The Veil of Perspective

We seem to be a nation entrapped by our perspectives. And while there are many possible psychological reasons for this behavior, there is one in particular, that severely stifles our ability to move forward as a collective. It is our inability to separate our identities from our points of view.

On a fundamental level we believe our opinions are who we are. So much so, that when someone opposes our opinions we take offense, as if we believe they are opposing us as individuals. It becomes very personal. This is why conversations on politics and religion are so polarizing. And when our views are questioned our first response is often defensiveness regardless of the validity of the questioning. We sometimes mistake inquiry for opposition.

Even the term “opposing view” tells us a great deal about how we perceive our world. It shows that our thinking has become extremely binary and confined by the simplicity of for or against. What would happen if we began to look at other people’s opinions as alternative views instead of opposing views? Could the decrease in defensiveness lead to more open dialogue, and by extension, more comprehensive solutions to our problems?

The first thing we have to do is understand what perspective really is. It is the framework through which we view our lives. It can be likened to a lens that is tinted by a mixture of various data, information, and opinions. This is not a new concept, but somewhere in our history, the glasses have become more like contact lenses, and the separation between the seer and the means of sight has been skewed. As a result, any attempt to challenge the point of view is treated as an assault on the viewer.

To understand how distant we truly are from our perspectives, all we have to do is look at an opinion we held when we were a child, or before we experienced some major life changing event (whether tragedy or triumph). It is almost certain that our view of priority was in some way altered, either in the direction of maturity or regression. Regardless of the result, we began to see life through a new lens.

The problem is that we don’t understand the adhesive that binds the individual to his perspective. Simply put, it is our own egos. It’s the drive to see ourselves as superior, and if not superior, at least, not inferior. And the belief that we hold superior views makes us feel better about who we are as people.

This seems only logical, because you wouldn’t hold onto a viewpoint if you didn’t think it was best. But what do you do when confronted with one that’s better? The rational person within us says to pivot and abandon the weaker view but our egoistic emotions cling to the familiar. The real struggle is not a struggle with those who oppose us, it is a struggle to see beyond the veil of our own perspectives.