A Mirrored Pool of Thought…

francesca woodmanFrancesca Woodman

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“How frail the human heart must be―a mirrored pool of thought.”
― Sylvia Plath

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Do others see us the way that we see ourselves?

This is a question which most of us ask and wonder about at some point in life, often after an interaction in which we realise someone has an image of us which is different from our own.

It can be a frustrating experience. An unpleasant surprise.

You think you’re being helpful and someone else views your helpfulness as an annoyance, sees you as being annoying. They think you’re a nag, you think you’re reminding them of something that needs to be done, you think you’re doing them a favour, they view it as an imposition. They think you’re a killjoy, you think you’re being the voice of reason and logic. You’re think you’re being supportive, they think you’re invading their boundaries. They think you’re being critical, you think you’re complimenting them. You think you’re joking, they take you seriously. They think you’re joking, you were being serious… now what?

Or, at an extreme end of the conundrum – They think you’re a narcissist…

It can be inspiring. A pleasant surprise.

You think you’re lazy, they think you’re easygoing and wish they could be more relaxed like you. You think you’re a mess, they admire your system. They think you’re a genius, you always give them great ideas, you think you’re an idiot, an impractical dreamer. You think you’re bothering them, you’ve been considering going into hiding, in a dark cave, in the wilderness, somewhere no one will ever find you, they enjoy your company and seek you out at every opportunity. You think you’re and introvert, they think you’re an extrovert… because they’re an introvert and compared to them you’re extroverted. They think you’re beautiful, inside and out… you think they are delusional, should visit an optician or are looking at you through the bottom of a beer glass. They love you… now what?

Or, at the other extreme end of the conundrum – You think you might be a narcissist…

It can be an experience which makes you rethink how you think about yourself, changes your attitude towards yourself, your traits and behaviours, shows you the flip side of the usual side of you, makes you see yourself differently, challenges what you see… maybe you need to visit an optician, inside and out.

It can be a source of anxiety, especially when someone holds us in high regard (or we think that they do) and we’re afraid of letting them down.

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sean KernanSean Kernan

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“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”
― Oliver Sacks

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Expectation and disappointment hold hands… like Jack and Jill in the nursery rhyme.

It can be a source of relief, especially when someone seems to love and accept us the way that we are, whatever and however that is. Oh… how… oh… who we are, that’s okay?

When asking a question like this and attempting to answer it, it may be useful to also ask…

Do we see others the way that they see themselves?

… as that is an easier perspective to explore.

You know how you see another person, and you can ask the other person how they see themselves (they’ve probably told you without the need to ask… and if you were listening, then you know), then you can compare the two views.

That’s your answer, at least one of many, as each encounter you have will be different, each person you look at will be experienced by you from a certain facet of yourself which will affect how you see them… or at least a facet of them.

Just as each time you look in the mirror, the reflection which meets your eyes will be a variation of you depending on your mood, your point of focus, your needs, purpose, time, place, and the mirror itself – as each mirror is different (some mirrors are real A-holes, while others lie whitely for you, some blur and some are so precise that they make your pores scream – or is it the lighting!?!).

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Oneirataxia

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Have you ever caught sight of your reflection or seen a snapshot of yourself and not recognised the person seen as being you? And did you form a split-second opinion about that person whom you saw while you didn’t know it was you? Can you recall what you thought before you realised the person was you and the flood of self-opinions which we all carry around inside of us washed the thought away?

In some ways we’re all mirrors, different types of mirrors for different types of people and for ourselves, all the different facets of ourselves, the different people within one people.

We all experience ourselves from the inside out and experience others from the outside in.

We would like to experience ourselves from the outside in from time to time, to see ourselves as others see us. To know what it is others see when they look at us, experience us without being us. Our reasons for this vary from person to person.

We’re not so sure about whether or not we would like to experience others from the inside out. Sometimes we think that we do, and say that we do, but… easier thought and said than done. And when we do attempt to do so… we may regret it as it can alter the relationship which we have with that person and how we see them – the portrait of Dorian Grey… there were two of those, one to be seen, one to be hidden. Readers of Oscar Wilde’s novel saw neither… yet we saw them both in our mind’s eye.

Art is actually a great gauge for perception. Where some see a masterpiece, others may wonder if the world has gone crazy to call it a masterpiece… my child could have drawn that and probably done a better job of it! but your child’s doodle won’t get millions at auction or hang in a museum like the doodle of an internationally acclaimed artist… why? Why, indeed! That’s perception for you, an endless mystery which only makes sense when we see it a certain way, in a certain light, in a certain type of mirror.

And that’s how we see people and how people see us. A certain way, in a certain light, in a certain type of mirror… often influenced by the certain things. Some of those things an be external, how others see that person may make us see them that way too… but is anyone seeing that person as they see themselves? Some of those things can be internal, that which we are seeking from what we are seeing… is that how they see themselves. Is that how we see ourselves?

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confirmation biasvia 8 Subconscious Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day

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That happy-go-lucky friend who smiles all the time, is always cheerful, always has a kind word for us… do we really want to know that inside they are crying, deeply depressed, that they are cruel to themselves, and that is why they smile, bring cheer, and are kind on the outside? Next time we see them smile, are inspired by their happiness and hear their kindness… it won’t be the same anymore. We know too much. Can we handle knowing that much? Can our image of them deal with their image of themselves?

That charming Mr or Miss right who rocks our world, who makes us the centre of their universe when we are with them, makes us feel so incredibly, euphorically special, who intoxicates our senses… do we really want to know that they are not as confident as we think they are, not as perfect as they seem to us, and that perhaps what makes us special to them is that they are special to us, and if we question that they will take it all away… perhaps because we’re taking it away by looking deeper?

Then again…

That grumpy soul who pushes people away with their grump, what if they do that to keep away those who are only interested in the surface and what they project onto that surface? What if this curmudgeon is one of the most genuinely nice people you will ever have the opportunity to know? What if under that black heart is gold? What if you need them to be a grump and don’t want to know that they’re not really how you have chosen to see them, and perhaps how they have chosen for you to see them?

What if that solitary person who hides in corners at parties, and looks uncomfortable when invited to engage in conversation, is one of the most interesting conversationalists you could ever talk with because they actually listen to you and get to know you more than skin deep, more than socially acceptable deep? What if them being an outsider makes you seem and feel like an insider and by changing their status, you change yours? What if… you really don’t want someone to listen to you that closely or see you that deeply, what if you spent a lot of time and effort on your skin and want people to notice that, not what is underneath?

Then again…

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Mirrors - jean cocteau

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How many times has someone got you completely wrong, or maybe partly wrong in a way which makes what they got right seem wrong too?

That person who loves how perceptive you are… as long as you don’t use your perception on them, or at least not that part which sees through the crack between how they see themselves and how others experience and see them?

That person who benefits from your empathy, sensitivity, but doesn’t appreciate it when you are sensitive or have an unrealistic notion that they might be empathic towards you too? That person who expects you to drop everything for them when they are in need, because that’s what you do, who you are, what they need from you, but make one request that they return the favour… or be unable to do what they need…

Basically they only like bits of you, the bits which make them feel a certain way, the bits which complete their personal puzzle… can you please throw the other bits of you away and become who they need you to be for them so they can be who they think they are? Can you please see them as they see themselves and be supportive of that instead of bringing yourself to the relationship in a way which interferes with how they see you which is more about how they see themselves.

They see you, but don’t see you, because they see themselves but do not see themselves, and because others see them but don’t see them, because those others are seeing themselves but not seeing themselves, and sometimes we are those others…

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wow I'm fixed by rosalie

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“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
― C.G. Jung

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What others do to us… chances are we do it to others too.

We are all mirrored pools of thought, mirroring other mirrored pools of thought… which are mirroring other pools of thought that are mirroring a history of pools of thought mirroring a universe of pools of thought…

Maybe that’s the way it is meant to be…

Perception is a sense which takes me back in time to my childhood… to being seen and unseen, unseen when see and seen when unseen, and all the stories that evokes in memory… memory which shapes and influences who I am now. Perception is a sense which takes me forward in time to my adulthood. To the now, to the possible futures ahead and how they will be perceived by me and others, everyone and no one.

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“In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.”
― Albert Schweitzer