Creativity thrives when we allow ourselves to become absorbed in what fascinates us. Children are really good at this. Children can lose themselves in whatever beguiles them. They have an uninhibited appetite for anything that catches their interest. Out of this appetite comes growth, learning and inventiveness. Adults have the same capacity for absorption, the same voracious appetite – until the voice of reason sobers them up. Adam Phillips, former principal child psychotherapist at Charring Cross Hospital in London and prolific writer of books, was recently interviewed by the Paris Review . In the interview, Phillips observes that children in healthy environments have an incredible ability to focus on what interests them because: Read more
A woman once asked me to watch her luggage at an airport while she went to the toilet. I agreed without thinking, but after 10 minutes all those dire warnings about unattended luggage and terrorists bubbled to the surface. She could be a terrorist, a suicide bomber minus the suicide. Finally I decided to find security. They’d want a description. I thought about it…she was young, 20’s probably, definitely Oriental with short dark hair. But before I set off in search of someone in uniform, the woman returned. She was middle-aged, Spanish with short, very grey hair.
We see selectively. Ask any forensic psychologist. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. They’re not insincere or deceitful or stupid, just human and human beings can’t be relied upon to perceive reality as it is. We’re neurologically built that way. Given our difficult accurately perceiving physical objects, non- physical reality is a potential minefield. This is colored not only by our neurobiology but by our psychology – our needs and beliefs and the complex layers of life experience.
We see what we want to believe. We see what we need to see at the time. We see what our level of Awareness permits us to see.
We can want to believe lots of things – that people love us, that they are well-meaning, that they are wise and honest. We can also want to believe that they have betrayed us, that they don’t like us and a host of other things that blind us to who they are…and who we are.
Limited perception often serves our need for security – the security of knowing the world is as we think it is. Whether that’s pleasant or painful doesn’t matter, it’s the security of knowing the sun will rise tomorrow that’s important. If we grow up hurt, we can anticipate it in all new relationships, brace ourselves for the inevitable, see it where it doesn’t exist. But the world, at least, is true to form, reliable in its cruelty.
In contrast, some people desperately want to believe in the goodness of everyone – the dark side of human nature fades into the shadows and, like me and my old friend (see…) end up scratching their heads in puzzlement over what happened. Nothing happened except a shift of perception, an expansion of awareness and some change in the way the other person shows the multiple facets of themselves.
It seems to me the way out of this bind is not so much in through awareness of others, although that helps, but through awareness of ourselves and our need to see what we want to see. Or, as it says in the Bible: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part but then I shall know even as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians, 13:12 American King James Version)
In a theme park like Disneyland, it’s kind of obvious that the potential for accidents is an insurance company’s worst nightmare. Yet they happen far more rarely than the capacity crowds would indicate. Reason: The Disney obsession with safety – the safety of the ‘guests’ and the safety of the ‘cast members’, known elsewhere simply as staff.
Whatever one thinks of other Disney values and Keys, it’s hard to disagree with this one. Staff are rigorously trained in safety, not just the attraction operators and queue monitors, but all staff. Watch how quickly they pick up trash and clean up spills.
It stood out in stark contrast to how careless we can often be with ourselves. This goes beyond the obvious physical carelessness of self-abuse through drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, risky driving and, as I was reminded on a recent visit home to Ireland, jay walking. We can be emotionally and psychologically careless with ourselves, perhaps even more so than in the physical realm.
How many times do we come back for more in disrespectful or abusive relationships? How many times do we say yes when we really need to say no? How many times do we tell ourselves we are in some way wrong or inadequate, that we should be better or at least different from who we are?
If we don’t like the audience reaction, we may want to make some changes in ourselves and the way we do things. But this is very different from the careless self-criticism many of us level at ourselves on an astonishingly regular basis. Self-awareness and self-criticism are polar opposites. One is done with compassion and leads to growth. The other is careless cruelty inflicted on ourselves and generally leads nowhere, except perhaps to deepen the hole we’re trying to climb out of.
Throughout her school years, Catherine, an avid reader, wrote many books –all of them in her imagination. Read More.
- The Power of Awareness: A Journey Through Breathing May 14, 2016
- The Power of Awareness: Witnessing Without Judging March 24, 2016
- The Power of Awareness: Body Awareness February 23, 2016