Years ago, a person moved to into a small home a couple blocks way from the ocean. She was thrilled to move there ….She could see waves crashing from some of her windows and she could hear the soothing sound of the foghorn. But the first night she slept there, she awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of dogs barking. Lots of dogs, she thought it must be a kennel. All night long, dogs barking very loudly. It kept her awake for hours … that night and the next night and the next … She couldn’t understand why people were allowing that commotion to go on.
Finally, she’d had enough. One night, about 2 in the morning, she got out of bed, got dressed, got in her car and started to drive toward the sound of the barking dogs. She was going to find that kennel; Not sure what she was going to do when she found it, but she planned to somehow make them stop that racket.
She drove quite a ways, finally to a road than ran right in front of the beach … and found the source of the barking. On a big rock out from the shore were dozens of seals, having a grand time, barking at each other and doing whatever it is that seals do in the middle of the night. They were a long way from where we lived, but the noise carried over the water. She remembers standing there in the dark, looking across the waves and thinking there was nothing she could do. She would never sleep at night again.
But she was wrong … once she knew the noise was barking seals and not barking dogs, it no longer bothered her.
In fact, she found it to be as soothing as the foghorn or rain on the windows, and it would lull her to sleep every night. It was a delightful to know she could not only hear waves crashing but seals on a rock far away. The noise was the same … but her perception of the cause was different and it changed everything.
She kept coming back to that simple truth … the noise was the same, the barking was the same … and yet what had once kept her awake and left her frustrated and angry turned into something soothing, something delightful. But the noise was the same.
I think of this every now and again, especially when I’m faced with someone or something that is baffling to me, especially if it’s something that hurts me or angers me. There might be another way to see this situation. I have found that many people who I encounter in my practice become prisoners of their thoughts simply because they attribute one meaning rather than several possibilities to a situation.