When I go to the National Gallery in London I always have to take time to look at my favourite painting, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, painted by Paul Delaroche. I always stand back and look at it from a distance to get a better view. When I stand close to it I can marvel at the brush work and I see details, but standing back gives me the feel of it.
I think we have probably all had that feeling in life that we are too close to a situation to see clearly. I remember the first accident that my older daughter had. She wasn’t quite two years old and she ran into the edge of a radiator, splitting her forehead open. Despite my nurse training, and having dealt with patients in A&E, I went to pieces and my husband, Barrie, had to stay calm and deal with it. This was not just any patient, this was my darling daughter. If I had stepped back from the incident emotionally, I would have been perfectly able to deal with it.
I guess there are many situations in which we find ourselves where we would benefit from stepping back emotionally. When I was nursing we were taught to remember ABC in an emergency – Airway, Breathing, Circulation. It was so automatic that I still remember it and could put it into practice if I came across an emergency in the street. When I was involved in emergencies, I took a three second breather to distance myself from the emotions of the situation and then acted – precisely according to the ABC method. It works because it is rational and does not involve the emotions at all. There were situations when I fell apart afterwards but that was okay – then there is time to deal with it. (After all, shutting the emotions out entirely would be unhealthy.)
Quite often, if we are going to help someone in need we have to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture in order to establish what the underlying problem is. If our job is getting us down, if family demands are too great, if we have too much to do, then we will benefit from stepping back to get a better view.
As the American singer/songwriter, Brian McKnight, quoted on Brainyquote.com once said,
I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people with never do that.