When Two Stories of Self Collide

words & photo by Brian Thompson.

We all live in a world of ideas, each of us with our own unique imagining, a fantasy world that’s all ours alone. Our lives are a story, and we are its author. Our version of reality is entirely within our heads, there’s no other way to have it.

Since our thoughts define our experience, how I perceive something will be unlike you. No two of us see the world alike.

Yet despite this, we are all interdependent upon one another. We are each dependent upon the environment within each moment, including all of the people, places, things, and events that occur. It is our relationship with each of these that defines our overall human experience.

If we take a step back, we see that in every situation we encounter, each person has a different objective, each with a different point of view, with each person thinking the moment is entirely about them. In their story, they are the central character, and their plot revolves solely around them.

In such a way, our individual perspectives can often sideline us. They can throw us off track and tempt us to act selfishly, causing derailments in otherwise pleasant situations. When we become too attached to our own opinions we lack empathy to other people's circumstances, and we end up acting without any compassion at all.

We can become ignorant to other people’s sensitivities and needs.

Our points of view can become so vivid in our minds that they appear — to us at least — to be the absolute and fundamental truth. Yet we too easily forget that not everyone shares the same view. If we’re too tenacious with our opinion, then we become like a dog with a bone, unwilling to let go of its gristle, anxious to aggressively defend what it has claimed as their own.

We must remind ourselves of the stories we involve ourselves in. In each moment we should pause to ask ourself, what’s my objective? Is it to simply be heard, or to be proven right? Is it to make someone feel smaller? Is it to defend my pride? Is it to elevate my own ego and sense of self? Is it to somehow further my own gain?

All too often our only objective is to force our point of view onto someone else. Too often we don't have the greater good in mind at all, we're only thinking of ourselves while trying to prove that our opinion is right. But selfish attitudes like this are so incredibly alienating to the other side, no wonder casual conversations can become so confrontational at times. No wonder so many people’s lives are overrun by needless drama, aggression and violence. No wonder we get overwhelmed in feeling like it's us against them.

We need to stop thinking only about ourselves.

We should endeavour to observe ourselves from different points of view and to consider the many differing angles each situation involves. We need to pull away from our selfish minds so that we can gain deeper insight, so that we can bring empathy and compassion into our relationships, and into whatever each moment beholds.

We should endeavour to bring mindful wisdom and compassionate intention into all of our actions.

If we want to enjoy more peaceful relationships, with both our inner selves and the outside world, we need to observe our perceptions and question our resulting conclusions. We must interact with all of the people in our lives, and with our environment itself, with deeper intention, in each and every moment. We must entertain other points of view. We need to see beyond our own wants and needs. We must listen, without trying to further our own objective or gain.

When we become mindful of our mind’s activities, we give ourselves the mental acuity to pause and not act so heedlessly. In doing so, we become more considerate and we react with much less self-centered emotion. In turn, we grow into a kind and warm-hearted person who is not only a benefit to others, but who is a pleasure to know.