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Shift Your Perspective – Look for the Helpers, Look for the Bigger Picture

Shift Your Perspective – Look for the Helpers, Look for the Bigger Picture

Fred Rogers, the beloved host of PBS’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, advised his young viewers to “look for the helpers” any time they experienced or witnessed a tragic event – a building on fire, homes swept away in a devastating flood. There would always be people helping – bringing food, offering a place to stay.

And looking for the helpers helps shift our perspective on an event – the perception and reaction – from overwhelm and powerlessness to the reassurance of gratitude, compassion, and hope.

We may be struggling mightily these days to comprehend and cope with a seemingly rising tsunami of tragic events – the inexplicable shootings in a local school, church, synagogue, the heartbreak of families of refugees fleeing their homeland devastated by war or famine, election results sometimes helpful, sometimes downright incomprehensible.

Looking for the helpers isn’t the only way to shift our focus from an immediate crisis to the larger picture, but that shift – from the immediate and narrow focus to the larger picture, a larger view – is absolutely part of our resilience, training ourselves to respond flexibly to whatever is happening, whether we understand or like what is happening or not.

Three resources to practice shifting perspective, that can stretch our perception and expand our perspectives in ways that can be even delightful:

Zoom – a charming children’s picture book published by Istvan Banyai 30 years ago.  Images, one after the other, zoom out from the smallest part of a small animal’s body to that animal in a barnyard watched by two small children in a farm house to a view of the entire farm that is really a model toy set played with by a young girl who is really on the cover of a magazine held by a young man dozing on a cruise ship that’s really an advertising poster on a city bus that’s really an image on a TV being watched by a cowboy in Arizona who is really an image on a postage stamp on an envelope addressed to a tribal chief in the Solomon Islands….By the time we zoom out to an image of the entire earth receding in dark, empty space, we have experienced our perspective shifting again and again and again. We come to realize every perception of an event is one small perspective embedded in larger and larger perspectives, all the time.  Each one is true; each one is part of a larger, bigger picture.

Powers of Ten – a 9-minute film created by Charles and Ray Eames 40 years ago. The film starts by viewing a couple having a picnic, then zooms out by a power of ten– 1 meter wider and higher, 10 meters wider and higher, 100 meters, 1,000 meters (1 kilometer) etc. every ten seconds. We zoom above the picnickers to see a freeway on one side, a sailboat harbor on the other, then Soldiers’ Field and Lake Michigan, then the sprawl of Chicago, then the entire system of the Great Lakes in the Midwest, then the entire earth floating in space, on through our solar system, the spiral of the Milky Way galaxy, to the empty space of remote galaxies 100 million light years across. 

Zooming back to the couple lying on their picnic blanket, to the surface of the man’s hand, zooming in by powers of ten, through the skin into a blood vessel, into a white blood cell, into the nucleus of the cell, into the double helix of the DNA of the cell, into an atom of carbon, into a single proton [as far as the technology of the time could go].  Again, practicing shifting perspectives strengthens our capacities to do so, to hold multiple truths in one gaze.

What Story Am I Believing Now?– an audio recording of an exercise from Resilience in identifying common, repetitive perspectives we have, and practicing letting them go, letting them shift.  Part of the response flexibility essential to our resilience.

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