about the experience…

northernlightsPresumably, most people would agree that seeing a picture of the Northern Lights may not be as awe-inspiring as witnessing the phenomenon first hand. The same might be said of the Grand Canyon, the Panama Canal, and even Mount Rushmore. But why is that? Why do we put so much weight, so much effort, in first hand experiences? Could it be because we somehow feel we become a part of the grandeur when in the presence of these phenomenon?  Or are we somehow less capable of appreciating the entirety of the concept by looking at pictures and listening to explanations. I’ve often wondered it is more simple than that.  If what we crave is in fact just the experience.  The first hand participation in viewing the Northern Lights or hiking the Grand Canyon. It’s an interesting philosophical concept.  Experience is key to many aspects of our lives.  Our resume, our current job, our parenting, our ability to drive a car – you name it. Experience counts.  Our lives, after all, are a group of grand experiences strung together by the thread of our everyday doings.

Negative experiences should not be discounted either. Who can forget their first traffic ticket, their first visit to the principal’s office, or even how foolishly heart-broken you felt at the end of your first high school relationship? Those were tough lessons, but one’s we all built upon. My feeling has always been that negative experiences provide the framework for which we can appreciate the positive.  In every negative experience there is a lesson, an appreciation for methods that did not serve us well, and an opportunity for growth as we adjust our course.

Both the positive and negative offer something that is real – the experience.

In a personal context, there have been many patients who have overwhelmed my ability as a Vision Therapist and left me feeling negative about myself as a capable professional, but those experiences helped me to grow and adapt my methods and have even provided the courage to share my experiences in this blog – a strength that 10 years ago did not exist. My receiving the COVT of the Year award last fall was further validation that something positive is on the horizon when we immerse ourselves in experiences and make the necessary adjustments as we learn.

Unfortunately, society has guarded us against failure – sanitized our thoughts even, into believing that by calling it something else, failure will cease to exist. Think about it, man used to think twice about crossing a plain out of fear of not being eviscerated by a wild animal, but he still crossed. If he got eaten, he failed.  Today we choose not to take new adventures in money, relationships, or even education for fear of failing; yet the penalties are far less severe. The paradigm has certainly shifted. It’s a bit ironic, but allowing yourself to come face to face with that which may defeat you is truly the only way to understand your own limitations, adjust your plans, and learn from those experiences.

l-skywalkVision Therapy is all about experience.  We could explain to patients all day long how to track an object, how to arrange parquetry, and what should happen to an image when it’s viewed through a lens – but what does that really give them?  A bunch of blah, blah, blah. Our explanations may seem to be the equivalent of viewing a picture of the Northern Lights or hearing a friend describe the Grand Canyon over the phone – it’s just not the same.  Patients need to experience the differences in feeling when their eyes point and focus differently, they need to find the commonalities between four different parquetry shapes, and they need to experience the thought process involved in solving simple and complex problems to truly understand what these things are about. That is how real changes are made and true success reached.   A well-adjusted confluence of experiences, both positive and negative, are the elements needed for real change and true success.

This, friends, is why we don’t offer our patients the right answer. The value comes when they experience it for themselves.


Posted on February 10, 2014, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. So true, Robert! It’s also why our kids think their parents are “right” more when the kids themselves are grown. Trust me, this will happen to you, and it will be a huge “YESSSSS!”. 🙂 Once they experience something for themselves, it becomes very clear why mom or dad appear suddenly smarter. Loved the picture. Jenni


  2. Having had the good fortune to actually see the Northern Lights, I could not agree with you more!


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