Getting Past the Dip
One of the biggest human shortfalls is the easiness to lose perspective in moments of crisis or adversity. Most problems whether global or local, large or small,collective or individual are linked with this issue of perspective. The way we look at any given situation or problem determines whether we fail and succumb to its pressure or succeed in creatively find a solution to it.
Perspective is the way we see things and filter our reality. Reality is not seen as it is although this is naively and implicitly assumed in our conceptual model of the world.
The Gap we fill in our Heads
There is always a gap between objective reality and the way it is represented in our heads through concepts and mental models. That gap is filled by the many assumptions, presuppositions and categorizations we use to speedily make sense of the noisy and incomplete picture of the reality around us.
For example you are doing your usual jog in the park when you arrive at a part where you see flashing red and blue lights round a bend behind some trees and bushes. You quickly make a mental picture of it. You conclude that it is probably an unfortunate case of an ambulance with paramedics assisting a jogger who had a heart failure. You come to this conclusion partly informed by the fact that you have seen quite a number of 65+ joggers using the park before and you have also heard of a similar case happening lately. This is your interpretation based on partial information and past cases.
You could also conclude that it is a police car on a crime scene owing to the fact that you have witnessed a similar case in the same park two years a go. You also know that the area around the park is dodgy, the hour is late and such accidents are not infrequent.
So our perspective sometimes depends on things that although can lead us to a correct judgment in a probabilistic kind of way, they are not always based on truthful premises but rather on partial fragments on information and past experiences. It is also influenced by our motivation of the moment. Our emotional predisposition will lead us to interpret one scenario as against another possibly skewing our perspective as we do so.
There are a million examples of how perspective influences and determines our perception of the world in everyday life but I wish to focus on one particular situation which I think we all fall victims to: Our perception of the scale and durability of a problem when we face temporary setbacks.
We all have experienced this on many occasions in our life: Everything is going fine until something happens that totally disrupts our momentum. We then fall prey to worrisome thoughts and finally end up feeling stuck and helpless.
The biggest problem we face in these situations is not one of resources, fortune or fate. The problem is one of perspective.
The general tendency is to believe or think that the predicament or downturn we are experiencing is not a temporal one but a permanent one. This is of course false but it shows how our perspective on things get skewed when we are stressed or anxious about some problems. We momentarily lose touch with reality and with it we lose our ability to think straight and see the full facts as they are.
Our mental model of reality becomes jumbled up and our focus debilitated. We become immobilized with fear and our creative resources blocked. The inability to see past the present circumstances is a very natural human fallibility.
So the question is: How do we train ourselves to become expansive in moments in which we are naturally inclined to feel stuck & limited? How do we shake ourselves awake from the illusion that we are stuck with a problem forever?
Ask, Allow and Imagine:
I would like to present 3 tips one can follow when we are feeling stuck or anxious about a problem:
1. Ask yourself a few questions: Can this problem be solved? Did I solve similar or bigger problems before? Am I all alone in this or are there people I can turn to for help and advice? Is this problem caused by circumstances which are related to a particular moment in time? Is this problem as serious as it seems?
2. Do not try to solve the problem. This may sound paradoxical but the thing is that as we ceaselessly try to control and act on the problem we create more stress and hence limit our creative powers. Instead of trying just allow it to be for a while. Just ask yourself to find a creative solution to it and let it flow without straining yourself to apprehend or find answers to it. You will notice that by allowing it to settle you will relax and finally the solution will come intuitively and spontaneously. Your subconscious mind would have had the time to work on it without the constant interruption of your conscious mind trying to gain control.
3. And finally visualize the problem as being just a minor patch in a long stretch of timeline. Visualize yourself in a week or month’s time being completely past the problem and surmising to the fact how you managed to creatively get past the dip.
Gilbert Ross also writes about inner development, mindfulness and conscious living on his blog Soul Hiker. You can subscribe to his feeds here or follow him on Twitter here.