A few months ago I roped my husband into an experiment on interpretation. When he would say something of his experience that I disagreed with as being true or real I asked him on a scale of 0-10 how true the thing he said/thought/observed was for him.
One time the situation involved how full/empty the restaurant was when we arrived versus how full/empty it was when we were having the conversation. Another time it involved something he thought to be true about the actions of one of our kids as compared to what I thought to be true in the same situation.
Any time I asked he’d answer the question with a 10. I’d compare that to how true what I thought/said/observed was for me—also a 10.
We were looking at the same situations but seeing them differently. Not just difference-of-opinion differently but difference-of-reality differently.
Interpretation is the meaning or “true-ness” we assign to something that is said, done, or observed. It can be a real troublemaker, as it keeps us stuck in thought patterns and feelings that stop us from showing up as our best selves and connecting to others more deeply.
Many years ago I got upset at a teammate/coach of our co-ed softball team for what I interpreted as blatant sexism on his part. Standing in the dugout during our first game, I became downright angry as my husband told me to be quiet because I was starting to make a scene. Not only did I then make a scene, but I did so because I felt invalidated and saw him as not being on my side, thinking I was exaggerating the situation, or maybe even believing that I was making it up all together.
I stormed out of the dugout, spent the rest of the game sitting in his truck, and never returned to the team.
A week later my husband had a conversation with this man in which he called out his sexism. (He actually admitted to feeling that way and explained to my husband where it came from.) As it turned out, while I’d been thinking my husband didn’t care, he actually did—he cared about me. He was on my side, my team. So much so that he initiated a discussion not at my request but on my behalf and then quit the team sponsored by the company he owned.
Living A Course in Miracles describes perception as “the process by which we give meaning and value to what we see, hear, or think. It is a reflection of our own thinking. Perception is a mirror—not a fact.”
A Course in Miracles (on which Living A Course in Miracles is based) says, “Projection makes perception and perception means interpretation.”
My thoughts during the game told me my husband didn’t care, was dismissive, and wasn’t on my side. What I saw in return was just what I’d projected. And then I interpreted it as reality.
We superimpose our interpretations on the world, thus, believing that what we see is reality. –Living A Course in Miracles
What would I do differently if I were in this situation today, 12 or 13 years later?
I would tell myself that it’s OK to be angry. I would tell myself it’s OK to feel dismissed and unimportant and less than. I would own my thoughts. I would know that whatever feelings I was having were a result of my thinking and not something outside of me. I wouldn’t be as concerned with what my husband was thinking and at the same time I’d assume the best of him. I would rationalize the coach’s words as being rooted in conditioning and/or painful life experiences. I would feel compassion for him. Maybe even love.
And then I would play.
Mostly I would play.
For love of the game.
Because softball was what lit me up from ages 7 to 18.
To see the lineup hanging in the dugout with A. Kim (me) batting 3rd and A. Kim (my husband) batting 4th.
And out of immense gratitude for what he and I could share.
Instead of my thoughts, my interpretations, depriving me of joy.
When we stop projecting our perception, we experience Oneness. Only then do we experience true empathy, only then can we be truly helpful. –Living A Course in Miracles
Want to work through interpretations that are causing you suffering, distancing you from those you love, or making you lose out on life? Schedule a complimentary coaching session.