We don’t see things as they really are; we see them as we are. Individuals, the same as cultures, see and think about things in vastly different ways.
It is impossible for two individuals to see things exactly the same way. We literally can’t be any other way. There are no exceptions to this rule. Individual thought systems are unique.
If we understand this both intellectually and emotionally, we will virtually eliminate quarrels, arguments, and misunderstandings.
To expect otherwise creates conflict.
If two people expect otherwise they have a small-scale conflict. When groups of people, or whole nations expect otherwise, we have conflicts of enormous scale.
It’s futile to try to change others, so conflicts arise in two ways:
1. We think others do see things our way.
2. We believe others should see things our way, because we think our way is reality.
Our thoughts and opinions are not reality. They’re simply our thoughts and opinions. Everyone has a separate reality.
To the extent we understand separate realities, we free ourselves from these catalysts for relationship problems.
“Others not only shouldn’t see things our way,” says Richard Carlson, Ph.D., “ but in fact they cannot.”
There is no need to take personally what others say or do. Separate realities are a fact of life.
This doesn’t mean we have to give up our deepest beliefs or opinions. Beliefs and opinions by themselves are neutral. We shouldn’t label specific beliefs or ideas as right or wrong, but understand how ideas are formed.
We can continue to maintain our beliefs and opinions. The difference is that ours and others’ objection to them won’t be such a source of hostility or pain.
Accepting separate realities drops defenses and opens hearts. Growth and compromise are possible. It gives us the opportunity to listen, learn, and perhaps develop new and better ideas.
Growth and compromise are needed in America perhaps as never before. Democrats will never have precisely the same opinions as Republicans. Republicans will never have precisely the same opinions as Democrats.
The key word is “precisely.” Our forefathers understood separate realities. They put into place a set of guiding principles and legislative, judicial, and executive procedures that people of good will can and should agree to follow.
Civil debate, compromise, laws, judicial review, veto, veto overrides, repeals of laws, and individual liberty giving individuals the right to select our leaders or reject them by our voices and our votes.
President Harry Truman, perhaps the most underrated of our presidents, said there is “my way, your way, and the right way.”
How do we find the right way?
A good place to start is to understand and accept the law of separate realities. Listen to the opinions and ideas of others, respectfully present our ideas, and agree where we can.
A return to civility may just save our great nation.