Licensed Marriage and Family therapist Thaddeus Heffner believes each of us sees the world through our own perspective. Because of this, says Thaddeus Heffner, many individuals never progress beyond seeing the world through his or her own tiny window. However, there are many perspectives with which to view life. In this brief conversation, Thaddeus Heffner speaks about the importance of keeping our stories authentic.
Interviewing Experts: When you refer to someone’s ‘story,’ what do you mean?
Thaddeus Heffner: When we see or experience something, we assign a story to it. It’s the way we perceive the things we see.
Interviewing Experts: Is this story always accurate?
Thaddeus Heffner: Not at all. Sometimes the story is accurate, but often we take the sensory input we’ve experienced and translate it in a way that is a huge leap in comparison to what is actually happening, or what happened.
Interviewing Experts: That sounds a lot like paranoia.
Thaddeus Heffner: You could say that. An example I use is when someone sees a group of people who all look at him or her and start laughing. The reality is, they may be laughing at something completely unrelated, but the person is sure they’re all laughing at him.
Interviewing Experts: Of course then, you don’t react well to that group of people because of perception, right?
Thaddeus Heffner: Exactly. I assume they’re talking about me and shut down, so I never take the chance to get to know them. Because of that, I end up isolated and miss out on a great opportunity to meet someone new.
Interviewing Experts: What can a person do to break that cycle?
Thaddeus Heffner: First and foremost is to reframe the way you think. I work with clients all the time to accomplish that.
Interviewing Experts: What does that process look like?
Thaddeus Heffner: Well, in the case I cited above, instead of assuming the other person is laughing at them, I tell my clients to see that group of people as a group who knows how to have fun and has a great sense of humor.
Interviewing Experts: So, for instance you might suggest that he or she introduce themselves to the group of laughing people at the party?
Thaddeus Heffner: Sure. Why not?
Interviewing Experts: Are you saying that part of thinking differently is to begin to see things differently?
Thaddeus Heffner: Right! Not just seeing the situation differently, but also processing it using the logical part of the brain to come up with a more factual interpretation of events.
Interviewing Experts: Do you believe we create these false stories out of fear of rejection?
Thaddeus Heffner: I do. A lot of times it’s easier to make those kinds of assumptions than to get to know people and risk being rejected.