Well, it might seem a bit late to post my musings with a photo of a reindeer now that it’s January?! Thing is, I really love the picture and I can’t not use it, so here goes!
I spotted this reindeer at McMaster University while I was on a short break during a two-day Acceptance & Commitment Therapy training I was co-facilitating with Mary Bell. I immediately thought he looked angry (and that ‘he’ looked like a ‘’he.”). Mary thought he looked like he had to ‘go to the bathroom.” Since then, I’ve shown the photo to several people, who shared responses such as: “He looks naughty,” “he looks confused,” and “he’s stubborn.”
Why so many different interpretations? Because it’s ambiguous. There is no right answer. And our normal human brains like answers, so when we don’t have one, it supplies us with one – sometimes true, other times, not so much, sometimes helpful, other times, not so much.
The point is, how we make sense of ambiguous moments, whether it be this reindeer or a friend not returning our text, is influenced by many things such as our mood and our personal history. Our minds have a way of making sense when things aren’t clear, and they often do so by giving us the same old story over and over again.
Often these stories have been around with us for some time, and may include judgments about us, others, or our future, and lead us to behaviors that don’t feel good, or make our lives less pleasurable or fulfilling. If this is happening for you, it may be time to consider seeing a therapist, or treating yourself to mindfulness training – more on that in next posting! Both can help us notice self-defeating or destructive patterns, and choose new behavior when the story shows up.