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Jeruba's avatar

"I didn't used to understand ----, but now I do." What happened to change your perspective?

Asked by Jeruba (50618points) April 29th, 2016

This isn’t about algebra or bread baking, of course. It’s about understanding the attitudes and behavior of others. How have time and experience changed your view of things that didn’t used to make any sense to you?

Here’s an example. One Christmas when my late father-in-law was in his last illness, his sons and their families took dinner to his house. I thought it would be nice to cheer things up with some decorations, and so I took along a few simple shiny things appropriate to the holiday and placed them around the living room. My brother-in-law quickly gathered them up and handed them back to me, saying, “Get these things out of here. They just upset him.”

At the time I had no idea why, or even if it was true. I just meant to brighten the occasion a little bit—especially for the sake of the children. In truth, I was a bit bothered to have my good intentions thus thwarted by my brother-in-law. He was also, I thought, unnecessarily brusque, as if I’d really done something offensive.

Now I understand that when you’re dealing with a lot of distress and physical impairment, any change to your environment, anything that disrupts the familiar, anything that you have to cope with just adds to your stress and makes things harder.

What happened to bring about this change is simply seeing others in this state and, from time to time, being there myself. There are times when even the most helpful intervention is unwelcome because it just means one more thing to deal with.

What has changed your perspective on something and led you to an understanding that you used not to have?

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20 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Following whilst I think and ponder.

janbb's avatar

I didn’t used to understand Officer Opie in Alice’s Restaurant when I was young. Then I watched it in my 40s and thought, “What was so wrong? He just wanted them to pick up the garbage.”

canidmajor's avatar

I think the most profound instance of that in my life was going from childless to parent. So many things were suddenly lit up for me, awareness came tumbling over me like (please excuse the cliché) a breaking wave. For example, I used to wonder how people could stand to be chained to diaper changing (before disposable diapers were ubiquitous), and they would say“It’s really not a big deal.” Then I was faced with diapers, and it wasn’t a big deal, any more than remembering to put shoes on is a big deal. Trivial example, but telling.

Coloma's avatar

I didn’t used to understand why some people, as they got older, no longer wanted to have a pet or take care of a yard/property. Now, as I am getting a little older, I get it. The “been there, done that” thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, this isn’t exactly an answer to your question, but it does deal with changing perceptions. I first read The Little House on the Prairie series when I was 12 or so. I read them 3 or 4 times. It was nothing but adventure and excitement to me! So cool!

20 years later I read them again, and I was struck by how much her MOTHER had to endure, moving here and there, trying to keep it all together. I wonder how she felt about it all. That was one hell of a woman.

Buttonstc's avatar

I got a fuller understanding of how truly effed up our labeling system is in society and finally got the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

Most of us are familiar with the statement that sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate issues altogether.

I understood it enough to pay lip service to it but I didn’t REALLY understand it until I became close friends with a transgender woman.

Being post-op and fully transitioned, she now was considered a lesbian since she had always been sexually attracted to women, not men.

During one of our conversations, it was just like a light bulb over my head went on.

Inwardly, she was the exact same person she had been since childhood. After puberty it was clear that her attraction was toward women.

And since she was in a male body at the time, that was considered by society as “normal”

Following her transition, the ONLY thing different about her was her body. Inwardly she was the exact same person. Only the surface had changed.

It would have been strange to expect that all of a sudden she would be sexually attracted to men now. Why? That would make no sense since the inner person was the same.

But all of a sudden (in society’s eyes only) she went from being something normal to “other” Now her label became lesbian even tho she was still the same person she had always been Inwardly.

She herself had never been married but, all of a sudden I understood how difficult our society made things for the spouses of transgender people, (particularly M2F) and why so many ended up in divorce.

Many tg people come out fairly late in life after marriage and raising kids. And the woman married to them gets asked all sorts of questions about does that make them a lesbian since their husband is transitioning to a woman?

Talk about confusing. The spouse hasn’t changed anything at all about themselves. They’re still the same person they’ve always been both outside and inside.

But now society wants to label them as lesbian should they decide to stay with the person they’ve loved for all these years?

It would have to be a very strong and secure person to be able to push back against that and reject society’s attempt to put them into a neatly labeled box and say, “If you want to label me lesbian, that’s your problem not mine. I’m simply in love with the same person I married 20–40 yrs. ago. Deal with it.”

Anyhow, by getting to know my transgender friend, R. , a lot of things about sexual orientation and gender identity became much much clearer.

And our society and it’s need for labels is really screwed up.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

It goes back to when I suddenly knew I’d finished cooking and had become a grown-up. A friend snapped at me for no reason and was very rude. Instead of getting my back up, walking off in a huff, and holding a grudge, I had just one thought: “I wonder what’s wrong with her today.”

Years later, I wouldn’t even try to suggest that I always have the adult reaction. To the contrary, don’t we all have selfish, childish moments? But, it’s nice to know that I’m no longer 100% id and incapable of comprehending.

Despite all this, how unfortunate that your in-laws were so brusque with you. You did nothing wrong and only tried to do a kindness for your FIL. After FIL’s passing, however, when the trauma was behind them, it’s likely that the family didn’t even remember the incident.

ucme's avatar

I never fully grasped the plight of the unemployed butler until I fired one for gross negligence.
He knew damn well I like my buttered soldiers toasted on both sides, his claim for wrongful dismissal was rightly laughed out of court

Judi's avatar

I had something happen here on Fluther and it made me do a 180. I’ve mentioned it before but it had such a big impact it’s worth repeating.
I won’t say that I was quite a “fundamentalist” Christian because I never fully (at all) bought the right wing politics but I called myself personally conservative and politically liberal.
I did have ideas in my head of what “Godly” behavior looked like.
I was commenting on something here and the topic was gay relationships. I don’t remember exactly what I said but it was something like “love the sinner hate the sin.”
@tinyfairy tore into me! She called me all sorts of things but what I saw the most was hurt, and what I felt the most was shame. This encounter, along with a few other things that were happening in my life, including my best childhood friend who I had alienated because she was gay dying, and even a song my son introduced me to completely changed my attitude. I was humbled and as a Christian, I feel it was a God thing, setting me up to learn to be a better person.
I’m still trying to make amends at every opportunity. Me in my arrogance did a lot of damage. I have a lot of amends to make even if I can’t make them directly to my childhood best friend.
And Jeruba, we draped our mom in Christmas lights when she was dying. It was beautiful and sacred. She had a good death

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Paradigm shift; when your assumptions and constructs change. Your viewpoint is shifted or changed by some new information in your example:

“I remember a mini-Paradigm Shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly—some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

“The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

“It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

“The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

“Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.

“Many people experience a similar fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life-threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.

“It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.

“In the words of Thoreau, ‘For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.’ We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.”

(from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Judi I would hate to have TinyFairy tear into me!!!

Cruiser's avatar

I have had to come to terms with the passing of many friends, relatives even the passing of my dad and all those events happened out of my immediate horizon. I am sitting here now in the ICU with my mom knowing her days are few and watching each precious breath she takes….makes me seriously re-evaluate how I will mange my own days ahead.

Mariah's avatar

I was a fucking asshole of a child. I was logical as hell with zero empathy and I never understood anybody’s feelings. I used to ask people why they were feeling a certain way, as if they had to defend their feelings to me. If a feeling didn’t seem logical to me I would dismiss it.

I remember there was a girl in our grade who was almost a full year older than everybody else. It was her birthday and I called her old. She got upset and instead of backing off I demanded to know why she was upset because “old” isn’t an insult (at least, it isn’t when you’re a child). She wouldn’t answer me and I was infuriated because I had just been made to look like an asshole for upsetting her on her birthday with something that I didn’t intend as an insult.

She’d had cancer as a baby. She started kindergarten a year late because of it. Having chemo at that age had had long term affects on her and she struggled with math. She was very sensitive about it. Her being “old” was just a reminder of what she’d been through.

Just one of dozens of stories I could recount of me not understanding people. Now I sit here at 24 with a bunch of shitty illogical emotions of my own and I wish I could take back my younger self’s judgements.

Mariah's avatar

Oh, as for what changed my perspective….age I guess. The part of my brain that can understand emotions didn’t seem to exist at all before puberty and even now it’s impaired. I guess going through hard shit of my own and seeing my own sometimes seemingly illogical emotions develop in response helped.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I did not believe that I could get over the breakup of my friends In university, but I know that life recovers.

CWOTUS's avatar

Ah, you got old, @Mariah. I can dig it.

ibstubro's avatar

I’m just started on the path of understanding the Black experience in America, and the cycle of poverty.

I credit a combination of Fluther and age.

Jeruba's avatar

@Coloma, yes, and also that it can be hard enough to take care of yourself. Being responsible for a pet or a garden is just one more burden. My husband and I both love cats and lived with them nearly all our lives, but after the last one died about 5 years ago, we said, “Enough.”

KNOWITALL's avatar

Never understood Atheism. As many here know. Being raised in the Bible Belt I resented my aunt & uncles trying to expand my mind to their belief systems. After being told here that I was basically indoctinated from birth, and having a few painful discussions with some jellies, I finally ‘got’ it. I still have my own beliefs but now they are adult choices, not the same as many in my area & I’m ok with that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Applause and high five @KNOWITALL!

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