Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Perception Deception

I have to thank my personal trainer, Patti, for this insight. Patti is always looking for new exercises (which she thinks are FUN) involving balance and core stability. She's a big fan of the BOSU, which looks like this:BOSU is an acronym for "both sides utilized," which means that you can turn this thing upside down, put the soft round blue part on the floor, then try to balance standing on the flat surface.

Yesterday I was doing a pretty good job of balancing on the inverted BOSU. This feat requires a lot of concentration and focus as the brain keeps sending messages to the legs, ankles, and feet, all of which keep wiggling to keep you upright. Then Patti put a free weight in each of my hands and told me to do bicep curls. After I had done two sets of 10 bicep curls, I handed the weights back to her and jumped off the BOSU.

"I bet it hardly felt like you were doing bicep curls," Patti said.

WHOA! She was right. My brain was working so hard on maintaining my balance that it didn't have time to focus on what my arms were doing. (Actually, it's probably more accurate to say that, when I started lifting the weights, my brain also had to take that movement into account and work even harder at keeping me from falling off the BOSU.) At any rate, my brain wasn't concerned with registering the heaviness of the weights because it just had too much else on its mind.

Do you remember the picture that could be either a vase or two faces in profile from an earlier post? Once you could recognize both ways to see the image, you could still only see one image or the other at any given moment. Even though our brains are amazingly quick and slick calculating apparatuses, they are limited in the amount of input they can process at once.

My experience of doing bicep curls on the BOSU is another example of this. When too many different stimuli are bombarding us all at once, our brain will pick out the most important ones and selectively ignore the rest. Since balance is crucial to a creature that walks upright, my brain put most of its effort there and paid little mind to those 8-pound weights in my hands. Those same weights would have felt a lot heavier if I had been simply standing on the floor while doing those bicep curls.

Thanks for this informative observation, Patti. (And no, this doesn't mean that we should increase my weights.)

© 2007 by Mary Daniels Brown