The Art of Seeing People Clearly
How to see them for who they are, not who you expect them to be.
My husband will not dance.
For twenty-five years, I have shared my life with an incredible man; he is compassionate, reasonable, intelligent, kind, supportive, affectionate and calm, (oh, so calm), under pressure. And he hates to dance. I, on the other hand, find few things as liberating and joyful as getting out on the dance floor and feeling the music flow through my body.
Here’s the weird thing. Even after twenty-five years together, there are still times when I head to the dance floor, grab his hand and expect him to follow. And, when he doesn’t follow (d’uh) there are still times when I feel surprised and disappointed — after all, he is my chosen life partner and surely (if the fairytales are true) my chosen life partner would share my love of dance?
Now, obviously my husband has every right to detest dancing, and he has certainly never pretended otherwise. The problem in this scenario is not my darling spouse — it is my own expectations of who he should be.
Expectations have become such an integral part of our relationships, both with others and ourselves, that most of us are not even aware that we have them. Some expectations are inherited from our families and societies; others may arise from our loyalty to a political party, sports team or social group; and some are attached to the vision we have for ourselves and others around us.
But the truth is that each and every expectation we carry undermines our ability to create fulfilling relationships and personal happiness because it limits our ability to see people for who they truly are.
What is expectation?
It is estimated that our unconscious brains are receiving around 400,000 bits of information every second, but we are only capable of consciously processing around 2000 bits per seconds. Therefore, from infancy it becomes vital for our brains to discern which data is important (and should filter into our awareness) and which data is superfluous or not interesting.
In order to filter this information efficiently, our young brains begin to look for patterns in our lives. Oh look, that piece of information is regular — it must be important. That particular behavior is displayed a lot — it must be normal. Over time, this becomes our neural patterning. Our thoughts and behaviors fall into a regular routine (around 90% of what you think today will be the same as what you thought yesterday) and our brains start filtering reality according to our habitual experiences and our reactions to those experiences. By the time we start school, we are beginning to see the world, not as it really is, but as we expect it to be.
For instance, you are familiar with a simple deck of cards. Did you notice that the cards pictured above have the colors reversed? Probably not … because you expected otherwise and therefore saw what you wanted to see, not what actually is.
In order to create healthy relationships we must learn to acknowledge and rise above our inherent expectations.
This childhood patterning is so deep, so unconscious, that it is difficult to notice how it affects our lives and our decisions, but it is an incredibly powerful force in our lives. Without doubt, in order to create healthy relationships we must learn to acknowledge and rise above our inherent expectations and learn to see and accept others for who they are choosing to be. For better, or for worse.
If you want to see people clearly, be aware of these two forms of expectation and carefully observe how they are influencing the way you perceive others to be:
The “Live Up to My Expectations” Expectation
These are the rules, guidelines and Key Performance Indicators that we place on others according to how we have experienced the world, and how we believe the world should be. You will know if you carry these expectations because you will feel disappointed by someone around you, or feel the need to nag, judge and control. These expectations can be overt power-trips (“Come and dance with me, Honey”) or they can be cunningly disguised as good intentions. Be careful — trying to change someone, lift their standards or meddle in their lives (without their permission) is only ever based on your own expectations of who they should be.
Watching someone you love self-destruct or not fulfill their potential can be painful or frustrating but, like everyone on this Earth, these individuals have the gift of free will — they are free to experience life however they choose. And guess what, so are you. If someone is not behaving in a manner that you agree with or enjoy, your option is to accept it or move on.
The “Perpetually Rose-Colored” Expectation
These are the subtle expectations that we carry into our relationships with others; the preconceived ideas that can often blind us to the reality of the situation, and help us excuse destructive, hurtful or unhealthy behavior. You will know if you carry these kinds of expectations because you will find yourself regularly forgiving the behavior of another person or justifying their actions to yourself or others.
This expectation occurs because we all naturally create an “image” of a person, which is based on our past experiences, our future desires and/or peer pressure. Whether it be partners, friends or family members — most of us carry some form of “ideal” about the people in our lives and we expect them to think, react and behave in ways that reflect what we want to see in them (or in some cases, how they used to be). This can entice us to see beyond the reality in front of us — harmful or menacing actions, reactions and words — and can trap us in situations that are negative and unhealthy.
As confronting or painful as it can be, the greatest gift you can give someone is the grace to accept them for who they are, and how they are choosing to express themselves. As Maya Angelou beautifully articulated “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
This is not judgement — it is discernment. It is acknowledging the right we each have to choose our own experience and behaviors. Once you see another person clearly, without the burden of your own expectations or desires, you empower yourself to make better choices about how they fit into your life — or not, as the case may be.
Kim Forrester is an award-winning author, educator and intuitive consultant with over 15 years’ experience as a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher. She combines cutting edge science with traditional spirituality to offer the latest understandings of psi, consciousness and holistic well being.