Are We Seeing the Same Thing?

empathy jenine kenna kindhearted badass mindfulness parenting personal growth Sep 16, 2021
Isn't it really amazing to think about how we can never truly know what someone else experiences?
Spike, my almost 14-year-old son, commented the other night how he wondered if we all see colors the same way.  My answer, when he asks questions I'm not so sure of how to answer, is to Google it.  (Leaving me to wonder how much false information we got growing up by adults who didn't want to say "I don't know," or to pull out an encyclopedia. lol)
A quick search helped us find some answers.  Basically, we don't know for sure.  We understand colorblindness, but beyond that, we're not really sure whether everyone sees colors the same way.
We could both go to a park and describe what we see as green trees, pink flowers, and blue water in the pond.  But in truth, your green could be closer to my brown, or purple even!  It has to do with the number of certain types of cells in our eyes, how our brains process that information, and a whole bunch of other science stuff. 
Remember the gold and white dress? 
I remember waking up, scrolling through Facebook while avoiding getting out of bed, and seeing all the posts about that dress.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand what everyone was so confused about.  Clearly, the dress was gold and white.  When Spike got up, I think he was 5 or 6 at the time, I showed him the picture and asked him what color dress he saw.  He looked at me like that was the silliest question he ever heard and said, "It's black and blue, mom.  Duh!"   
I was so confused!  We were looking at the exact same photo and seeing totally different things!  Of course, I did some research to understand it.  Check out this article if you want to get into the science of it all.
Crazy, right?
Spike's more recent question got me thinking about this on a deeper level...  How often do we assume someone else's experiences are the same, or similar, to our own? 
We take for granted that we all see the same colors, hear the same sounds, taste the same flavors...  We also take for granted that we all have similar emotional responses, appreciation for beauty, reactions to pain... 
When really, it could all be a completely different experience for different people.
I remember being at a funeral for a coworker when I was 17.  It was the first time I knew someone my own age who died.  It was a big funeral, but I only knew the three or four friends I went with. 
About halfway through the services, a woman in the front of the room started bawling hysterically and crying very loudly in another language, obviously overwhelmed by grief...  It was heartbreaking.  Me?  I started laughing.  Hysterically. 
I buried my face in my friend's big, bright pink puffer jacket (it was the late 90s lol).  I was mortified.  I could not stop laughing.  Why?!?  Nothing about the moment was funny. 
When we got back in the car after the funeral, my friends all started laughing at me.  "What's wrong with you?  What was so funny???"  I don't remember my response, but I do remember also wondering what was wrong with me.
20+ years later I now know that I am certainly not the only one who reacts "inappropriately" in some uncomfortable situations.  Hell, Barenaked Ladies sang about it that same year... "I'm the kinda guy who laughs at a funeral, can't understand what I mean?  You soon will..."
My nerves just got to me.  17-year-old me didn't have the emotional capacity to deal with seeing a woman bury her son who was my age.
Truth is, I still have "inappropriate" responses sometimes.  I don't laugh at funerals necessarily, but as anyone close to me can tell you, I make really bad jokes when I get nervous, lol.  Really bad. 
Anyway, my point is that we need to be more aware of this.  That, while we all share so much of this human experience, many of our personal experiences will be quite different from each others'.
How much better would it feel, for everyone, if instead of asking or thinking, "What's wrong with you," when we don't understand why someone else is acting a certain way, we said, "Please help me understand."
Like, when Shea brings me a picture she drew and I have no clue what it is.  I always tell her how beautiful it is, then ask her to tell me about it.  It encourages her to take pride in her work and teaches her how to express her thoughts in a safe space. Whereas asking her what it is might make her feel like she failed to draw whatever thing she was trying to draw, and could discourage her from expressing herself artistically again.
What if we tried to bring that same effort of understanding to all of our interactions?  What if we brought that same level of empathy we so willingly give to a child we love to all of our relationships? 
Imagine if everyone treated you this way?
The world would be a much nicer place.  Because the truth is, we never truly know what colors someone else sees. โค๏ธ๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ
PS- One of my favorite parts of the Kindhearted Badass Crew is how everyone listens hard and truly tries to see everyone else.  They all seek to understand each other, and no one assumes they know what someone else is going through.  It's an amazing group of Badasses with super Kind hearts.  If you've been looking for a place to connect with more people like this, we'd love to have you join us!
By Jenine Kenna

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