Whose reality is correct?
Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone about what REALLY happened? It can get pretty crazy-making.
Memory is a weird thing, and our brains are excellent at deleting and distorting most things and selecting the pieces that fit into a pre-conceived story that makes sense (and that makes us look good). Especially when we're feeling self-protective.
Even as adults, we can get into our own versions of "Did not!" "Did too!" ad infinitum. The best of us, in our worst moments, can be caught saying highly disrespectful things like:
“That never happened.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You have a terrible memory.”
“I’m sorry you think I hurt you.”
“You should have known how I would react.”
"I only did that because YOU did it first."
Oops!!! Those comments hurt. A lot. And they can lead your conversation partner to question their perception of reality in a destabilizing way that damages the relationship. It's even worse when the person using statements like these has authority and power, like a spiritual teacher or a parent.
However, it can be quite healthy to question our own version of reality in a way that respects and honors each person. All of us are experiencing the same shared realities in very different ways. So, the next time you catch yourself in a state of disbelieving someone else's story and defending your own story, what if you soften up a bit and consider multiple perspectives?
How about trying:
"Oh, I didn't experience it that way. What was it like for you?"
"Given your context, that must have really hurt."
"Thanks for letting me know. My memory of that was a bit different."
"That makes sense. From your perspective, it sounds like it was like XXX. Is that right?"
"I'm so sorry I hurt you. How can I make it right?"
"I love you. I want to understand what makes this so important for you."
"What else would you like to say?"
A big part of a healthy spiritual practice involves dying to ego, enjoying a felt experience of connection with others, and being open to questioning what we think is obvious. And that's best done in an environment of mutual respect, honor, and willingness to share our own perspectives while expecting our loved ones to have had a different experience that is equally true.
Where are you at in your journey of mutual respect? I'd love to hear from you - what steps are you willing to take to honor the perspectives of others, while staying true to yourself?
With great love,
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