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The Magical Lens to Find Calm

Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, encourages you to choose the magical lens to help you find calm in your everyday life.

You’re getting dressed in the morning.

You brush your teeth and comb your hair. You put on a comfortable shirt and jeans, then chuck on your favorite pair of sneakers.

Finally, you open a special drawer in your dresser: a drawer filled with glasses.

But these aren’t ordinary spectacles. These lenses change the way you see the world.

There’s a whole drawer full of these glasses, all with different prescriptions. We all have them. We all wear them and even have our personal favorites, whether we know it or not.

One pair, for instance, has you seeing the world as a dangerous place. Everything is a potential threat. These spectacles prime your central nervous system for fight-or-flight at every turn. Talk about the ultimate wardrobe malfunction.

Another pair allows you to see the world as a place conspiring to help you. You see opportunities instead of roadblocks, challenges instead of threats, empathy instead of me-vs-you. It follows that your reactions to specific situations will be different with these glasses on.

The question to ask yourself as you finished getting dressed is: Which lenses will you wear today?

How Does It Work?

The metaphor of eyeglasses as personal beliefs is an effective one for our purposes. On the one hand, it reminds us that the way we see the world is not a simple input/output equation. Our perceptions are malleable, as they are experienced through personal filters.

These filters are a combination of conscious and unconscious biases comprised of past experiences, learned attitudes, and even our genetic tendencies and basic temperament.

The imaginary glasses suggest that if we don’t like what we see (and therefore, how we respond), we can change the way we look at things. As the American novelist Anaïs Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” The theory follows that to change our life experience, we start by changing ourselves. Putting on imaginary glasses that serve as alternative beliefs is a practical and fun way to do just that.

If reducing stress is a priority for you, this concept may be revolutionary. Medical authorities acknowledge that stress is a biological response to a threat or perceived threat. This is where those magical glasses can transform chronic stress into everyday calm.

Does it work? Absolutely. You can try it for yourself by investing just a few moments with the steps outlined below. You’ll find in most situations that looking at things through a new lens changes the way you respond before you have a chance to react poorly. You are not only changing your response, you’re transforming the stimulus as well.

Where’s That Gap between Stimulus and Response?

A popular idea in modern psychology is that there’s a gap between stimulus and response. In that tiny gap, there is supposed to be a chance for us to make a better choice about how to respond to any situation.

But more often than not, our responses are instantaneous. They feel and function as if there was no gap at all. This is especially true with emotional reactions to “negative” stimuli. In fact, the brain’s amygdala is capable of determining our behavior well before we consciously understand what’s going on. Unable to widen the gap between stimulus and response, we’re typically left to deal with the consequences of our reactions later.

Those consequences, in the long run, can be deadly. Research shows that high amygdala activity leads to dangerous health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcers.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to improve the way we see things, to begin with? Instead of relying on the 20/20 vision of hindsight, isn’t it possible to start seeing the stimuli in a different way?

Enter your imaginary glasses.

A Prescription for Developing & Implementing New Beliefs

Consider this an ultimate life hack. Instead of trying to change your reactions—which, as we know, are often automatic and unconsciously driven—change the way you see the things that trigger your undesirable reactions. Adopt a new view of the world, then respond naturally. This helps you avoid self-limiting behaviors and habits. It stops the knee-jerk reactions before they even begin.

Most of us spend our lives seeing the world through the lenses we inherited. This is familiar. It’s safe. Choosing to put on a new lens requires conscious effort, but it’s an investment that pays dividends for a lifetime.

These next few steps can help get you started. You might find that writing these down as a journal exercise is more effective than simply thinking about it.

  1. Identify and name an unpleasant reaction you’re having. This could be jealousy, anger, fear, sadness, and so on.
  2. Identify the way you’re perceiving the associated stimulus. For example, “I’m seeing my co-worker as an intentional jerk, through and through.” With the emphasis on how you’re seeing the stimulus, do your responses make sense?
  3. Identify a new way you’d like to perceive the stimulus. What would happen if you saw things this way? As an example applied to the jerky co-worker: “People are rude to others because they’re feeling hurt or insecure themselves.”

This doesn’t mean you have to condone harmful behaviors or settle for things you don’t like. And it doesn’t mean you must accept legitimate instances of injustice or threat. It merely means that you do not have to take things personally. And if you really put on these glasses, you won’t!

It does mean you can start to negotiate the world with more poise, proactivity, and self-support. You’ll begin to act instead of reacting. Your beliefs can help you rather than hold you back. So often, we get trapped by our own limiting beliefs. This process is a simple way out of the trap.

Here are some additional glasses to try out. Just imagine putting on these glasses, then go about your day and notice what happens!

  • Life is an abundance of opportunity.
  • I’m grateful for everything that comes my way.
  • In every moment this is a learning opportunity.
  • We’re all on this journey together.
  • Everyone has a positive intention.

It’s a powerful concept worth exploring—no matter how good your eyesight is.

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