I have a tendency to mirror moods.
When someone is complaining, I often find myself joining them in a soon-to-become spiralling vortex of negativity. Even if I’m not feeling particularly bad about things myself, it seems easier to mirror the vibes being thrown my way.
I think lots of us are probably like that, and it does have some very positive uses. It can be used empathically to help people feel accepted and understood.
But it can also result in an unhealthy acceptance of negativity.
Do you ever catch yourself simply saying stuff for the sake of it?
I often get caught in the negative-work-talk conversation. Or declaring myself really ‘busy because things have been manic of late’. Or hoping that “things will pick up soon and that with any luck I’ll catch a break”. Invariably there is some mirroring happening.
But it’s not always simply a mirror of the other person.
Often it exemplifies the mirroring of something larger.
When I talk about busyness or my work situation in this manner I often don’t say what I really feel. Many times I catch myself simply expressing what I think and believe other people feel, and therefore what I think and believe I should feel if I want to be normal.
The truth is, although at times it can be hard and painful, I love my work.
We all mirror the conversations we have had in the past. In turn those historic conversations we draw on now mirror those that have gone before. We are easily confronted with a perception of an external reality that is completely counter to the internal experience of our individual lives.
With Enjoyment Comes Guilt
It is easier to talk about life in negative terms because we don’t have to defend it. People accept it. It’s the status quo. But when you say ‘actually I’m really enjoying things at the moment, even work is good’ a guilt can creep in. You don’t want to rub anyone else’s face in it, and there’s even a part of you that doesn’t want you to enjoy what you do.
We can get a perverse subconsious pleasure from the odd display of piety that comes from seeing life as the perpetual struggle. And we can look at others and judge ‘how easy they have it’ to defend our perpetual self-actuated misery.
Have you ever been in the midst of a hard season yourself and had to listen to someone talking about why they are struggling?
It may sound like they’re complaining about nothing and you’ve thought or even said ‘you think that’s bad, you should try living my life for a week’. I know I’ve been there. And I know I’ve been that other person too because I’ve had that said to me. It’s not helpful.
When Struggling Becomes a Competition
This sort of comparative judgement is what drives the spiral of competitive struggling. It’s what makes me want to be busier than you in order to prove my worth and give me something to boast about. It’s what makes me embrace failure and self-sabotage. It’s what makes me concentrate on how things look rather than what their purpose is.
‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’
We have a common understanding that there are many aspects of life that suck. This is not an epiphany. Disease, poverty, death, suffering etc. They are all a part of life that we all have to face up to. All of us.
Why don’t we cut one another some slack then?
The most inspiring people I know are those who have faced the very worst kinds of adversity in their lives yet still live like the world is a beautiful place of mystery and exploration.
The least inspiring people I know are those who allow their fear to dictate their lack of action, and talk about the world as if they know everything about it. They are always the really busy people who are most sure that they’re right about things.
It’s so easy to talk negatively and to embrace the ‘woe is me’ mindset; I’m so busy, life is so hard. That’s the easy option. The genuinely hard part, the bit that requires discipline is intervening and saying no to that attitude, and to being ready to ask for help when things do get too much.
Over to You
How do you respond to people who talk positively about life and really embrace the mystery of the world? Do you mirror conversations and moods, saying what you think you SHOULD rather than what you actually think and feel?
I’d love to hear if you have any tips for turning conversations about work and busyness from negative to positive, encouraging encounters.