Are you a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” sort of person?
Do you tend to notice mainly the negative, or magnify just the positive
aspects of a situation in keeping with your expectations, or can you
look at things in a pretty well-balanced way? Are you able to notice
when people are acting in ways you didn’t foresee? When a situation
really is different from your customary expectations? Can you change
your evaluation of something by letting others share their different
Being able to stretch ourselves to look at more than what we
initially “see” or “feel” about an experience (or believe about the
motivations of others) lets us be more objective and more able to deal
with what comes our way.
Our lifelong personal accumulated experiences with people and events
have led each of us to have a unique way of anticipating and making
sense of out what occurs around us. How we view situations depends on
what we’ve come to expect from others. Your way of seeing something will
not, and can not, be identical to mine because we have led separate
lives. This is true even for people growing up together or currently
living in the same household. There is a tendency to keep expecting from
others what you have typically experienced from them in the past. It is
important to be able to notice when there are differences, or when we
are too restrictive in interpreting situations.
Feeling others as positive and supportive, we’re likely to expect
that in general. But if we experience others as disappointing we may
still expect that from them (or others) in the present, without
realizing it. This may keep us watchful for only certain selective
aspects of situations, even leading to the denial (or minimizing) of
factors that could expand the meaning of what we experience.
This is an important part of successfully interacting with others.
Sometimes people seem to view situations in an expectable negative or
overly-positive way, despite feedback from others or clear evidence to
suggest they are not considering all the available facts. They
stubbornly hold to positions that selectively exclude anything that
might contradict what they already believe. They don’t really want to
grasp other elements of things, because of pre-set ideas about people
and life in general.
It can be very challenging and stressful to view life through only
certain programmed filters, or difficult being around someone else who
does. Psychotherapy can be useful for helping people learn to broaden
their ability to explore alternative considerations or explanations
before deciding on how to respond to situations in their lives. This
tends to promote more effective communication and understanding in all
kinds of relationships—personal, work, or casual, and often a
significant lowering of personal and interpersonal stress.
Kathi Whitten, LCSW Copyright 2006