A Review of Perception and Lens Therapy
The man stands on the corner of Doom and Gloom, repining to the empty sky. “I am a failure, a moron, a worm. Everything I touch turns to rubbish, I am useless and worthless.”
The ophthalmologist, walking home from work, sees the man there, bearing his soul to the infinite blue. Curious he walks over, listens to the ongoing diatribe of defeat and then says, “Excuse me, sir, may I see your glasses?”
The man slows his moan, looks in surprise, and shakes himself slightly. “Huh, what’s that?”
“Your glasses, please, let me see your glasses.” Slowly the repiner removes his spectacles and hands them suspiciously to the black-suited fellow.
“Uh-huh, hmm, yes, sure enough, just as I thought,” the ophthalmologist mumbles to himself, turning the wire frames back and forth in his hand, eyeing them speculatively. “Victim lenses, counterfeit,” he mutters.
“What’s that you say?” whimpers the wounded, still suspicious of this stranger and really wishing he could have his glasses back. He feels naked, blind, and suddenly vulnerable without them.
“Victim lenses. You have victim lenses in these glasses, as I feared.” He returns them to the confused fellow, steps back, and says, “You really need to see me in the office. You see the world through the lenses of a victim; everything’s clouded and warped. You should get that fixed.”
* * * * *
Our Lenses Are Crafted in the Past
We all have lenses through which we see the world: how we were brought up, our early childhood influences, and our experiences all affect our perception of and reaction to life. We can tend to see things through lenses of positivity or lenses of negativity. There are victim lenses and victor lenses; courage and cowardice lenses; lenses of failure and success. We can live our lives viewing ourselves as adequate or inadequate; worth something or worth nothing; lovable or unlovable.
We often see God through lenses given us by our fathers. If they were stern, hard men, who ruled with an iron hand, we tend to see God as a stern figure, happy only when we are toeing the line just so, when everything looks good, when all hairs are in place. This can be a difficult lens to change and often persists across a lifespan. We may see all women as being like our mother. If we were bullied in school by boys bigger than us, all men may present a threat. Our lenses are shaped by our experiences, our vision scripted by these counterfeit ophthalmologists.
How Lenses Affect Our Lives
If our lenses are blurry and warped by the past, we can imagine what happens. We won’t see straight. Our perception of life and the world we live in is hazy, misleading, and untrue. Instead of finding fulfillment and joy, we believe our erroneous core beliefs and wallow in shame. Instead of making good choices and being successful in relationships, we tend to be reactive and distrustful of others. If we possess the lenses of a victim, often our distracting dysfunction, besetting affliction, or destructive and pernicious addiction becomes our identity and we become stuck or blocked. Perhaps we “enjoy” seeing the world through those lenses; that hazy, unclear image simply becomes our comfort zone. Instead of a clear view, we see the world in grayscale.
If a young girl is sexually abused, her lenses will be profoundly affected. She will likely view herself with a sense of guilt; she will see herself as dirty and shameful, not to mention unworthy of love. Her future interaction with men will likely reflect her abuse experience in some way. She is at high risk of seeing the world through the lenses of her abuse.
A boy needs his father’s presence, delight, and affirmation. When this is missing, that young boy, depending on his biological predispositions (some boys are more sensitive than others), will also view himself as being not worth the time, useless, and lacking what it takes to be a man. This has implications as to how he will perceive God and his brethren and will directly affect his future relationships.
We can even develop lenses secondary to trauma that happens later in life. I have known individuals who have suffered motor vehicle accidents, a sudden illness, or even heartbreak. Suddenly their world has changed and they perceive their surroundings as no longer safe, but rather to be feared and avoided. Fear, anxiety, and depression warp their lenses enough to cause dysfunction and disorder.
Lens Therapy – Changing the Way You See the World
In our practice a couple years ago we coined the phrase lens therapy. We use this analogy to help people understand the way they see the world. It has been said that if we change our beliefs (perceptions) about ourselves, we will change how we view the world and everything in it. This is true. This is a part of lens therapy: understanding, first of all, what sort of lenses we are wearing and how they affect my perception of the world around me. How do they affect my relationship with my wife, my children, and my brethren? How do they affect how I feel about and view myself? Do they cause undue disorder and chaos in my life?
Once we can answer those questions honestly, we must then seek insight and understanding into the things that have influenced the lenses we wear. This often takes a journey to the past and the dark places in our lives. In order to do this, we must be surrendered and committed to the process. Lens therapy can be painful.
New Lenses – Practical Applications
We do not have to see the world through the lenses we’ve been given. We do not have to remain prisoners of fate, destined to live our lives with cloudy lenses, constantly tripping over ourselves and others. New, fresh, clear lenses are available. However, it takes strength and commitment, brutal honesty, and introspection to reach up, take off those warped lenses, and put on a different pair.
In the practical application of lens therapy, we may need to close our eyes and envision ourselves wearing a pair of glasses. If I am a young man questioning my manhood or I feel like a failure or a loser, I will need to imagine taking off those glasses with their dirty lenses and replacing them with the lenses of a warrior and a king. Think of what those attributes represent: a warrior is someone who embodies courage, bravery, and discipline. A king represents someone who is willing to lead, to make hard decisions, to take responsibility. Close your eyes, reach up, and replace those glasses with fresh lenses. Take off the old ones and throw them away. Now look at the world, not through the lenses of a failure, but rather of a king. What does it look like now?
Young lady. You may see the world through the lenses of shame. Perhaps you see yourself as unlovable and dirty. Reach up, take off those lenses, and replace them. You are a child of the king, beloved of the Father God, and worthy of life and love. Throw those old lenses away.
Perhaps our past is not a factor. For whatever reason we may simply need a more positive and thankful outlook on life. There are lens exchanges for this too. We need to reach up, throw away the unthankful and negative lenses, and ask God for help to see things in a better, more realistic light. Seeing the world through the lenses of gratitude can be life changing.
Understanding Other’s Lenses
A slight modification on personal lens therapy can be helpful: How about we put on our wife’s glasses for a second. Consider how she sees the world through the lenses she’s been given; how do things look from there? Does it help us understand her actions and reactions better? Or maybe we need to try on the lenses of the one sitting next to us in church, the one with that continual and ongoing struggle, the one we work with, the young man or lady who struggles with crippling anxiety, the youth guy with no father. Attempting to see the world as they see it and understanding a little of what has shaped their lenses can ignite empathy and compassion. The better we understand their prescription, the better able we are to help them change it.
The Divine Ophthalmologist
Even though we ourselves play a crucial part in lens therapy and in changing our view of the world, ultimately the most effective and long-term sustainable lens exchange comes through God. He is the eternal and all powerful Great Ophthalmologist. As we recognize our need and become uncomfortable with the blurry vision, we must also accept that He holds the power to transform the mind and vision of the true seeker. We will no longer see men as trees walking. We will no longer see ourselves as a failure but rather as strong and worthy through the Father God who created us in His image. He takes us from the corner of Doom and Gloom and plants us on the highway, the highway of Gratitude and Joy.
* * * * *
The ophthalmologist steps into the exam room, smiles and hands the man a new pair of glasses, fresh lenses installed, clear and bright. “Here,” he says, “try these.”
After much reticence and reluctance, the fellow relinquishes his old spectacles and agrees to try the new. He slowly puts them on his face, blinks rapidly, and begins to look around the room, his gaze covering the pictures on the wall and finally moving out the window, towards the distant mountains.
“So I am worth something then,” he murmurs to himself, amazed and delighted. “I am worthy of love and friendship? I am not a failure even though I’ve failed?” The specialist just stands there, watching, smiling, and saying nothing.
(Readers ask me if they can forward these articles. The answer is yes, you are free to comment, criticize, subscribe and forward).