I found myself doing something very surprising the other day. I was admiring the scenery in Amarillo, Texas. For those who have never been in west Texas, especially Amarillo, let me see if I can paint a picture for you. Let me use my home state of West Virginia to draw a comparison. What Mountaineer country has in common with the landscape of Amarillo is… NOTHING!!! No hills, no trees, no grass, no water, but other than that, they look exactly alike.
So, for me to find any beauty in this part of the country might be a sign of being in the dry, scorching sun way too long. Or, I have let myself fall in love with the unique beauty of the high plains.
Have you ever been somewhere, with someone, or in a situation where you only saw what was negative. No matter how much someone tried to convince you that there was a different, more positive view possible, you were not able to see it. A fancy phrase for this is, “confirmation bias.” This comes up a lot when, for instance, someone has betrayed or hurt you, and all you can see is evidence that the person cannot be trusted. They could do a hundred things right but the one with the bias only sees the mess ups.
There could be several reasons for maintaining a confirmation bias. First, there is the ludicrous belief that if you continue to look at the negative that you’ll keep from getting hurt again. If you admit they might be somewhat trustworthy, then that opens you up for the pain again. Second, the bias can be used as a form of punishment. If you keep looking at the negative and withhold your attention or connection, then one could believe that the other person is suffering a similar pain that you may have experienced from them. You might be thinking, “That will teach them,” or “I’ll show them.”.
Either way, if enjoyment of life and relationships are goals one might have, these behaviors or attitudes keep that from happening. In fact, it sabotages the very things we seek.
So, I walked into the landscape of west Texas already critical and determined not to enjoy any of it. I was able to keep that up for about 20 years. So what happened that might have caused me to appreciate the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the cool mornings and evenings, the tall prairie grass blowing in the consistent wind, Cottonwood trees protecting a lonely spring, and the majestic Palo Dura Canyon with its peaks and valleys?
These were always present, but I was not. I would not let myself go there. If I started to appreciate these things this might mean I’ll have to stay here. So, I would just concentrate on what I didn’t like. Much to my amazement I was not magically transported to the place of my dreams because of my negativity. In fact, I was not only here, but I was now miserable. That was, until I decided that I could choose to appreciate the beauty that was here. I could find contentment where I was. It has been a wonderful change… in me. I have even been able to appreciate the different shades of brown.