When you’re upset with a situation or someone around you – ask yourself: is it true? You might just find that your brain (read: ego) is creating stories, rather than truly understanding what’s going on.
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“I saw it with my own eyes.” That’s the ultimate measure of truth, right?
We rely on our senses to tell us what’s happening around us. But we often forget that there’s actually two steps in that process: First we see something, and then our brain interprets our vision.
In yoga philosophy, they talk about “perception” and “right perception”.
The first perception is that which you see, smell, hear, taste or touch. You sense something and make a judgment about it. For example, you hear a siren and assume that there is a fire across town. Or you taste a dish and decide that there must be lemon in it.
But then there’s right perception: the absolute truth. Right perception is the fact that the siren was actually because of a cat caught in a tree. Or that the lemon flavor was actually lemon thyme (a pretty fabulous herb that actually tastes just like lemon juice).
These are some pretty innocuous examples, but this distinction is incredibly important when thinking about situations that bring us stress, frustration, sadness, and anger.
Think about it: someone cuts you off when you’re driving. “Oh, that guy. He was probably looking at his phone and wasn’t caring about the people around him.”
Your partner doesn’t pick up your repeated calls. “Why doesn’t she care about me?”
These distressing thoughts cause pain and hurt that can last hours or even days.
What if the guy cut you off because he just found out his wife was going into labor?
What if your partner didn’t answer the calls because her battery died while in a long meeting?
Our brains assess, judge, and compartmentalize. We take in all of the information and then come to the best conclusion we can. But those conclusions are not always right.
The good news is that we can leverage this information to boost our happiness.
Here’s what you do:
In a situation that’s causing you stress, ask yourself “do I know that this is true?” Tell the story only with the guaranteed truth (for example, “the person cut me off”, or “my partner hasn’t picked up her phone in 2 hours.”) Explore possible reasons that this could happen, including the possible reasons that would make this a not stressful situation. Then, decide how it would be best to find out the objective truth, or if there’s anything you need to do at this time.
This week’s assignment:
Think of a stressful situation from the last week. What was the source of the stress? Was it the actual situation or your assessment of the situation? What would the situation have been without that stress-filled assessment? You can share your experience in the comments below or with other members of our Happy Healthy Human community in our private Facebook group. Your experience might bring you or someone else exactly the inspiration needed to take the next step. Thank you for sharing!
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach, yoga instructor, and makes delicious snacks to help you eat with intention. Learn more here.
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