Photoshop for the mind

photo-20I used to think that filters were a Bad Thing. By filters, I mean those ones you access when you hit edit on your camera phone, and suddenly your distinctly average photo looks all funky, or vintage or something other than it actually was to start with. I thought they were just another way of making things appear better than they actually are, giving a false impression. Pretending to be something they’re not. In my mind I’d equated them with photoshopped fashion models, and unrealistic body image and all sorts of societal ills. And I always felt a bit icky about the fact that I love using them on my distinctly average photography. A bit like I was leading the viewer astray – because guess what? – my kids, and my life are not actually as whimsical as they sometimes appear on facebook.


Until a weekend of life coach training awakened me to the power of choosing a different perspective. And suddenly my photo filter habit didn’t seem quite so icky after all, and actually started to make a whole heap of sense. My phone gives me a whole series of options and it never ceases to amaze me how some of my shots are suddenly brought alive by a particular filter. How the entire mood of the image shifts as the filter is applied to it. How something distinctly average becomes exciting, or intriguing, or something it absolutely didn’t appear to be before the filter was added.


So, how awesome would it be to be able to pop a filter over our lives? How awesome would it be to be able to choose an alternative way of looking at a single event? The exciting news for me is that it’s absolutely possible. You don’t even have to have an app. You already carry a kind of Photoshop for the mind around with you – you can edit your own perceptions.You’re in the driving seat. You call the shots.


Say today. I have a poorly husband, I may even be getting sick myself, and it’s the arse end of the summer holidays. There is much to test me. There is much about this situation that could tip me into a dark and resentful space. The universe has malfunctioned and inconvenienced me, and left me with the lion’s share of everything to do in the house, and with the kids and all their energies and questions. I have some pretty well established ways of responding to this kind of minor domestic challenge, which all involve resentful stomping around the house, a short temper, and a huge dose of “poor me”.


But let’s say I give myself permission to temporarily test out a different filter on this scenario. Say I understand that the resentful stomping is counter productive, and only succeeds in making everyone jumpy and miserable in my presence (which it does). And say I choose to spend a bit of time focusing on the first thing I see, which happens to be my youngest son’s beat up shoes (we were walking to dog at the time). And in my mind, I am quickly transported somewhere else. Because I love his shoes. They are always the smallest, and while he’s still small, are the cutest in the house. And as I let my mind wander, I get thinking about how awesomely hard he wears those shoes. How he pounds the hell out of them on a daily basis in his absolute 5 year old determination to keep up with his big brothers, come what may. And before I know it, I am smiling to myself as I think about the way he utterly and completely gives every bit of himself to his running. How he pumps his little arms and legs. How he reserves nothing of himself, and gives it his all. And as I am filled with admiration for this little determined guy, my own sense of determination is triggered. As I imagine his little power-house of a run, I am starting to feel energised and determined myself. Unknowingly, he is inspiring me into action. The very thought of him helps me access a part of myself that felt terribly far away a few minutes earlier, as I contemplated the challenges in my domestic sphere. In a remarkably short time, I am in a different head space entirely. Suddenly, by embodying my 5 year old’s determined vigor, my to-do list starts to feel like a possibility again. My weariness and sense of defeat becomes something altogether more energised. I realise I am walking faster. The heaviness in my bones has lifted. I am inhabiting his 5 year old optimism. I am borrowing from his apparently limitless energies.


It’s so simple. But so effective. And in any given moment there are a million different filters you can try on for size. In this kind of thought experiment, you can try out as many as you like.


Give it a go. When you’re next in struggle, set the struggle aside for a few moments (I promise it’s not going anywhere), and pick whatever catches your eye, or pops into your mind, to focus on. Spend some time seeing where that thing, however innocuous, may take you. There’s no right or wrong about it – just daydream away and let it take you there. If it’s not working for you, or its taking you back to your struggle, ditch it and choose something else. But once you find that thing that works, go there fully in your mind. Enjoy it. Roll it around in your brain. Have some fun. And only once you’re really feeling it, let your mind go back to your struggle. While the facts will undoubtedly still be the same (my husband is still poorly and it’s definitely still the arse end of the summer holidays) have a look at what’s changed. In all likelihood there will be a glow, or a sense of peace, excitement or possibility that wasn’t there before you tried that filter on. In my case, an energy that was sorely lacking, had appeared as if from nowhere.


Dare to hit the edit button in your mind from time to time, and pick a filter. Watch a drab day turn into something altogether more appealing, a problem become a possibility….

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