Reality Check: A Year in Perspective

In “Choice Theory,” Dr. Glasser tells the story of a mother who is travelling with her infant. The baby screams through the whole three-hour flight. Mom tries everything she can think of; nothing helps.
You can probably understand why the mother announced to everyone on the plane near the end of the trip, “This has been a flight from hell.”
As we near the end of 2020, I have a feeling that more than a few folks are thinking, “This has been a year from hell!”
Our perspective has a remarkable influence on what we see and on what we believe.
Certainly, one perspective is that it’s been a year from hell. If you have chosen to listen to the news at all, then you know that we have been inundated with virus case counts, with dire warnings, with fearful predictions. There have been very sad situations and there have been tragic events.
Sad and tragic events occur throughout our lives. Families lose loved ones. People develop diseases. Accidents, relationship breakups, job losses all occur. It is a reality that life is sometimes very hard and very sad, pandemic or no pandemic. And one difference this year is that we couldn’t gather together to comfort each other through the difficulties.
We also know that sad and tragic is not the whole story. Even during this year, happy events happened, too. New babies were born, new relationships have been created or improved, new projects have been completed, some diseases have been brought into remission or cured.
When you look back, how do you perceive the year? Has it been a disaster? Or not all that bad? What factors might contribute to your perception? Do you believe that your outlook depends primarily on the events that happened to you or those close to you? Does it depend on the influences you allow into your life?
Is your perception perhaps influenced by your sense of hope—by whether you believe things will get better or worse? Might that belief be influenced by your sense of whether you have enough control over your life?
Glasser suggests that the infant on the plane is doing what he knows how to do in an attempt to relieve whatever distress he’s in.
We don’t know why the baby perceived himself to be in distress, but we do know that our options for action are pretty limited when we’re babies. One thing a baby can do is scream. So he screamed.
As we learn and grow and experiment, we build a larger repertoire of behaviours. We have more options and different ways to try to relieve any misery that we are feeling. We may not scream in an airplane, but our actions—our attempts to relieve our distress—may not necessarily make sense to anyone else.
We can never know the full story of what’s happening in another person’s life. We don’t know their perceptions, their worries, their relationships, or their situation.
Even during normal times, we don’t all have the same perspectives. We can hardly expect that we will all see things the same way during these abnormal times.
Tolerance of each other, even when they are acting in ways we don’t understand or agree with, may be the best gift we can give right now.

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