This morning, I took a beach walk. The high tide from the night before had ebbed to a fresh palette of sand and the only creatures on the beach were a few birds and a distance dog walker. Still in a bit of a slumber, I heard a noise, looked up, and saw the white spout of a whale as its dark back surfaced from beneath the water. I reacted as I always do when glimpsing the majestic mammal, with a spike of adrenaline and an audible sigh. My physiology changed in a breath.
I walked up the beach, closer to where the whale emerged, and noticed something different. What I thought was a whale, now appeared to be a reef and the spout a wave shooting up from a crevasse in the rock. My physiology was not reacting to reality, but to what I thought was real.
We do something similar everyday. We react to noises, words, expressions, and logical assumptions that support our imagined beliefs. Unfortunately, most of the time it’s not a majestic sight we are reacting to, but a negative interpretation. And, the more logical our assumptions seem, like seeing a whale during the migration season, the more misleading our first impressions can be. Is it a whale or a reef? Most reactions are worth taking a second look.