The only meaning that events or experiences have for us is the meaning we give them. Many times the meaning assigned is based on historical unconscious pain, so it adds to the collective pain. But these experiences are rich opportunities to reframe and heal, as well.
A recent experience brought this home to me. I was lost in thought enjoying a beautiful fall day as I picked up my kids from school. In my reverie, I crossed a busy street at the road intersection, not the crosswalk (which was set back 15 feet). Unaware that anything was amiss, I was enjoying hanging out in front of the school when a man I know slightly approached me to tell me that I hadn't used the crosswalk. Excuse me? He shared that my actions had nearly "caused" him to hit another pedestrian. As if. Please. So, he parked the car, walked over to find me, and proceeded to tell me the impact of my actions on him.
This was a great deal of effort on his part, when he could have simply driven off. My female breeding kicked in, I accepted his feedback gracefully, thanked him for it, and ... steamed silently at his rudeness. How dare he harsh my mellow with his own lack of driving skills. It was a minor offense, I rarely do it, and what's the big deal anyway? He had one tiny moment of discomfort driving and blew the whole thing out of proportion. Jeez, the guy had problems.
I have held this grudge against him ever since then, not trusting him, shooting mental arrows, feeling suspicious and afraid of what other "feedback" I may get from him. He is no longer a benign person in my world, now he is scary and unpredictable. And, I came up with all sorts of new judgements against him - how he was projecting his own bad day onto me, etc. Despite all my efforts at de-personalizing the experience, it still stung and I still resented him.
To be clear, I have had my moments unconsciously and unknowingly hurt people. Thoughtless words leave my mouth regularly. But even knowing this, and how impersonal it is when my careless words wound others, it still felt personal. I couldn't shake the grudge.
This morning I came across two ideas while reading A Course In Miracles:
I surely could use some healing, always.
And, if I see what I expect, then somewhere inside, no matter how much it caught me by surprise, my experience of this event reinforced my view of the world - it was what I expected. That means that inside, I believe the world is disrespectful, judgmental, belittling, condemning - just like him. (And, ahem, like me in response to it. But I get ahead of myself.)
So. With that in mind, what if I reinterpreted the event through the lens of "the world is looking out for me." That's a far more healing interpretation, but could I reinterpret the experience through that lens? In a flash I could see it. This man was, literally, a physical representation of the world looking out for me! The world wanted me to be safe in the intersection! His ways might have felt clumsy, bless his heart, but they couldn't be more clear - my safety.
The difference in how I now perceived him was radical. Now he is a messenger from above, helping to take care of me on this planet. What tragedy might this experience might have prevented for me, as I became highly aware of the crosswalks and use them religiously now. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Or, at a minimum, showing me where I believe something that is painful to me. And, since what I believe about the world directly influences how I experience the world, I behave differently when I see it as friendly versus unfriendly.
It's shifting the perspective that the world is happening to me, to the world is happening for me. Believing that the world is looking out for me puts me in partnership with life. And it doesn't take anything personally - it's just life's messengers giving me messages.
The experience was still completely the same, but the outcome is completely different. Nothing changed on the outside. Nothing. He still parked his car and came to find me. But, now, perhaps I can share a secret smile with the angels when I see him. There is their secret messenger to me.
Maybe. Maybe not. But, one perspective softens me and allows me to see the world through eyes of love (which is always healing) and one leaves me more suspicious, attacking, afraid. And, since we are the only one that can assign meaning to events, one interpretation leaves me a happier, more loving person and one does not. It's certainly worth the effort, right?
So...given the options...why not?
Norma Van Horn