Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Let’s be honest, he said this many times over because IT’S TRUE!
How often have you thought about a situation and become upset, depressed, angered, or hurt by this? While some people are rather good at establishing perspective and can recognize the possibility that other truths may exist, others are not so good.
When we believe only one idea can be right, we get stuck in that idea and in turn, may begin to become frustrated. Our own thoughts dictate our feelings and when we see a situation from a unilateral point of view, we fail to consider the possibility or realm of others and cannot appropriately balance our emotions.
For example, let’s say your boss has taken you off of the schedule one day next week. You think to yourself, how unfair is this? In turn, you become frustrated, angry, and lash out at your next customer on accident. We can see how our thoughts about an event (being removed from the schedule) has led to exceptional feelings (frustration, anger) and then impulsive, aggressive, behavior (lashing out).
Now, let’s consider the skills of perspective-taking. Perspective-taking may be defined as “the cognitive capacity to consider the world from another individual’s viewpoint” that helps the person understand and anticipate the others’ behavior or thinking (Galinsky, et al, 2008). In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) , we often refer to this skill as “Turning the Mind. ” We turn the mind and our thoughts to induce a less emotionally provocative response and thus, we are able to calmly and clearly identify our choices to deal with the situation.
If we go back to our example and take perspective, perhaps we can recognize that our boss may have a positive motive for removing you from the schedule. With this new thought, we may be confused, but are not nearly as angered or frustrated. Because we are calm, we can understand that we may not always like what our boss does, and recognize that we may not always get our way, and that is okay. Now, we have the opportunity to approach our boss in a calm, confident, and cooperative manner to ask about the schedule change.
Turning the mind or perspective-taking is an adaptive response to a maladaptive experience. Perspective taking helps us solve our own problems, reduce negative emotions, and increase our overall quality of life.