How To Step Back and Maintain a Larger Perspective
Image by eslfuntaiwan 

Narrated by Marie T. Russell

Video version of this article

When I see clients in-person for therapy, and they are not feeling well, the first thing they blurt out is "I have a sore throat" or "I've been sick for a week."

It's not, "I've had a good day" or "Those flowers in the vase are beautiful." They are focused on their physical ailment. Our askew physical state often dominates our awareness. 

Likewise, if someone lives with "depression" (or any strong feeling), and I ask them how it's going, they talk about feeling depressed. If I persist and ask them to talk about good things that happened since I last saw them, they discover that indeed many positive events have transpired. However, they are so consumed with how they feel, and the accompanying negative self-talk and negative outlook that they've lost sight of the reality of the present moment and what's going well in their lives.

When we obsessively focus on something that is, or isn't, within our control, it can feel like we're carrying a giant boulder on our backs. Instead, we need to treat that one aspect of our lives as small rocks in our pocket so we can stay rooted in thinking, speaking, and doing things that promote joy, love, and peace.

For our own peace of mind, we need to maintain the larger perspective.

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Why We Lose Perspective

What is driving our perceptions so they dominate our awareness? According to Attitude Reconstruction, it's the emotion of fear. Fear takes our thinking in four ways, which I have named our fear-based core attitudes.

The Four Fear Core Attitudes

  1. Living in the future or past
  2. Overgeneralizing
  3. Losing sight of what is true
  4. Attempting to control

Do any of these four mental tendencies sound familiar? If so, it means you've got unexpressed fear in your body that's keeping you from feeling peace. My unsolicited suggestion is that you need to increase the practice of shaking and shivering to let the pure emotional physiology move out of your body. We usually do the opposite, and tense up and try to hold on. See the video at the end of this article if you need a refresher about how to constructively move your trapped fear energy. Dealing with the emotion physically and naturally allows us to think more clearly and keep the broader view.

More Ways We Lose Sight of What is True

Today I'm addressing an aspect of the third core attitude – “Losing sight of what is true” -- and that is, not maintaining a healthy perspective.

For example, if you find yourself feeling frustrated about almost everything, and instead of enjoying a conversation, you are waiting for your partner to stop talking because you disagree with what he is saying. Your frustration is taking center stage and becomes that big boulder you are carrying. Your emotional state causes you to negatively misconstrue the reality of what is going on right now. You forget and miss the larger picture. You love him, and his viewpoint is as equally valid as yours. You are just feeling frustrated right now.

Being wedded to your wristwatch, rushing and getting impatient, stops you from enjoying what you are doing right now. Getting to the ballpark late shouldn't overshadow the excitement of watching your son or daughter play soccer. If you're going to be late, make a mental note about how you can leave earlier next time and focus on the fun you'll have when you get there. Don't let the "bad" mood you've created within yourself dominate your experience in the moment, or for the rest of the day.

More examples of losing perspective are when you get wrapped up in things out of your control, such as: politics, excessively worrying about the Covid situation, or Headline News that triggers your worrying. In these cases, you can lose your balance and peace of mind. These negative distractions cause you to lose your ability to focus on what is aligned with your deepest values and purpose.

I'm reminded of the great line towards the end of the movie Casablanca. Rick says to Ilsa:

"I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

The Prescription

Stepping back and keeping perspective helps you to not get overwhelmed and stops you from dwelling on things in the past, present, or future. You'll find you worry less if you choose to focus on what you can control right now, rather than what you can't.

The opposite of fear is peace. That is precisely what you will experience when you realize this moment is the only time you have. Do your best to enjoy it and find the positive or humorous in your current situation. Lightheartedness improves with practice. Whether you are religious or not, this serenity prayer by Niebuhr is relevant to helping us maintain perspective:

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This strategy calls for giving up what you negatively dwell upon –and it's admittedly not easy to change. As I mention, the best way to start is to admit that you're being run by your fear: shiver, quiver, tremble it out of your body and refocus on the larger picture.

Write down what's truly important to you and refer to it daily. So remember, KEEP PERSPECTIVE. Articulate your highest vision for yourself and align your thoughts, words, and actions with that. That means, do what you can, surrender the rest, and enjoy the cosmic play.

©2021 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.

Book by this Author

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here.

About the Author

Jude BijouJude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at

Video about "shivering" mentioned in the article:
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Video version of this article:
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