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What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective

Coming to Terms With Your Delusions“What can you do with a person who says that he is absolutely uncertain about everything, and that he is absolutely certain about that?” — Idries Shah

Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It’s informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.

Fear gives rise to negative feelings: insecure, critical, defensive, abandoned, desperate, lonely, resentful, overwhelmed, aggressive, and so on. These cloud our minds and consume our thoughts.

When we lose perspective, our operational wisdom is gone. We might as well be little children. Everything we know about coping, adapting, and resilience are lost. Small things appear to be much larger and more dire. Stress mounts.

Everything we’ve accomplished in life, the lessons we’ve learned, the hard times we’ve overcome and the ways in which we’ve grown are discounted when perspective is lost. We see it happen around us every day, but we rarely label it properly.

The driver, consumed with road rage, who pulled into the turning lane just to go around us, has lost perspective. Everyone else is stuck in the same traffic and doing something dangerous is only going to save him a few seconds in travel time.

The neighbor, who gripes about the bush on our property line and leaves us a nasty voicemail about leaves in her driveway, has lost perspective. In the grand scheme of things, the five-foot shrub is no threat.

When we’re the receiver of this aggressive resentment, it’s pretty obvious that it’s an overreaction. We were in the middle of thinking about the surgery our elderly father is having next week, then we were side-swiped by their discontent. But we’re guilty of this kind of behavior too, whether we take it out on others or on ourselves.

  • We allow ourselves to be overtaken with worry and soon we’re almost certain that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. We only see what’s troubling us and nothing that isn’t.
  • We become set on a certain outcome: If I just lost the weight… If I could just save more money… If I just had a nicer car… And we are cruel to ourselves when we don’t make it happen.
  • We take things personally and allow insecurity to undermine self-esteem.
  • We back ourselves into a corner and forget the bigger picture. We’re so obsessed with our next project, our next assignment, our next big challenge, that we forget to appreciate all that we’ve already accomplished and to show gratitude for what we already love. We forget the right now.

A loss of perspective makes us say and do things we may regret because it’s a complete loss of our personal experience. It’s lacking all the wisdom we’ve worked so hard to cultivate. What’s the point of worry, stress, and perfectionism if we’re not growing wiser? And what’s the point of wisdom if we can’t use it when we need it the most?

What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective

Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review. She is also the cohost of the podcast Excuse Me, I Have Concerns where she discusses personal boundaries, personality and other psychology topics.


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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). What You Really Lose When You Lose Perspective. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-you-really-lose-when-you-lose-perspective/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.