On Gaining Perspective

Feb 19, 2016
Image: Very close up shot of orange rope with dirt on it

Image: Very close up shot of orange rope with dirt on it

As a psychologist, people are always asking me if I’m analyzing everyone I meet or know. What I tell them is that I’m not usually doing it especially because most people don’t want me to. The biggest reason though that I’m not analyzing people I’m close to is because I can’t; I’m too close to be able to see things objectively. The best metaphor I’ve heard is this (and it works best when you try it at home) - hold your hand open and put it close enough that your palm touches your nose and look straight ahead. Now tell me where the palm ends and the fingers begin. You can’t; you’re too close to get a clear perspective. In order to see your hand clearly, you need it to be a large enough distance from your eyes that you can look at the whole picture.

You might be asking right now why I’m telling you this metaphor, and maybe why I haven’t blogged for two months. Here’s why – I just got back from a month in Southeast Asia and today what I’m talking about is the amazing perspective you get on your life when you leave it behind for a little while.

Travel is hugely transformative. When most people talk about why travel has changed them, they often point to the richness of new experiences, meeting people, seeing sights, and being somewhere different from where you usually are. While those elements certainly contribute, I think that a big part of why travel creates change in people is because it lets them see both new things and their usual life with new perspective.

On my trip, I saw some amazing bits of culture and nature. Waterfalls, temples, statues, amazing things that I am so grateful for and of which I took hundreds of pictures. Those experiences were enriching and I am so happy I had them. And yet, what was really the deepest impact for me in my trip was the space I got from my everyday life to see things from a new angle.

My travel buddy and I played a game everywhere that we called “Could I Live Here?” In this game, we would check the cost of living somewhere and see if it was congruent with what we would want from a place to live. On the trip, we noticed many differences, both cultural and structural, that made some of our destinations very appealing to live and some of them unappealing to live. These differences also created a contrast with how the structures and culture are in the States.

For me, I thought a lot about what is important to me and what I want my work to do. I value creating a space for people to explore what makes them happy in relationships and sexually. I like helping people find spaces of congruence between the person they are and what they value. I want to be a part of a sex-positive revolution. I want to support people who have experienced traumatic/difficult sexual experiences find their way back to enthusiastic and fulfilling sexual and relationship lives.

Only by walking away from my life and getting distance was I able to see more clearly what is most important to me. That distance can come from Asia, definitely, but I think we can find space to get some distance without having to go so far from home. So ask yourself, when was the last time you zoomed out on your life and took a good look? Is it still working for you? Is it still what you want?

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