By Beatriz Craven, Guest Blogger
It’s night. I take my time driving through my neighborhood on my way home from work, looking dreamily out my window at the houses that line the street. The lights shine warmly from within. The light of a TV screen shimmers on the windows as I pass by. I wonder about the stories that live inside these homes. I wonder what the wood and brick would tell me, and I start to get this haunted feeling that I get when I start to get in touch with something much bigger than myself.
I hear a lot of stories in my world. I hear them from my friends and family. I hear them from the podcasts I listen to on my commute. I hear them in intimate detail as a therapist. People ask me if I ever get tired of listening to others but I can’t imagine a day when I would. People are horribly, horribly fascinating when you get to know them. Amazing, really. Even those you meet that seem as though they are in actuality, horrible people, start to make more sense when you get in touch with their story.
Our world today is making it much harder to connect in this deeper way. We live in a society of snapshots: photos and blurbs and comments. It kind of makes sense that we would respond to snapshots with snap judgments. We don’t have the story and so we fill it in ourselves in one graceless swoop. Sometimes we do this in a positive way. “What a hero!” we might proclaim after reading an endearing post. Many times we fill in our stories about other people in a negative way. We might witness someone lose their temper at another person in public and we may think of what a mean spirited person they are. We start to sketch in our version of them when it turns out their life painting might tell us something radically different from anything we ever could have imagined. Suddenly, we might become the mean dope.
It’s so easy for us to make snap judgments. It’s much harder for us to leave room for the story. Social psychology has found that not only do we make snap judgments about others, but we tend to be biased toward ourselves and judge other people’s actions as reflections of who they are rather than due to external, situational factors. In other words, we naturally make unfair snap judgments. We literally have to put forth effort to see the story and to talk and connect and get to that place of understanding and human compassion. So this is the challenge at hand. I’m not sure how many of us actually start the day by throwing open the door and saying, “hello world! Today I will engage in shallow, skewed interactions with others!” Rather, I believe in my heart of hearts that deep down we want nothing more than to be understood and loved. And so if we find that we want a life of such connection, we have to start by how we approach the stories of our world and others. One snap at a time.
Beatriz completed her PhD in Counseling Psychology. She works with college students at Sam Houston State University and finds incredible meaning in her work as a therapist. She is an avid life enthusiast, loving wife, and movie fanatic.
Featured image courtesy Beatriz Craven