As I watched the first presidential debate and the ensuing commentary, I began to analyze the human dynamic unfolding before me. What I saw was an exaggerated, dramatic, extreme example of what is part of our human nature and what I notice in particular with my divorcing clients.
Here it is in a nutshell: We see what we want to see, not necessarily what actually is. Just as we see whichever candidate we support as preforming better and telling the truth, we see our own reality as the accurate one in contrast to whomever we are disagreeing with. The higher the stakes, the more tunnel vision develops. Whether in politics or in a personal feud, our perception is often too black and white and not nuanced as the truth actually is.
In following the post-debate commentary, I noticed that depending upon who is reporting and who is viewing, even seemingly objective measures completely conflict based upon human perception, including fact checks and polls. Similarly, each divorcing client brings forth evidence of his/her perspective which is believed to be compelling and indisputable by that client and his/her supporters.
Let’s take this phenomenon a step further into the post-divorce world of dating and in fact, into the entire sphere of “looking for love.” Here as well, we see what we want to see during our initial dates and not necessarily what in fact exists. For example, when we are in the throes of physical attraction and our own needs and desires, we often dismiss our inner voice in favor of the reality that we wish to create, ultimately leading to disappointment when the truth reveals itself. This phenomenon often brings clients to coaching due to frustration with the dating experience.
So, what can each of us take home from this debate experience and its dramatic expression of human nature? Let’s each make an effort to be more conscious of our tendencies to see what we want to see when we are evaluating politics, relationships, or another person’s perspective. Let’s keep in mind that almost nothing is purely black or white, no matter how clearly we initially see it that way. Let’s check in with ourselves around our own “alternate reality” so that we can make wiser and more insightful choices in all aspects of our lives; political, personal, and professional. If we don’t become more conscious of our human tendencies to see only what we want to see, aren’t we really becoming more like the supporters of whichever presidential candidate we are criticizing?