I was thinking the other day about how easy it is to “think small,” to retreat into my narrow point of view and become rigid and unable to accommodate other points of view.
It’s kind of like looking at the world with a flashlight and thinking I’m looking at it with a floodlight. Anything outside my narrow beam doesn’t exist or is unknown and so, seems scary. I don’t even know what the world would look like with a floodlight, yet I reject any appeal to see outside my narrow beam.
I think maybe Columbus had a floodlight when he sailed off into the unknown, while all the “flat-earthers” stared straight ahead with their narrow beams thinking he’d fall off. I remember someone saying once that you can’t know what you don’t know. I was puzzled by this statement at the time, but it makes sense to me now. Sometimes you have to put yourself into the position of trying something new, however small, and just find out what new information presents itself.
While I’m crawling around with my flashlight, insisting the world is a dark, small place, others try desperately to show me the beautiful vistas they can see to the right and the left. They even try to warn me of the deep hole just in front, to which I shrug and proceed with the assurance of “one who knows” and fall in. I then incorporate the hole into my worldview, but not the vistas because I didn’t see them, and act as if I’ve always known about the hole … an old hand.
I guess I’m afraid of “newness” because to experience something new I must acknowledge my inexperience. I have to be a rookie even for a minute. I feel embarrassed about my inexperience, and pride prevents me from exposing it.
The simplest way to avoid embarrassment is to avoid going outside the flashlight beam and then justify staying inside it as “the right way, the only way.” So I guess the flashlight beam represents pride, and the floodlight represents teachability, which is synonymous with humility.
Just for practice, I’m going to try to imagine that what I’m seeing and experiencing is only a small part of what’ s available. I’m going to imagine there’s a hundred ways to interpret every event, and my interpretation isn’t always the most accurate.
I might even try to imagine there’s information I don’t have or didn’t process that might lead to different scenarios.
I might try something new today and go through the feelings of embarrassment just to see what I might learn.
• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email by visiting northwestcommunitycounseling.com.