your choice, your responsibility.
Take an example from your own life. Suppose you’re stuck in a perspective about yourself that says: “Deep down, I’m afraid; life is scary; I fear that I won’t be able to cope with things”. Now stand up and see yourself, picture yourself in the centre of the room from this fear perspective. Give yourself permission to ONLY see yourself from this point of view. You’re stepping up to the perspective like an actor stepping up on to a stage. You wear the perspective like a cloak and act up a storm. Do not allow yourself to view yourself from any other perspective than this – there will be time for that later. Now, breathe into the fear perspective. What do you notice about the way your imaginary self looks like from this perspective – notice how she holds her body, notice her expression, her overall demeanour. Now breathe into your own body again. Where do you feel the fear in your body? What colour is it? What shape/size? What else do you notice about the fear? Stay with the feeling and see where it takes you. No matter how scary it feels, allow the fear to arise. If you do, it will naturally pass through you. Give yourself a score out of 10 for the depth of fear you are feeling with 1 being not too afraid and 10 being petrified. Suppose you give the fear a 5, play with it; turn it up to an 8, then down to a 3. See how you can manipulate the fear and feel how your whole energy changes when you do. Now ask yourself the following questions with no judgment, just a gentle, honest approach: What does the fear perspective give you? You’ll be surprised what might come up that could be seen as payoffs: poor little me, I can’t cope with this scary world, I need you to look after me, for example. Now ask yourself: what is this fear choice costing me? How do you experience your life when you approach it from the fear perspective? How does it constrict you? What are you saying ‘no’ to simply because of fear which is only a silly thought in your mind?
Now choose other perspectives. Let’s call the fear perspective ‘north’ so now you walk to the south and view yourself from a different perspective. You might begin with the opposite of fear, i.e. love. Stand in the ‘love’ perspective and look at your imaginary self from this standpoint. Again, get into your body and find love, breath into it and expand the feeling. Identify where you feel it in your body. Now play with it as you did with the fear perspective. Be clear about what it gives you and what it costs you to see yourself from love. Maybe you’ll begin to realize that you ARE love and that everything that obscures this knowledge is only a thought system that you’re stuck in. Then move east and west finding other perspectives and try them out for size by engaging what’s happening in your mind and body as you experience them. Other perspectives could include courage, power, vulerability or whatever object is in front of you – a banana, a flower or anything at all in your environment. This bringing together of mind and body as you explore the different perspectives in imaginative ways means that you are coming from a higher place than your rational mind. When you have exhausted all the perspectives you can think of, choose one. Your bodymind will guide your choice. Then make a commitment to staying in the new perspective for a week. Make a list of all the things you will do and all the new ways of being you will adopt in service of this new perspective