Time to Trash the Emotional Glasses
By Stephanie Miller
So the other day I’m sitting reading a magazine and my husband walks in the room and (as previously stated I’m 55) I had on reading glasses when I looked up. His face was all blurry and my first thought when I looked up was “What’s wrong with his face?” After a split second I realized I was looking through my reading glasses that were distorting his face at that distance. And then BAM! I realized this is emblematic of my whole life. I go around with glasses on looking at things with my own peculiar point of view and then I think “What’s wrong with _________?” The thing is in everyday life I’m not actually wearing glasses so I don’t realize that my way of thinking might be distorting my view.
Someone cuts me off in traffic and I think “That jerk just cut me off.” But did he really? Isn’t possible that I wasn’t paying attention when he turned on his signal? Or that I’m in a hurry and he is just changing lanes in the ordinary flow of traffic? I remember many years ago I was driving in heavy traffic when the driver in front of me stopped suddenly and for no apparent reason at a green light. I managed to jam on my brakes in time to avoid rear-ending him. He then made a safe left turn and left me at the edge of the intersection as the light changed. The driver behind me was clearly angry and, to my amazement, he got out of his car and came marching up to my car and rapped on my window. When I foolishly rolled down my window he started yelling, “Did you have a stroke or something? What the hell is wrong with you stopping like that when the light is green?” I tried to explain that there was a car in front of me but he couldn’t hear me because he was so angry. He hadn’t seen the car in front me. I realized in that moment that this is how wars start. I couldn’t make the angry driver see what I had seen, the other car was gone, and I was left with the consequences. I couldn’t give him my perspective, especially when he was violently angry. He also couldn’t make me see that I had stopped for no apparent reason. We were both trapped in our own perception of the moment. What is more poignant is that both of us were suffering because of our perceptions.
It’s easy to see how damaging this distortion can be in our interactions with others, but perhaps less obvious when we look at ourselves. I have my reading glasses on every time I look in the mirror. In my case those glasses exaggerate my flaws and diminish by assets. This perception is the engine that fuels my feelings of shame. When I blanket a single event with too much meaning my view of life becomes like a series of fun house mirrors, distorting me and everything around me. It’s also true that I may not have the full picture. I think the way I see myself is what is true, but I have on emotional reading glasses every time I look at myself. The work for me is realize I’m not able to see myself clearly and take the glasses off.
Years ago I had a woman suggest that I try a 30-day experiment of looking myself in the eye for one minute. I would stand in front of the mirror and simply look into my own eyes. At first I was uncomfortable and I found I couldn’t do it for a full minute but gradually I could. And then a transformation began to happen… if I tell you what that transformation was I’d spoil the surprise. So take off your glasses and give it try. I’d love to hear your experience.