We hear a lot about the skill of perspective taking. There are a lot of different ideas about how to teach perspective taking. What isn’t always discussed is that the practice of perspective taking, as an ongoing exercise day to day, can support a person’s ability to expand how they interact with their own thoughts and feelings as well as to consider those of others.
Consider for a moment who you are in the space you are in, right now in this moment. If another person who did not know you were to be in the space with you – what would they see? Can you describe what you look like, without interpretation or assumptions? If this person had never seen you before, how would they describe you?
Now imagine you are your 10 or 12 year old self. Notice what you are wearing. What do you have in your pockets? How do you stand – with your weight to one side? Or with your knees locked? You are looking at yourself as an adult. What thoughts go through your mind? What would you ask if you were your younger self looking at you now? Please do not answer your younger self – step into yourself at that age and ask the questions – without answers. While looking at your older self.
Now let’s jump ahead. Imagine you are 85 years old. Your life has continued on from now, and you have a few more aches, move a bit more slowly. Many many years have passed. Now you are your older self, having lived most of your years – and in front of you is yourself at the age you are now. As the elder you – what do you say to the younger you? What kindness or advice will you give yourself, now that you are 85 years old? Listen for a moment to the words from your older self. Stay silent, as your older self speaks to you about all you have done, and what they offer as words of kindness.
What did you notice about what your younger self wanted to know? What did your older self want to tell you as words of kindness? How are those ideas and perspectives different than what you are thinking about now?
Who you are today, including what and how you think, are related to the current context. These things will change, over time, as they already have. We rarely stop to consider how the current context influences our thoughts, ideas, and opinions – and yet we immediately understand that we think differently now than we did. Or than we will.
If who we are today will change, can we take a look at some of our attachments to our ideas, thoughts, and rules – and consider how and when those will change?
What if that timeline of flexible thinking is shorter? What if we were to always consider our moment to moment ideas in the current context? Well that might be exhausting, for one thing. It doesn’t sound like a very workable idea in and of itself.
However, if we are feeling stuck – or at a crossroads, or in conflict with loved ones or colleagues – maybe that can be our cue to shift our perspective to a week, a month, or a year from now.
Which part of this discussion will be important? Which part of this issue will still be worth committing to?