Last week the luxury of heating and hot water was taken away from me. It was completely avoidable and I was livid. Our boiler had been on the blink for a while and my husband Richard and I knew it was about to check out. Repeated polite reminders to call the boiler engineer fell on deaf ears, until last week, when the inevitable happened and the boiler snuffed it. Needless to say, I hit the roof.
“Richard, why do you always wait until your back is against the wall before you take action!” I bellowed. My hair needed washing. What can I say?!
Why did this behaviour trigger such a strong reaction in me? Why was I so angry that he had waited until the situation became unbearable, before he took action? I practised some self-awareness and realised that Richard was showing me something I didn’t want to see in myself.
‘You spot it, you got it’ occurs when we get irritated by behaviour in others, which we are choosing to deny in ourselves. In other words, what I hate the most in you, may be what I hate the most in me. Talk about double standards.
Our hypocrisy comes from the fact that we have blind spots. We simply can’t see those parts of ourselves that we condemn in others. Or we choose not to. But by raising our self-awareness and understanding the ‘you spot it you got it’ phenomenon, we can start to reduce those blind spots and accept all the parts of ourselves. When we own our flaws we become aware of our triggers and are less likely to become irritated when we see them in other people.
Our brains are funny things. We invariably experience more of any thought or feeling when we try to avoid it. Let’s try something. For the next 10 seconds, do not think about pink elephants. Go.
Cue Nelly! Her big pink trunk swinging in the breeze. She has friends! Hundreds of pink elephants, dancing through your mind like that scene in the jungle book. Only pink.
When our brains hear an instruction to get rid of something, they seek out and find all the thoughts, feelings and emotions connected to it, in order to delete it. It’s the same reason why, when you’re on a diet you obsess about food, or if you do dry January, it seems everyone around you is drinking. To really free yourself from what is holding you back, you must go into it. Explore it. Understand it. See it.
Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world. So, what we experience repeatedly is an opportunity for us to learn something about ourselves. For example, if you are constantly experiencing aggressive behaviour in others and are triggered by it, if there’s a consistent pattern and certain thoughts become very dominant, then there’s a good chance that you have what you’re spotting.
This opportunity to learn is never more apparent than with our children. Children are great mirrors. The things that wind us up about our kids are often an indication that there is something to get curious about within our own psyche. Remember this the next time you scream at your kids to stop shouting.
If you want to get technical, ‘you spot it you got it’ is a psychological defence mechanism where our sub conscious denies our own thoughts, attributes or emotions and then ascribes them to other people. It validates the theory that you cannot experience a feeling, emotion or trait, if you don’t have an inner experience of it. You have to have a connection to be able to notice it in others and when it triggers a negative response in you, it is because you are denying it in yourself.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. The good news is that ‘you spot it you got it’ works positively too. If you find yourself inspired by someone who is creative, intellectual, a great communicator or visionary, you must have an inner experience of that which you admire, to be able to notice it in others. Furthermore, it might be that this trait is bursting to get out and you are suppressing it. The wonderful possibilities are endless.
Reduce your blind spots. Here’s how.
1. Think about something that’s really irritating you at present. Where does it keep cropping up? Where do you see it in others?
2. Write a quick and wild journal. This is where you write exactly what comes to mind. Where are the patterns? What is the most common theme?
3. Now think about where these traits show up in you.
You may be surprised at what you find. Initially there may be resistance if you don’t like what you see. But this is the time to have the conversations that matter with yourself. Be honest and really explore where and why these traits are showing up.
If there’s resistance where you decide that what you’ve written ‘isn’t really me’, take a closer look. The learning may come in the broader rather than the literal meaning. For example, if you write ‘the kids disrespect me and leave stuff everywhere’, you could look at where you are disrespecting other people, or you could take a closer look at where you are disrespecting yourself.
Food for thought.
When pointing the finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at us. I had a sales manager in a previous role that used to say this and I was never sure what she meant, until now. Yes, undesirable traits may exist in others, but before you make judgements and lay blame, think about where they exist in you.
We all disown aspects of ourselves, positive or negative. But be curious about those traits that have come to light as a reflection of what you see in others. Herein lies a great opportunity to learn, raise our self-awareness and grow.
The world is a mirror. We must take responsibility for our own feelings and behaviour if we want to change our lives for the better.