Everybody do it my way!
Many, many moons ago, when I was in College, I did a double major in Psych and Theology. As I was interested in art, I did an art minor — mostly because I liked one of the art teachers, and she wanted me to set up the college darkroom. Photography was something I was good at.
Anyway, I was thinking back to then, and thinking about art classes in general. I remembered painting studio, and specifically life class. I think I still have one of the paintings I did way back then, but mostly I remember a bunch of us at easels, standing and sitting in a semicircle around a model on a platform. The instructor said that she thought I already knew how to paint, so she skipped the structure lecture and started critiquing my eye for colour. Specifically, I remember her saying, “Now, see if you can find the purple and orange in the shadow.” I said, “But… the shadow is brown!” Her reply, “Look again!”
But here’s the real story:
We were all painting the same thing, (or in this case, person,) but each painting was unique to its painter.
Some people painted the model’s head, some her back, some her front, some her hands. In some of the paintings, there was a resemblance to the model, in others, well… not so much.
I won’t beat this to death. This is a demonstration of seeing and perspective.
We want to remember that although each person was painting the same model, each person’s painting was a result of the skill of the artist, and what side or the model was foremost for the artist. The model was a whole, and each artist, by definition, can only grasp and use a part of it.
So, where we stand determines what we see
Literally and figuratively.
I’m amazed at the persistence of the belief in the universal accuracy and validity of personal perspective. Clients typically focus in on one or two things — they have a pat set of personal views about the flaws their partner has, or perspectives on their failed lives, or there’s job related stuff — and those personal perspectives colour everything.
Here’s a story: a couple of days ago, Darbella and I were talking with a friend. She mentioned that she’d been married 20 years now, and that her husband didn’t like it when she got boisterous — so, for some time, she’d been really toning it down. His stated perspective was that she had been a bit of a wild child as a teen and 20-something, and he equated any exuberance on her part with, as he delicately put it, as “Acting like a slut.”
She’s been paying attention to us for a while, and quite “gets” what we suggest. For years, she has been explaining to him that just because he thinks something, it doesn’t make it true.
He finally got it: “I have an issue with you getting excited, because I think other people are judging me. So when you dance around the grocery store, I embarrass myself.”
In other words, he has a perspective about how a good and decent wife behaves, and the one he has doesn’t match. So, for 20 years, he’s been trying to get her to fit — to match — his personal perspective (which is his, and is not “true” for anyone but him.)
If we go back into the artist studio, belief in the rightness of a personal perspective would be equivalent to the teacher doing a painting, saying hers was correct, and demanding
- the rest of the artists paint exact copies, and
- that the model transform herself into something that exactly matches the teacher’s representation.
This seems so simple
And yet, one of my most complex tasks is to persuade you and clients (and myself!) that perspective is neither true, nor valid. Perspective is just how I see things, and how I see things, right now, depends on my angle of view, the quality of the light, my mood, etc.
In other words, it’s just how I see it, right now.
To think that I somehow have the right to demand that someone change how they are, to match my perspective, is both arrogant and foolish.
When I work with couples, I describe this one as “3 choices, 2 that work.”
- accept your partner as (s)he is,
- try to force your partner to become who you think they should be.
1 & 2 work, and most people are stuck on 3.
One more story for this week, back to our friend:
When we walked in, she mentioned her bad back was getting much worse. She won’t do bodywork with me, because she hates pain, she tells me. She will, however, let me do a little, while we’re standing there, talking.
She pointed to a place in her back, about 6 inches above the top of her pelvis. I worked on that a bit, as well as on the small of her back. These points hurt.
I then pushed down and in on the top of her pelvis. She yelped loudly. “Jeez! That hurts more than the original spot!” I said, “That’s because the upper stuff is coming from here.”
Now, remember, in the other part of her story, I mentioned she’d been “toning it down” for some decades? In bodywork theory, the back pelvis is all about passion for life. In other words, the juice, the joy, the boisterousness comes from the back pelvis. She’s been holding that passion in check, and her back is continually sore.
A coincidence? Not from my perspective.
We can try to suppress who we are so that others won’t get mad at us. They pay, we pay, and everything is bleak.
Or, we can get over suppressing ourselves while trying to manipulate others into doing things our way, and do the only thing we can.
Learn how to paint the canvas of our life, from our perspective.
Nothing wrong with getting some guidance in the studio of life (like this article.) But in the end, you have to free yourself to do it your way, and let others do it theirs.
Dance, paint, love, be passionate — while you can — right now.