“BETWEEN PERCEPTION AND REALITY”
One of my favorite clips on YouTube comes from a 2006 press conference immediately following Monday Night Football. Dennis Green was the head coach of a struggling Arizona Cardinals team at the time, and they’d just had the rug pulled out from underneath them by an undefeated yet one-dimensional Chicago Bears team that finished 13-3 that season and lost to the Indianapolis Colts at Super Bowl XLI. The common refrain from Dennis Green’s memorable outburst after losing was “They are who we thought they were!” . . . Or are they?
All these years later, this popular refrain has become a recurring theme in my life. We probably all know of people who we think we have all figured out and know so well. Some of them can never seem to get out of their own way for whatever reason because we have it in our heads that they just can’t help themselves. We think they are the way they are, that they’re set in their ways and that they’re not going to change. To an extent, that may be true. We don’t really know for sure because we don’t always have all the facts. This is where listening for the “untold story” comes in. Sometimes we have to look and listen for context clues and figure out what people aren’t telling us when we talk to them. I’ll admit, this was a bit of a challenge for me at times when I worked in social and human services.
We all probably also know of people who are absolutely convinced that the way they see things is the way things really must be. It can be difficult for some of these people to understand the difference between perception and reality, especially if they have a disability. I know I struggle with it from time to time. I’ll own up to that. My peripheral vision isn’t always the greatest. I feel like I can never be too careful when I’m dealing with other people. I feel like I always need to have my head on a swivel when I’m out and around. I don’t always trust very many people not to screw with me when I first meet them, and it takes me a while to warm up to other people sometimes before I can form an opinion one way or the other.
I’m Italian on my father’s side, and I have a bit of a “mob mentality” because of it. I wish it didn’t always bother me so much when my family and friends aren’t being treated the way they should be treated. But at the same time, I feel like taking things personally is the only way I can ever truly care about anything. I’ll be honest, I was a growing papa bear for a while, and I got a little too feisty for my own good recently. I know I’m not always so easy to deal with and I’m not always so pleasant to be around. I’m just glad I have people in my life that care about me who can redirect me and calm me down when my emotions get the better of me.
Part of my problem is that I often put too much thought into everything, and that can make things overwhelming for me. Not only does it make thinking hard, but it makes it hard for me to think. I’ve always found it helpful having another person help me process things in my head, especially during times of stress and conflict. Many times, a lot of unresolved issues any of us may have can usually be taken care of just by talking things out and thinking out loud. I know I’ve always gotten more accomplished that way.
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