In the Right Light
I’d never heard of artist Aaron Rose until I stumbled across him online this morning while looking up quotes on the topic of perspective.
“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary,” Rose once said. While it’s unclear whether he uttered these words in one of his films or wrote it down as part of a book, song, or article, the quote caught my attention.
I liked it because it captured the essence of this writing: that perspective changes based on the light (or the attitudes and opinions) one chooses to see.
The influence of others’ attitudes and opinions on us can brighten or dim our own light depending on how we interpret the way they engage and interact with us.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow and management theorist Douglas McGregor each spoke and wrote about this tendency from a managerial view.
If you think about it, the managerial view implicitly puts someone in control or above of another, which is an accepted practice in American culture and industry, rather than placing them in relation with another. Both men, however, attempted to help managers understand how their influence in relation to others affects the people they engage with primarily on the job, but their theories and advice are applicable to any situation—we are, after all, managers of our own experiences. We're the ones who see our true, individual self in the light cast by those we engage and interact with.
In Maslow on Management, Maslow explained how we all naturally tend to avoid situations where we’re manipulated, dominated, pushed around, ordered by others, and misunderstood. When we are treated in any of these ways, we’re made to feel “like a physical object rather than like a person,” Maslow wrote, which leads us to create negative assumptions that put the experience in an equally negative context. We begin to believe, Maslow explained, that we’re given orders, forced, used, exploited, controlled, helpless, compliant, and deferent as we give into feeling unappreciated, disrespected, laughed at, powerless, and not taken seriously.
In his 1954 essay, “A Philosophy of Management,” McGregor wrote that the “traditional philosophy of management” and the accepted practice of modern-day engagement in certain cultures, if you wish, “lies in the notion of the necessity for docility—the notion that if people would only do what they were told we could get our job done well.”
But “attempting to make people be docile, I believe, is an unrealistic approach,” McGregor noted, adding that “it ignores a fundamental point that most of us know about human behavior…. It is a primitive, natural, normal human reaction when we are frustrated—when we are blocked in attempting to achieve satisfaction of our needs—to kick back, to fight.”
Trouble is, most of us fight our true self by standing in the shadow of negative perception (or misperception).
“McGregor wanted people to look in the mirror and consider who they were and what they believe, a challenge that most people have at the very core of their being,” wrote Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah Stephens in their 2000 book, Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of Enterprise. “Our assumptions are frequently implicit, sometimes quite unconscious, often conflicting; nevertheless, they determine our predictions that if we do a, b will occur.”
So if we adopt an attitude or opinion that we’re being manipulated, we’re going to believe we’re only good enough to be given orders and, consequently, feel unappreciated. Same goes for the other negative dimensions that Maslow outlined, each with its own unique view of disempowerment.
Say we are regularly misunderstood in a workplace setting. If we choose to accept the childish behaviors directed to us and take what's said as a reaction to a personal defect or flaw in us, we subconsciously reduce ourselves to nothing every time we're laughed at and, consequently, lapse into feelings of helplessness, compliance, and submission. If, on the other hand, we choose to view this behavior merely as a reflection of the other person’s own attitudes, beliefs, opinions, immaturities and insecurities concerning control and dominance over others, we can keep our perspective in a better light—or the right light—by learning to work around the person's ingrained issue (as well as with the person too) instead of fighting their issue with our self as if it's all our fault. It's really not.
Our perspective really does change based on the light (or the attitudes and opinions) that we choose to see.
So I think Rose makes a valid point: “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.”