Life Experience

As we are well aware, some things cannot be done quickly. Like making cheese, I suppose.  At any rate, each of us is given 24 hours a day. We do with it what we will. And, as a result of those choices, we accumulate experience. Perhaps we have horseback riding as a hobby, or we like to travel. We may have financial constraints and need to learn how to make do with inadequate resources. However our time and resources get used, we learn, we make mistakes, we move in certain directions, and we gain experience and understanding as we go.

Of course what we learn and how we understand our experience is very much informed by our theories about the world. If we think people are mostly self serving, we will see only that, and if we think that people are mostly altruistic, we will see only that. So even our life experience is not really an accurate reflection of what has happened. We shape and interpret our understanding as we go.

Still, we have life experience, and so do the people around us. We are responsible for reflecting on and understanding what we experience, but we can gain an enormous amount by consulting with the people around us about what they know. We tell each other stories, and we ask each other about what we know. This distributed life experience can inform our judgement and shift us out of our idiosyncratic points of view. If we feel comfortable in owning our own perceptions and secure in our ability to sift through other people’s perceptions to discern what is useful or helpful to us, we can be open to the different ways other people engage with the world.

Of course a therapist is one person we can do this with. We can also engage with friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues. We are, of course, responsible for our explanations of what happens in the world and what it means, but we have the benefit of learning from the views of other people and deciding whether those views would enrich our own. We cannot gather any more experience in a day than that 24 hours allows us. And so we make use of the whole world of people’s experiences as one giant brain trust that gathers information, makes interpretations, and generates meanings. And then we decide what to include in our own perspectives.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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