Breaking Free from the Prison of Misperception
Clients usually believe that their problems reside outside of them. The truth is that their perceptions are the problem. It is natural for clients to think that the problem is the job, the family member, and the financial struggle. A false perception is a prison bar, and if clients get enough of them they are in jail. Most of our suffering is because we are in a homemade jail and we don’t know it. We become victims of our perceptions and we don’t realize the assailant is within us. The director’s work is to help clients become aware of this misperception, and to start recognizing how liberating this mental shift can be.
Mike was a client who was a pastor. He was an excellent preacher. He was in a church that had a lot of retired pastors and some professors. Over time, he became oriented to their occasional constructive feedback. He was deaf to the many positive comments he received, and he amplified the comments he heard as negative. They would echo in his mind for weeks on end. He began to have anxiety attacks, and it wasn’t long before this gifted preacher hated to preach. He perceived that a handful of people were sharks that were out to get him. It wasn’t true (I knew a couple of them), but it felt very true for Mike and he became imprisoned by this perception.
Misperceptions imprison us and turn us into victims. When we are victims, we forget that we are a creator, an artist. Artists take raw form and make it beautiful or moving. Artists take strange perceptions and spin them into learning. This ability to shift our perception sets us free, and we have an amazing power to impact our perception and therefore our reality.
My work with Mike was about helping him disconnect from both the negative and positive comments, and to get back in touch with what he loved about preaching. His perceptions changed when his experienced this mental shift: “I started to hear every bit of constructive feedback as evidence that my words were working on people. That God was using me to stir things up. What used to send me into a spin, now got me excited!”
Misperceptions throw a wet blanket over our minds and our lives. Every time we help clients break free from their misperceptions, we help them open themselves to a flow of grace that enlivens them and brings with it infinite possibilities for their lives.