Exactly the Same but Different
Have you noticed how two people in identical situations almost never have the same experience? Have you ever wondered why? Is their individual experience (or, their personal reality) brought about by the situation or is it brought about by them; their thinking, beliefs, fears, values and rules? In other words, the window through which they observe and process the world. On some level, do they create their own experiences? And, of course, the they to which I refer is really we; you and me. Consciously or not, intentionally or not, for good or bad, is it us who creates our own reality? Without ruining the movie so early into the story, you and I both know the answer is yes.
In a freak electrical storm, two blokes have their respective houses burned to the ground on the same night. They are both fathers of two great kids. They both have loving wives and are both in healthy marriages. They both have good jobs and both are financially secure. Fortunately, nobody is hurt in either blaze but nearly all of their material possessions are lost. From the outside looking in, they are both in identical situations.
But then, what do we know?
From the outset, Bloke One – we’ll call him Gary – is angry and stressed. Angry at God for allowing this to happen. Stressed about the insurance payout. Angry at the fire brigade for not arriving fast enough. Stressed about finding temporary accommodation. Or not finding it. Angry at himself for not checking the batteries in the smoke detectors. Angry at the dog for not barking soon enough. Or loud enough. And strangely, angry at his wife for not being more upset about the whole catastrophe.
Then there’s Bloke Two. We’ll call him Kel. His experience was not catastrophic at all. Kel’s over-riding emotions following the fire are gratitude and happiness. Rather than being angry at God, Kel is actually grateful for ‘God’s protection’ from the fire. Unlike Gary, he’s deliriously happy because the most important thing in the world (his family) is safe, healthy and together. He knows it could have been much worse. When Kel thinks about what could have been, he feels nothing but relief and gratitude. Kel comes to the realisation that everything except his family is replaceable and, in the grand scheme of things, relatively unimportant.
Gary is stressed and angry. Kel is grateful and happy. Gary has much to be angry about. Kel has much to be thankful for. Well, that’s what they tell themselves, anyway. They think it, they say it, they believe it and it becomes their reality. Their literal experience.
So, who will you be this year; Gary or Kel?