Many a year ago, my friend and colleague Alex taught me that the most important change in therapy is a perspective shift. I have found this to be true for my clients, as well as for myself. In the first few decades of my life, I saw myself as ugly and unlovable. My perspective shift took therapy, experimentation, and the development of my passion for dancing to come to the conclusion that I don’t have to live in that self-imposed prison, that others will respond favorably to me if I project a friendly, open attitude.
Some people become stuck looking at life from one narrow vantage point, e.g., “You can’t trust anyone,” “Life is for the young,” “Nobody is interested in having me around,” “Men only want one thing,” “Women will take you for all you are worth.” Those who are stuck with a negative viewpoint have no idea that they can achieve liberation by looking at the world and themselves from different angles. As a therapist, the saddest and most frustrating cases that I see are the patients focused on hopelessness and suicide. Often, new patients enter therapy wanting symptom relief. It’s my job to help them look at their lives from new perspectives. Even happy folk would be well advised to experiment with different vantage points so as to understand themselves and others more fully.
My favorite perspective story goes like this: Once upon a time, a man lived in a small hut with his big family. He went to the village guru and said, “I am miserable living in such close quarters. I can’t take it anymore.” The guru said, “ Bring the cow into the house to live with the family and come back to see me in a month.” A month later, the man said, “Life is unbearable, please help”. The guru tells him to “bring in the chickens to live with the family and the cow, and come back to see me in one month.” Thirty days later, the man regaled the guru with thoughts of suicide. The wise man told the man to “put the cow and the chickens in the barn and come see me in one month.” On returning, the villager smiled, hugged the guru, and said, “Life is good.”