The Objectivity Lie – Truth Vs Perspective
Last week I killed a guy just to watch his soul leave his body. While I held my breath. And touched myself. True story.
Actually it’s complete bullshit. When I catch spiders in the house I feel sorry for them and put them outside – and then fret for an hour over their well being. But if I had killed someone just to watch him die, or for any other reason, and you had witnessed my crime, you probably would have identified some other handsome, follicley challenged, cauliflower-eared slice of masculine deliciousness as the culprit. Sucker.
Eye witness accounts are notoriously inaccurate and bring into account all kinds of our natural biases. Funny how that works. Less funny is how this phenomenon exists not only when we observe criminal acts but also in our day-to-day, non-murderous existence. Not only is our eye witness account subjective, but so is our life experience.
No One Is Ever Wrong Or Right
One of the most frustrating aspects of the dissolution of any relationship – be it romantic, business, or otherwise – is the arguing over whose subjective experience was the truth. It becomes a battle of he said, she said, or you said, they said. The conversation will make you go insane. Why? Because the other person is wrong and you are right. And at the same time, here’s the kicker, you are wrong and they are right. And you know what the biggest kicker is? You’re both wrong and you’re both right.
The above is not a play on words.
We all see life through our own eyes and experience it through a vast number of lenses. Our experience is subjective. Really grasping that concept is a big lightbulb. If our experience is subjective and we experience our own unique version of reality, then that must also mean other people’s human experiences are subjective as well, and they too experience their own unique version of reality.
Mind boggling isn’t it? That would mean two people could sit in the same room and have a conversation with each other over dinner and walk away having two completely different experiences.
These same two people could then get together two weeks later and argue about what was said, how the food tasted, and how they each felt during the experience. Both would be right. But, neither of them could get the other to experience the event as they had. Have you had this exact experience with someone? Marriage is hard work isn’t it.
There’s No Need To Argue – Ever!
Arguing with someone about a past experience is relatively futile, but unfortunately –it’s something we all frequently do. I know. I do it, too. What we really should say to make things much more efficient is, “I JUST WANT YOU TO SEE THINGS FROM MY PERSPECTIVE!”
Instead what we say comes out as, “That’s total bullshit. You said this and I said that, and you did this and I did that. Admit it. Admit that’s how it happened.”
However, if we can keep the whole “everyone has a separate and unique experience” deal in our heads, then there’s less to argue about. Scientists may refer to this as “empathy,” or seeing things from someone else’s perspective. I think it goes significantly deeper than that. Before we are able to see things from someone else’s perspective we have to acknowledge that their perspective is different than ours.
Truth Is A Matter Of Perspective
Empathy is stage two of this acknowledgement process and may not come about at all. We may have the ability to recognize the subjective experience of our spouse and still think he or she is batshit crazy , ridiculous, and irresponsible.
But would you hand your dinner guest a menu written in Mandarin and then get frustrated when they couldn’t read the menu that you can? Would you curse and yell at them, “It says General Tsao’s fucking chicken! Why can’t you read that?!”
Hopefully not. So then why would you get upset with someone for not being able to properly read an experience they don’t have the language to understand either?
Empathy creates a softening in our experience, an “I’ve been where you are and I remember what it’s like.” Or an “I’ve never been where you are but I can imagine it’s not a place filled with bubbles and kittens, so I understand.” The softness is not for the person we’re empathizing with, but for us. The softness is not weakness, but comes from and builds strength. Standing in front of someone and relating to their pain, frustration, or individuality is the mark of warriorship – for both parties regardless of sex, creed, or relationship.
Eye Witness Accounts Are Bullshit
The eyewitness account will never be an accurate determinant of truth. It can’t be. But by realizing the flaws within our own witnessing, our need to be right about what we’ve seen becomes less and less. The less right we have to be the more room we have to be strong, happy, and fulfilled. Because, really, there is no such thing as “right.” Therefore, I’ll take strong, fulfilled, and happy over being “right” any day.
One Day Stronger Action Steps:
1. Think of a situation in your past where you were in conflict with another person. Now open yourself up to being willing to believe that this person may not have experienced the situation as you did. That’s it. Start with willingness
2. For the rest of the day, start to be aware of how subjective your reality may be. Do you really “never” get parking spots at Trader Joe’s? Or do you spend more time and energy recalling the times when the lot was full as opposed to the times when a spot magically opened up?
3. Return to the situation in Action Step #1 and take it one step further. Now that you’ve cultivated willingness, put yourself in the other party’s shoes and feel how the situation would have felt for them, given a completely different lifetime of experiences shaping their perspective. How does that make you feel? Can you feel empathy for them?