Putting the Pieces Together

We just completed a 3,000-piece puzzle. To make it a little extra challenging, we decided to put it together without using the box as a guide.

Sometimes, our eyes would immediately see a correct piece and fit it in with a satisfying snap. Other times, we had to make our way to the correct piece through imagination and trial and error.

The thing about a puzzle with so many pieces is, every piece seems to contain a world unto itself. Unlike a 40-piece puzzle, where an entire unicorn head or flowerpot or cloud might be contained within a single piece, each piece in this puzzle contained unexpected details. Each small crevice and bit of texture in the landscape was magnified in a way that made the details hard to recognize. A ray of light might make a section of the flowerpot yellow rather than the expected brown, or a piece of red brick wall might be smudged with black.

So many times, growing frustrated with finding the correct piece, one of us would exclaim…
“That’s not what I thought that piece should look like.”
“I thought for sure it would have more purple!”
“Who would have guessed part of this brown hat would be blue?”

When we look at things around us – puzzle pieces, strangers, the news, our families, our circumstances – we see things through a particular filter. We see things the way we are. This filter distorts what we are looking at, making it hard to accept things that might be different from what we expect. Our initial reaction is disbelief and often frustration – we simply can’t believe it doesn’t look the way we expect it to.

We can change the way we see, but sometimes we have to struggle a bit. First, we might push a little harder, trying to fit the wrong piece into place, feeling confident we are right. It’s only when we accept that we may be mistaken that we are freed to look at things in a different way.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.