Changing perspective is a healthy exercise if we want to be empathetic, rational and compassionate. However, changing perspective is not merely about seeing things from the point of view of another. It is just as much about gaining perspective. In other words, our sense of compassion for others need not be the driver for looking for an alternative angle on things. It can help in the pursuit of happiness and a higher level of understanding, too. In fact, simply seeing things another way is good for us not only because it means getting out of a mental rut but because of what we might be missing out on.
In the allegory, this would mean that the cave dwellers would need to break free from their chains. In a sense, altering our perspective on things means breaking free from mental chains.To extend Plato's metaphor in this manner is fair because changing one's perspective takes effort. Most of us are happy enough to keep moving on in our lives the way we always have – especially if we feel a degree of happiness in our current situation. Nevertheless, unless the mental effort is made, we'll never know what lies beyond the cave or what is causing the shadows to fall against its wall. As such, changing and gaining perspective can be seen as the same thing.
It should be said that this new perspective is no mere novelty which only looks pretty – although the image is beautiful. The point of view it offers is mind altering. That is its message, its benefit if you will. The 'Earthrise' photograph captures all of humanity, bar the astronauts on the mission, and shows something that feels so anchored and permanent – our planet – spinning in the lonely vastness of space. If you think that such an image is mind-altering from Earth, then consider just how many astronauts have returned from space missions with a new perspective on life and humanity. This, Grant says, is the so-called 'overview effect' which is a consequence of space travel. It can cause profound changes in our brains.
Fruit orchards Huelva, Spain by Benjamin Grant
Grant has harnessed the 'overview effect' in his work. A creator of images, he takes some of the most stunning photographs captured by satellites above the Earth and uses them to create pictures that are designed to alter minds back on the planet. Whether his images are of the tulip fields of the Netherlands, the olive groves of Greece or refugee camps in northern Kenya, he is exposing us to the truth but not as we know it. The colours, the scale and the perspective – everything is shot from above, as you might expect – gives us a view of the world we might know, but also knowingly ignore. His images offer us the chance to gain insights into the fragility of ecosystems, the plight of fellow humans and, yes, to simply marvel at the beauty of the planet.
If you are looking for up-sides of changing perspective, then increasing your happiness is right up there. If your focus is on something that you perceive to be negative in your life and you come at it from a different angle, then you can feel better about it. What's more, you might even find that it helps you to perform better as a result. This approach is called reframing and is just one way in which you can derive benefits from gaining new perspectives. Let's look at some more techniques that will allow you to feel more confident, less self-critical and to enjoy more happiness.
Seeing things as 'bad' without taking a fresh view can mean that we get set into a closed loop of negativity.For instance, a relationship breakdown can sometimes lead to negative feelings about one's self-worth. However, a changed perspective might be that becoming single is the start of something new. As a result of reframing your view, you might even gain a higher perspective of yourself, embracing the part of yourself which might not have felt room for self-expression within the relationship.
Academics have done plenty of research into the techniques that will allow us to see things in a new light. Read on to discover some of the principal methods.
Copyright Fruit orchards Huelva, Spain: Benjamin Grant Copyright Title Picture: Benjamin Grant Here's his amazing caption to the picture: "Before you even ask, this is indeed a real image of Earth! In August 2015 a massive bloom of cyanobacteria - more than 100 square kilometers - was seen in the Baltic Sea. Cyanobacteria are a type of marine bacteria that capture and store solar energy through photosynthesis. While some are toxic to humans and animals, large blooms can cause an oxygen-depleted dead zone where other organisms cannot survive. Scientists believe that blooms are more likely to form in the presence agricultural and industrial run-off or from cruise ships that provide excessive nutrients for the bacteria through the dumping of sewage. Source imagery: NASA"
Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.
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