Kathi Whitten, LCSW - Individual, Couple & Family Psychotherapy
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 viewpoint?

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