Did You See The Gorilla?

by | Apr 20, 2021

I know, you might be wondering why the heck I’m talking about gorillas, but it might not be the reason you think…

Sarah P Fisher Coaching Parents & Carers

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We so often go into a situation or environment looking for something in particular.

A few weeks back I was watching a video as part of a training course I was on, and we had to watch how many times a ball was passed between certain people.  I was really focusing on the video, and at the end, the trainer said “who saw the gorilla?”.

WHAT!? What gorilla? I knew exactly how many times the ball was passed, and I got that right, so I was feeling quite clever! But a gorilla? Never saw it.

So, the trainer played the video again, and there it was (not a real gorilla, I might add, it was someone dressed up one, but that’s besides the point).  The point WAS, this gorilla walked STRAIGHT across the screen of the video!

I had been so focused on what I had wanted to see, that I didn’t notice the gorilla.

Sarah P Fisher Coaching Parents & Carers

That really was an eye opening moment for me, and a real reminder of how important it is to take our blinkers off.

We so often go into a situation or environment looking for something in particular.

That might be a particular behaviour, a certain word, a tone of voice, body language – whatever it is, we can be so focused on looking for that thing that we don’t see what else is going on around us. We could be watching out for our child’s triggers, or watching out for our own. If we’re not careful, that’s all we end up focusing on!

So often we focus on finding that trigger and looking for a certain behaviour – a sign that our children are about to escalate and start an almighty argument.

Whatever it is, if that becomes our focus, it’s all we’re going to see and we might then miss the “gorilla” in the room.

I’ve been reflecting on this video since then, and thinking about how we really do need to take our blinkers off – and I don’t mean that in a bad way – we just need to acknowledge that we don’t always go in to a situation with our eyes and mind completely open.

We’ll often go in to a situation or a conversation with a particular intention, and so from that we are naturally putting our blinkers on to only look for what it is we’re trying to achieve.

When we do that as parents, or as professionals, we’re not getting the whole picture. We’re not seeing holistically what is going and we might miss key bits of information or signs.

For example, if our child is escalating and their behaviour is really difficult – maybe we know that they can become physically aggressive – we might go in to that situation only focusing on stopping them from becoming physically aggressive. We’re then not open to seeing what is sitting underneath the behaviour and what else is going on for them that is creating that form of communication that they are using.

Another example might be that we go in to a meeting with the school, with a very fixed idea of what we want from that meeting – which is great, it’s fantastic to go in to a meeting knowing what we want – but we also need to be open to the idea that the school MAY come up with something else we hadn’t thought about, something even more effective.

I know that I have sometimes gone in to a situation very blinkered. I’ve known what I wanted and that’s what I was going to get.

It’s not always easy to remember that although we know what we want, we need to listen to other’s plans and ideas that would still help us achieve what we want, or indeed achieve even more than that.

It’s very important for us as professionals working with families that we keep the blinkers off and look at the situation in its broadest sense. Then we can really help support a family, and see things from all the different angles.

From a parental point of view, whatever is going on, if we aim to see the gorilla, AND see how many times the ball is thrown around, AND see the fact that somebody from the other team walked off, AND see whatever else it is that’s going on in “the video” – we really are seeing everything. We’re taking that bigger, broader view.

I know it does sound a bit daft saying “make sure you can see the gorilla” but it something that I think will stick clearly in our minds! We live in a world that is often very busy, so we are very focused on what we need to do. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, but if that busy-ness or that narrowed focus stops us from seeing the bigger picture, then it becomes unhelpful.

If busy is becoming something that is stopping you from seeing the bigger picture, ask yourself “how can I enable myself to see the bigger picture”.

How can we raise our presence by seeing the gorilla in the room?

I often talk about how we can raise our presence by showing our children that we recognise their emotions, showing them that we want to spend time with them, even if that’s watching the same episode of their favourite program for the millionth time, it doesn’t matter. What we are doing is raising our presence. When we are showing them that we are seeing the gorilla in the room, we’re raising our presence, and that is a hugely beneficial thing to do.

Anything that helps raise our presence and helps our child know that we love them and care for them is going to have a positive impact on both our relationship with them, and how they feel about themselves, and consequently – their behaviour!


So – can you see the gorilla in the room?

Sarah P Fisher Coaching Parents & Carers

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