There’s always something to howl about

Any Chance You’re Holding A Fun-House Mirror?

So what do you see when you look in the mirror?  No doubt as a real estate agent the way you present yourself is important, but is that all you see?  In a standard mirror, maybe it is.  “Let’s see: short sleeve, button down shirt with yellow plaid design: check.  Power red necktie, wide, hanging half way down my ample belly: check.  Name tag with alphabet soup of certifications, right side up and cleaned of (most of) last night’s pasta sauce: check.  Roger Rocket – real estate superman – reporting for duty.”  But seriously, there are other kinds of mirrors you know…

A Look Back…?
Last week, in my article on Temporal Awareness, I talked a little about how past and present do not actually exist.  I used the example of someone saying something about us behind our backs – the visceral reaction, the anger – only to discover they never said anything!  We cause ourselves stress over things that never exist.  We create realities and emotions over events that never happen.  These responses can, however, be turned into a wonderful tool.  And by “wonderful” I mean a gut-wrenching look at what’s inside of us that we are desperately trying to hide from both the outside world and ourselves.  That kind of wonderful.

The Mirror Effect
The Mirror Effect is a way to recognize what’s happening and take a peek at what’s causing our emotional response.  It also helps us stay in the present.  (Though, truth be told, you have to be present enough to engage The Mirror Effect in the first place.)  Suppose someone said something hurtful to you – an observation – that you knew in your heart to be inaccurate.  For example: “Sean, you were never the athlete you like to think you were.”  Our reaction to that would be pretty subdued; we might even chuckle a little.  Why?  In my example, because I know who I am in that realm; I know what I accomplished and even how I ranked.  I’ve accepted the changes that come with moving past one’s athletic prime, but that does not diminish the truth of my vision.  When we are secure in this regard, comment means little and garners little reaction.

Now, let’s say another person came up to us and said something that “hit a nerve.”  Let’s use me again: “Sean, you’re not a very good father.”  One might take offense.  One might get angry with whomever said the words.  One might let that person know how wrong they are; how offensive.  (One might also wonder why one keeps volunteering to be the example!)  Our reaction would be strong and it would be emotional.

The Big “Why”
Now, for the big question:  WHY?  Why react to one person but not the other?  Why become emotional over the offensive words of one person, but not of another?  Let’s make it even more interesting.  Let’s say that in the first instance, the person who denigrated my athleticism was a coach I admired and respected, and in the second instance the person questioning my skills as a father was a complete stranger.  Would that change things?  I bet not.  Sure, I might be a little surprised by the coach’s comment; I might wonder what the heck that coach had been watching all those years, but I still wouldn’t react with anger toward him.  Yet the complete stranger, for whom I have no presupposed respect or admiration, would definitely garner an angry reaction from me.  Interesting…

Once we recognize this dynamic, we must also recognize that our emotional response has nothing to do with the other person.  We may take it out on them, sure; but if it were about someone else saying something offensive, we’d expect similar responses.  No, our response is a reaction to ourselves.  To seeing, even if only a glimmer, some part of our internal truth that does not match up with our external vision.  In the case of the first comment, my external vision of who I was as an athlete matches pretty well with my internal belief about who I was.  The second comment, on the other hand – the one that got an emotional reaction – revealed a dichotomy.  I left my wife and broke up our family; no matter how justified I might feel I was, I’m still aware of the potential damage I’ve done to my boys.  The external life I am currently living does not match up with the internal vision of who I want to be as a dad.  Ah ohhh…  The brain does not like incongruity.  We hate it so much, we hide from it every chance we get.  But every now and then, someone comes along and says something that pulls back the flimsy, patch-work curtain we hide behind and reveals the mismatch between our two worlds.  This is emotionally painful and, no surprise, might very well lead us to lash out at whomever had the temerity to pull back our curtain!  But the fact is, they didn’t do anything to us.  All they did was momentarily provide an opportunity for us to recognize something about ourselves we don’t want to reveal, even to ourselves.  You might say, all they did was hold up a mirror…

Be Thankful
In the end, people can not hurt us with their words.  We all know this, we learned it as a nursery rhyme about sticks and stones.  You can no more hurt me with your words than you can hurt me when you don’t say any words… and I only think you did.  It is me in both circumstances; I am the only one who can create an emotional reaction because I am the only one who knows my own truth.  This may seem self-evident to you on some levels.  Good!  Now take it a step further.  If you are talking to someone: another agent, a broker, a client, a friend, even a close family member, try to stay present and remind yourself: “They are only mirrors.”  If at some point you find yourself becoming angry or hurt or afraid, STOP.  Recognize that this wonderful person has just held up a mirror for you; a mirror only you can see because it reveals only you.  Thank them.  If you didn’t like what you saw, thank them profusely!  After all, to solve a problem we must first recognize the problem; we must have the opportunity to see behind that curtain.

The mind hates incongruity.  We are happiest and most at peace when we have congruence between our external vision of who we are (a vision based on our actions) and our vision of who we think we are (a vision based on our internal goals); in other words, our external and internal truths.  Incongruence is the reason for much of our pain, whether it manifests as anger or depression or judgment, or even fear (which really sits as the source of the rest of those emotions).  Once we recognize an incongruity, we can attempt to solve it.  We might change our actions (thus affecting our external vision) OR we might change who we think we are (change our internal vision).  Most people fixate on the former; they are forever trying to fix what they do or who they “are,” but the truth is, sometimes our internal vision is the better fix.  I’ll go into greater detail on Congruence and Continuity in another article.  The point of this one is simple: stay present and remember the Mirror Effect.  The next time you have an emotional reaction to something someone is saying, recognize what is happening and then STOP… and thank them.  Appreciate them even, for holding up a mirror and giving you yet another opportunity to bring true peace and happiness into your life.

Besides… a great, big, genuine “Thank you!” after someone says something hurtful, really messes with ’em…


2 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown May 10th, 2011 2:12 pm

    Ah, messin’ with ’em. Ya got my vote. Good stuff.

  2. […] It also discussed the emotional response we have over words that don’t exist.  And in The Mirror Effect, one of the most powerful concepts for creating true and lasting happiness, we learn that even someone being hurtful, doesn’t exist.  Are you starting to recognize a […]