Shifting your perspective

I’m sure you know what I am talking about here. When you are in a bad mood, it can seem like the whole world is against you. Nothing will go right, and everyone is deliberately trying to annoy you even more. Right?

Well not exactly. What is happening here is that you are becoming trapped in 1st position.

“Help! My ballet teacher won’t let me move.”

Let me explain. There is a concept that there are three positions when it comes to interacting with other people. These positions correlate to the various perspectives which can be used when writing. Can you see where I am going with this? These are known, in literature, as ‘1st person’, ‘2nd person’, and ‘3rd person’. Whilst writing usage of these terms refers to who is the subject being wrote about, in social contexts, it refers to the perspective being taken.

In first position/1st person, we are focused on our own feelings. The biggest question in this mindset is “how does this affect me?” When negative emotions are at play, this is the position we tend to revert to. This is completely natural, it is a form of self-preservation. For example, something which could cause us pain arises, and we instinctively think about how to get away from it. But, in modern life, this reaction can be brought about when the threat is something like a person expressing an opinion which we do not agree with. This can be the hardest habit to break, in respects of this topic, as it is entirely instinctive. But I invite you to – next time you feel yourself being annoyed, or asking how something which another person has said affects you – take a moment to step out of your own head and try moving into what is called 2nd position.

2nd position is when we move out of our own headspace, and try to empathise with the perspective of the other person/people involved. I think it is important to draw the distinction between empathy and sympathy here. Empathy means feeling something with another person, as if those feelings were you own (crying with someone else). Sympathy, on the other hand, refers to feeling emotions towards the other person (e.g. feeling sorry for them). In 2nd position, we are able to understand the other person’s reasoning, and can become more compassionate and accepting of their views. This is something which counsellors become adept at, so that they are able to fully connect with their clients – whilst also ensuring that they keep themselves safe through the use of supervision and boundaries.

Finally, there is 3rd position. This is the position of the outside observer. From here, the most objectivity can be gained, which is particularly useful for extremely emotional and/or important discussions. This is the position of the mediator in arguments and dispute resolution. This can be hard to step into directly from 1st position, as we will tend to still have remnants of our own emotional responses milling around in our minds. Thus, it can be beneficial to work through the positions in order to build a full image of the situation.

In closing, I want to thank you for reading, and reiterate my invitation to consider these positions next time you are involved in a heated discussion, or making a significant decision which involves you and your partner/family/friends/etc.

Bring your light to those around you.