And what my new glasses have to do with it
I get rather frequent emotional flat tyres.
That’s how I like to describe those times (more frequent than I’d like) when my mood drops and I feel rather slower than usual, and find myself struggling with less savoury thoughts about myself and the world.
(Yeah, being a mental health expert doesn’t protect you from being human, in case you were wondering.)
In those moments, I know it’s time to take my own medicine: I do what I usually encourage my clients to do. That is, I remind myself of the big story that I see life through. What I call my story-view.
To explain what a story-view is, let me tell you about my new glasses.
You see, I just got new glasses for my old astigmatism. I’ve been astigmatic since as far back as over a decade ago, but I haven’t worn glasses much of that time because, well—I was getting by just fine. But I started getting concerned about my sight again recently, so I had a retest and got prescribed the glasses I now wear.
And, man, is there a difference!
To see what I mean, just look at the image below and think about the fact that where I used to see something closer to the “Compromise” image, I now see something more like the “Original.”
Or to put it differently: while everyone was seeing the world in the sharp clarity of 4K video, my view was closer to a YouTube video in 360p (seriously, try it and you’ll see what I mean).
Here’s the kicker, though: I knew it was bad, but I’d forgotten how bad it was. And until I started wearing my new glasses again, I’d also forgotten how good it could be. And even now that I have them, I don’t always remember to put them on.
A story-view is sort of like my glasses and my eyes. We all have our default story-views, the ways we see the world that have been shaped by everything from our childhoods, our upbringing, our experiences, our personalities and our culture. The problem is these story-views, which we take on without realising it, often do us more harm than good, and maturity is really our process of deliberately redefining new stories through which we will view our lives and the world.
The new story-views are like the glasses we put on to help correct the unhelpful ways of seeing things we’ve learned from our old story-views, which are like our eyes.
And like with glasses, we sometimes forget to put on the new story-view.
Re-centring ourselves is really about remembering to put on the glasses of a helpful story-view to replace our default unhelpful one.
Re-centring is really about remembering.
My story-view is my Christian faith: the meta-narrative I took on in my early adulthood as one that gave new meaning and direction to my life. And re-centring myself is something I find I need to do regularly: reminding myself why I chose this story, and what it means to me, and what it means for me.
My favourite writer, Clive Staples Lewis, once wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” That’s a more eloquent statement of what I’m trying to say when I say that my faith, as my story-view, is like glasses: it helps me see things more clearly.
But I also need to remember to put it on.
So every time I pray and meditate on my Bible and hang out with my church community, that’s what I’m doing: remembering. Putting on my glasses again.
And when I have my frequent emotional flat tyres, that’s a reminder that I need to find my glasses again. And when I’ve been leaving them off for awhile, it takes that much longer to find them.
What’s the story-view you use as your glasses?
Whatever it is, it’s only as good as your ability to actually remember to put it on. Every day.
In response to the TGM challenge.