Your Experience of an Experience
It happens all the time, maybe even every day. Two people are in the same situation. They have a conversation with each other, or witness a conversation between other people. Together they travel to the same place or share ideas, or relate somehow, someway to the same people, place or things…And they disagree on what they heard, saw, and felt.
Your nodding your head right now, right? You can remember arguing with someone over what you said or what they said, over what you each saw, or what experience you shared together. How could they have been in the same place and experienced something different?
The easy answer is “Perception” (Obi-Wan calls it a “different point of view”). Every experience you’ve ever had creates your perception of the current experience you’re in. And since no two people have had the exact same experiences their entire lives, we each perceive current circumstances and experiences differently.
Brent and I went out for a ride one day on his motorcycle. It was a particularly windy day, so with my helmet on, I buried my face into his back. Then I realized how good it felt to be snuggled this close to him and squeezed tighter. I was in the midst of absolutely loving this moment when all of a sudden, he pulled over and exclaimed, “That’s it, I’m turning around and taking you home!” I was stunned, why would he say that? He answered, “You’re burying your head in my back, holding on tight, I can just hear you in my head complaining about how fast I’m going and how much the wind is bothering you, how cold you are…” I stopped him right there, upset that he would make up such things in his head. How could he think this about me, I’m not this person he’s making me out to be. I was offended and my ego was hurt. After some more back and forth, lots of reassuring him, and trying to explain myself, I finally got across to him that what he perceived my experience to be was not at all how I was experiencing the situation. We made up and kept on going.
After some thought and reflection, I realized his last girlfriend was that person. She didn’t like being out on the bike and went begrudgingly and complained and made it a miserable experience for him. His mother also did the same thing to his father. He was using his past experiences to draw conclusions about this current one.
Arguing about someone else’s experience is a fruitless effort. It’s not up for argument, perception is reality. Instead, question their experience and question your own. What of your past experiences could be painting color into this experience? What of their past experiences could be doing the same thing? This is amazing insight into what makes each of us tick. When it’s your turn to share, don’t share with the purpose of getting them to agree, only share with the intention of clarifying your own reality. It does not have to become their reality.
I have been on both sides of this position, assuming things about other people and having things assumed about me. Neither one is a great place to be. It’s not productive or progressive, it creates hurt feelings, and leaves at least one person questioning their sanity. Instead, wake up to the fact that even standing side by side, you are having different experiences and become curious. Don’t look for reasons to become offended, look for keys into the whys of the person you are with. It’s a fascinating world inside the head of someone else. There is much to be learned when you stand in the space of another point of view.