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'Boyhood', art, & the importance of perspective

From time to time we all get wrapped up in the daily grind, and overly focused on problems, worries or insecurities. Me too – guilty as charged. But occasionally something happens that makes you stop and think. Perhaps an event outwith the norm that gives you a jolt, and helps you (or forces you) to step back from things a bit, lift your eyes, and look around.

This is all about getting some kind of perspective on your life, on where you are and on what you are doing, or are trying to do. I can’t talk up the value of this enough - perspective is a hugely beneficial thing, for your psychological frame of mind, as well as for your general health & wellbeing. Getting perspective can also help you focus in and be more productive when you do return to the grind and get your eyes back down on delivering whatever line of work or activity that you are involved in.

As a culture, I think we in Britain are particularly bad for not stepping back enough, taking stock, and getting perspective. I have met and worked with countless dozens of people, often in high powered and demanding professions, who simply do not do this day by day or week by week, and it comes at a cost to their productivity, mood and general health.

The reason I write about this now, is that I was able to get some healthy perspective the other night, through a visit to the cinema. I went to see the Richard Linklater film, ‘Boyhood’. I am no film critic, but in my view it is a rather beautiful work of art, and an incredible accomplishment of filmmaking. Without wanting to go into specifics, the film was made by Linklater, and the same group of actors, over a period of 12 years, following the story of a boy growing up within a broken and complex family system.

The film, as well as literally being about boyhood, is also about the importance of relationships, and specifically of family. It is as much about parenthood as boyhood, and I was able to relate to this film more closely than any other movie I have seen in the past few years. I laughed and cried my way through its 164 minutes, and I left the theatre with a refreshed perspective on my own life and the importance of my own relationships. It certainly helped me put my own issues or insecurities into a valuable context.

So whilst gaining the kind of perspective I am talking about can come through a trip to the cinema, for others it can be gained through different art forms, like music or painting, or even through food, sport, exercise, or a trip into the outdoors. Taking a holiday, or a short break from the normal routine can also help you achieve this. What these type of activities often have in common, is that they are sensory experiences, and it is through getting in touch with our senses, emotions and cognitions, that often provides the best vehicle for helping us step back and look at the bigger picture.

A final point. Often perspective is gained through a negative experience. I’ve met people for whom it has taken a health scare – like a heart attack, or even a bereavement, before they have been able to put their own life issues in more of a context.

The risk of leaving it too late couldn’t be any more of a pressing argument to take time out and make strides to appreciate the here and now, in the here and now.

Yours in psychology,


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