Family roles, to the sidelines with you! As the youngest in my family of origin, I received thoughts from my environment (family members, classmates, teachers, television, friends, parents of friends, siblings of friends) and I absorbed them. What I didn’t know [what I couldn’t have known] was that my parent’s bond was tenuous. They were unhappy with each other and their lives in general. In my view, each of them longed for the other to change and wasn’t willing to do much changing him or herself. My siblings were miserable, from what I perceived. They didn’t appear to like themselves, me, or many others. With such animosity at each turn, my environment as a youngster provided many opportunities to evaluate my place in the world.
Which is to say, I felt humiliated, ashamed, or awkward much of the time in childhood and adolescence. I treated others the way in which I perceived treatment modeled toward me, and at one point, an older peer (I was 13, she was probably 17) told me that the way I treated her hurt her feelings. I felt angry when she told me that and I thought her a wimp, and I also noted her words. Inside, I felt hurt and humiliated. Outside, she said my behavior hurt her feelings.
It took me many life experiences with different faith systems, educational endeavors, travels, and humans to develop the kind of emotion confidence that older peer displayed to me. She voiced her position to me in a respectful way and identified her emotions after my behavior toward her. As she explained her emotion (hurt), I understood (although I didn’t have words for it at that time) that I felt the same hurt inside of me.
Perception from others can be helpful, hurtful, or any adjective. Perception from others consists of thoughts – others’ thoughts. As animals, humans are social creatures. We function as a part of a society whether we hardly leave our homes or travel the world. Our society consists of thoughts from loners, groupies, weirdos [that “righteous dude” quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to mind,] jerks, awesomes and a bunch of other types of personalities. Perception, ours and that of others, may influence us. The degree to which we allow perception to influence our actions is up to us. As we experience situations in life, we learn to evaluate validity of perception and whether to encourage action based on it.
Someone recently told me that my perception of events is accurate for me and my sister’s perception of events is accurate for her. I felt a surge of “yes, finally, someone understands,” when she said the first part of the sentence. As she proceeded past the first few words in the second phrase, I felt my emotion change from relief to defense. I stopped breathing, and I looked to the left of her eyes. I had to remind myself to start breathing again. I had to remind myself to visualize my breath. When someone begins to tell me something that I think may oppose my opinion, sometimes I stop breathing. It’s very subtle. I didn’t realize I did it until someone else mentioned it to me.
When I perceive opposition and conflict, my body defaults to complete silence (not even breath). I remind myself to breathe. One day I’ll deep breathe and visualize breath through every kind of interaction. That’ll take time and practice. It occurs to me that just as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood take time, so does developing a consistent way of relating to reality that’s different from family-of-origin methods. Eyes ahead, deep breath in and out. Reality is this moment’s breath.
Well hello there.