A former professor of mine used to say, “What you see depends on where you look”. She was speaking, of course, about the significance of perspective. I suppose it was her adaptation of the philosopher Epictetus’ statement that “Men are not disturbed by things, but by the view which they take of them”.
My professor went on to say that if you are looking for garbage, you will most certainly find it. However, if you are looking for beauty, you will most certainly find that as well. It seems that there is an abundance of both in this world, but the degree to which we focus on one over the other determines how we experience the world: as full of hope and possibility, or as a campaign to make us constantly miserable.
Of course, it’s perfectly normal to become irritated and even angry with certain people and situations at times. However, when carrying around those feelings becomes a way of life, the only one hurt by the constant presence of these emotions is you. It is your heart rate that is racing, your chest that is tight, your time that has evaporated while formulating the perfect retort to someone who has wronged you. Do you really want to feel this way? Probably not.
The author Byron Katie refers to the ancient Chinese wisdom of the Tao Te Ching in her approach to shifting perspective. In her book, A Thousand Names for Joy, she says, “Inside and outside always match — they’re reflections of each other. The world is the mirror image of your mind.” If you believe the world is hostile and will ultimately crush you, your experience of any situation will reflect that belief. People with this worldview often say things like, “Why does this always to me?”
But Katie suggests a subtle, but profound shift to this belief: “Everything happens for you, not to you.” You can begin to see that even the painful or undesirable experiences in life are there for you to learn, to feel something different, or to help you grow and mature as a person.
Try adopting this kind of perspective, even for a day. See if your anxiety decreases and your depression lifts a smidge as you realize there is a lot of beauty out there. You just have to look for it.