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Your Experience

Posted Dec 20 2008 8:19am

Many times, especially as we get older, family members and friends sometimes want to argue with us about the way we remember things that happened to us.  There could be six people present for an event and all 6 people will remember it a different way - and herein lies the problem.  This happens because our interpretation of the event is processed through our own personal filter.  We see the event the way we do because of our knowledge, life experience, personal attitude, and a lot of other factors, so even though all six of us were there for the same experience at the same time we will still all experience it differently.  There’s nothing wrong with this picture.  It’s the only way it can be (unless we’re all members of the Borg and have only one collective memory).

Remembering Things Differently Doesn’t Mean Remembering Things Wrong

The fact that a friend or family member remembers something differently than you do is only a reflection of that person’s own filter.  It doesn’t make anyone wrong.  At the very least a person’s perception of what happened will give others a valuable insight into what that person’s inner world is like.  At best, it’s a chance to see or understand a situation differently and perhaps get more out of it than our original perception.

While we can open up our minds and hearts and allow others to keep their perception of events (we aren’t going to change them anyway), there really isn’t any reason to argue with someone else about what “really” happened.  How a person perceived an event is only that - how they perceived it.  We’re all entitled to have our own unique interpretation of the events that happen in our lives.  People, even those very close to us, have had inner experiences which we cannot know.  We don’t have any right to tell another their perception of an event is wrong.  Similarly, no one has the right to tell you that you shouldn’t have defined an experience the way you did or dismiss your experience as invalid.

Similarly, I’m sure we’ve all heard someone tell someone else, “Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal!”  Maybe we’ve been the person on either end of that ourselves.  We can’t know how big of a deal an event was to another person, but here’s a hint: When they are relating the story to you (that perhaps you think is wrong), they are trying to communicate to you just how big of a deal it was to them in their own inner world.  You can tell them they’re wrong or you can listen and learn something about the person.  In fact, listening and feeling your reactions to what they’re saying will even teach you a lot about YOU.

If you’re on the receiving end of this situation and being told that you’re wrong, relax.  This other person who thinks your perception is wrong can’t take anything from you.  They can’t change anything about your perception or your experience.  You can listen and learn about their interpretation of events and what it says about them - but remember their interpretation is no reflection on you or the “rightness” of your interpretation.

If you’re on the other end of this situation and you insist on telling someone they are wrong for perceiving things as they do, perhaps you want to take a look at your own motivations:

Why is it so important for you to be “right”?  (Do you have control issues? Do you feel you’ll lose control of something if another person doesn’t concede the rightness of your thinking?)

What do you stand to gain from the other person being “wrong”? (Do you gain feelings of superiority over this other person?)

What do you stand to lose from the other person’s perception? (Do you feel you’ll lose face if their perception is considered accurate by other people?)

Insisting on the rightness of your perception over the rightness of other people’s can tell others that you think your perception of an event is the only one that matters, your life experience is the only experience that matters, your opinions and beliefs are the only opinions and beliefs that matter.  The bottom line is that your perception, your experience, your opinions and beliefs are all YOU know.  We’re all here having our own experience and despite being here together, we’re all experiencing it as singular individuals.  You cannot know these things about other people, but if you listen carefully to their perceptions of events and observe how they differ from yours, you can learn a lot about the person and yourself.

If you can’t listen without interrupting and saying they’re wrong, perhaps you’re afraid to let any perception live but yours.  Perhaps you’re afraid to know what that says about you.  And that’s okay.  That’s just for today.  Tomorrow you can make a different decision if you really want to.  You can decide to listen and realize that by doing so, you’re not losing any ground.  This other person’s perceptions hasn’t changed the singularity of your experience or any of the events that have led you to interpret this event the way you did.  You can both be right and share in a newer fullness of memory.

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