Seeing the bigger picture

Photo by Jason Hawke 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

In counselling, clients often make discoveries about themselves and their situations which feel to them like they should have been obvious and they berate themselves for not seeing it sooner. Sometimes the problem is perspective. I often talk to clients about putting your hand just a centimetre away from the tip of your nose and trying to see more than just a blurry palm. But just a few extra centimetres away allows the whole hand to come into focus.

The image at the top of this post reminds me of how easy it can be to misinterpret what is right in front of us and how we can fail to recognise something until we shift our focus ever so slightly. All at once it is obvious and we question how we can have been so silly not to have been able to see it. Or worse, someone else questions how we could have been so blind to what was glaringly obvious to them. Sometimes we just might not recognise what we’re looking at. When that picture first popped up on my Facebook feed I thought I was looking at a strange creature with antennae and weird appendages. It wasn’t until I read the comment section that I realised it was a cowboy. Now I struggle to see the image how I did at the start. It all depends on which part of it I look at first.

The infamous white-gold/blue-black dress that caused all the arguments

In terms of our mental health, shifting our focus, adopting a new perspective and looking at the bigger picture are all ways in which we can reduce feelings of frustration and anxiety and deal with disappointment. Sometimes we hyper fixate on small details and this isn’t always healthy or helpful. In relationships, it can be really helpful to try to look at the other person’s perspective, to try to understand what a situation might look like from their point of view. The best way to know this is to ask them. I am often reminded of this when someone shares a picture of the blue-black/ white-gold dress that caused havoc on the internet. How strange that we should all be seeing the exact same image in such completely different ways and be so convinced that our way is the only way to see it. If no-one ever shared ‘the dress’ or talked about it, they would never have known that the colours looked different to someone else.

The non-judgemental attitude of the counselling space makes it the ideal place to explore perspective and broaden our view. We can take our ‘dress’ or our ‘cowboy’ to someone else and say ‘I’m not sure what I’m seeing here.’ The therapeutic process can help us to see the bigger picture and to gain some clarity around things that seemed blurred or confusing.

Changing our perspective

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Outside of the counselling space, there are other ways in which we can broaden our view and change our perspective:

  • Listen to other people and gain an insight into their perspective - this can be a helpful way of broadening your view. Allow yourself to be curious and avoid passing judgement when these perspectives differ from yours and expose different ways of thinking about and seeing situations. When you come across a way of thinking that feels at odds with you, this is a good opportunity to evaluate how your way of thinking is contributing to your life.
  • Read - whether it’s biographies, fiction or opinion pieces, in print or in audio format, reading is a great way to access other viewpoints. Reading about different cultures can be useful when you don’t have travel opportunities.
  • Be open to new ideas - one of the best things about having a mind is that you can change it but equally you’re not obliged to. Being open-minded doesn’t mean not having values but it makes it easier to understand why other people’s values may differ from yours.




© Michelle Williams

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