philosophy

Use Mirroring to Uncover your Blindspots

Here’s a great tool to check out over on Awaken with JP Sears Premium AF. I can't embed the video for you here, so go check it out on JP's website:

Owning your Truth through Mirroring

I’m not a subscriber to Premium AF (I’ve thought about it, but I’m trying not to add new things to my life at the moment even if they look great), so I’m glad he decided to share this stuff about mirroring.


Understanding yourself and being authentic is really hard. It’s especially hard because you have blind spots as big as trucks all over the place. Things you don’t even realise, stories you tell yourself (they could be positive, negative, or anywhere in between), and patterns you can’t see. It’s okay, we all have this shit.

As a psychological term, mirroring is the behaviour in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another. Mirroring often occurs in social situations, particularly in the company of close friends or family. (This definition is from the Wikipedia page for mirroring)

JP Sears presents mirroring as a tool you can use to catch a glimpse of your big-as-a-truck blind spots. By first owning the fact that your perceptions of others are your perceptions and not necessarily reality, you can unpack what those perceptions might say about you. You really have to own your perceptions for this to work. It can feel pretty selfish, but for the sake of this exercise you’re going to assume that it’s 100% about you.

For example, one perception I have of my partner Ashley is that sometimes she spends too much time using social media on her phone. What that says about me is that I’m scared that my decision to spend less time on social media is hurting me somehow and that I’ll end up lonely AF.

Another perception I have of my partner Ashley is that she is generous in giving back to the community by volunteering at Lifeline. What that says about me is that I want to be much more generous in my community and I’m looking for ways I can give back in my own way. Her volunteering also requires an incredible amount of empathy and I’m learning that true empathy without martyrdom is something I’ve got a lot to learn about.

Both of my examples are things I couldn’t really see without looking in the mirror of Ashley first. It’s a powerful tool! JP gives some other examples in the video - I recommend you go watch it!

Here’s a quick recap of the tool:

  1. Look at a person in your life and own your perceptions of them (one thing that challenges you about them and one thing that you like about them).
  2. State the perception you have of them.
  3. State what that perception says about you as though your perception of them is 100% about you. (For the sake of this exercise, we’re assuming that it’s 100% about you!)

If you want to see more tools like this I find around the place, you can sign up below to get my monthly journal where I share my explorations.

When Theories Become Dogma

I’ve been loving Seth Godins blog lately:

We can fall into a few traps with our theories about humans:

  1. We can come to believe that they are ironclad guarantees, not merely our best guess about the future.
  2. We can refuse to understand the mechanics behind a theory and instead accept the word of an authority figure. If we fail to do the math on our own, we lose agency and the ability to develop an even more nuanced understanding of how the world works.
  3. We can become superstitious, ignoring evidence that runs counter to our theory and instead doubling down on random causes and their unrelated effects.
  4. We can hesitate to verbalize our theories, afraid to share them with others, particularly those we deem as higher in authority or status.
  5. We can go to our jobs and do all four of these things at once.

Your Fear of Engaging Fully with New Experiences

You won't know what it's like to [visit a nudist colony] merely by looking at a picture of a bunch of naked people. The only way you'll know what it's like is if you get seen by a bunch of naked people. The only way to have the experience is to have the experience. Not by looking at the experience. By having it.

New experiences are scary, but the only way to have a new experience without cutting yourself off from the best part (which is the unique way you react to it) is to go get seen by a bunch of naked people yourself.

Human Needs aren't Dependent on Human Biology

All human needs, including sexuality, lie beyond the animal world. They are historically determined and historically mutable.

I circled this quote on the reading because I had no idea what it meant.

I have started going to a weekly reading group where we bring interesting articles, lectures, or any media to discuss. This quote is from what I’m told is a famous lecture by Herbert Marcuse, first delivered in 1967, called “The End of Utopia”. I know I ostensibly write about philosophy on this blog, but I would say that the breadth of my knowledge is woeful - attending this reading group is part of how I am educating myself.

Luckily for me, the person who brings the reading to the group leads the discussion. So I confessed my ignorance of Marxist philosophy and asked for an explanation of the quote.

What followed was incredibly though provoking for me.

Marcuse is saying that human needs are determined by culture. What we refer to as needs are all a level above the “animal world” needs like water or breathing. He argues that our needs are not defined by our biology and are infinitely open to change.

If your needs are not defined by your biology, then how are they defined? The world around you is the primary driver. Above any beyond the most basic needs, what you know and can perceive defines what you need. Aristotle has a useful model (check out this summary if you’re interested: Aristotle on the soul) for this idea in his degrees of soul hierarchy.

Aristotle's model on the soul. 

Aristotle's model on the soul. 

  1. The nutritive soul (plants): Growth, nutrition (reproduction)
  2. The sensitive soul (all animals): Movement and perception
  3. Rational soul (humans): Intellect and thought.

This model is a useful way to think about how you navigate the world as a human. There is an immediate connection between sensing something and action. How can you act if you don’t sense something? You need to be able to see it, smell it, feel it, touch it, or perceive it in some way before you can do anything about it. So, your sensitive soul defines your needs. How you move through the world defines your needs. You can change what you need by changing what you perceive.

Changing how you move and going outside to see new things is a really good way to change your perceptions and reset your needs a little. 

Changing how you move and going outside to see new things is a really good way to change your perceptions and reset your needs a little. 

Humans have the capacity for intellect and thought too. Needs derived from thinking are just as real as needs derived from the lower levels of the soul hierarchy. And yet, the basis of the needs derived from thought are affected by the lower levels.

I don’t know where I’m going with this yet. I have questions: to what extent is this theory is based on a Western perspective? Is there a way to figure out our biological needs apart from what would be torture? Do the Levels of the Soul really matter when the individual experiences needs as real regardless of what level the need derives from? This is weird to think about. How do you think about your needs? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

Rest and Need

A friend of mine had just told me that he was an insomniac. We were eating burgers on a Wednesday night. He’d come straight from work where he’d had shit day. Just before he had to leave for the day, he had discovered a mistake in an important presentation he had prepared for his boss. The mistake was easy to fix, but this was the second time this had happened and both times he had been the one responsible for the mistake.

He was kept awake at night by mistakes like this one. He told me he needed to get more rest than he did, but thoughts danced around his mind making so much noise he couldn’t sleep. To drown out the noise of his thoughts, he watches movies he knows very well or listens to his favourite album.

As soon as I turn on the movie, the thoughts quieten down and I fall asleep in five minutes.

Problem solved. He just needs to distract himself a little.

And yet, he started this conversation by describing himself as an insomniac. He told me he needs to have the distraction because it helps all the while being sure that it wasn’t really helping him. He’d tried a few other things, but the only thing that helped in the moment was the movies or music.

I was drawn to his description of the cacophony of thoughts keeping him awake. As he described it, he brought his hands up either side of his head as if he were trying to decide between swatting them away and putting his hands over his ears to block out their noise. The image of a man tormented. He laughed as he told me, but this was clearly bothering him.

We talked about the benefits of mediation and learning to be okay with being alone with your mind. Pushing so hard against these thoughts only seems to make them heavier. But if you’re where my friend is, you can’t start mediating today and ‘solve’ the issue right away. Amongst many other things, meditation is a process of learning to observe your thoughts, emotions, or sensations. You’re distracted by them constantly, but over time you can learn to observe them a little longer. You learn to be okay with them, even be curious about them and what they have to tell you. Maybe you can learn not be so tormented by them that they keep you awake at night.

You still need what you need right now.

If you’re anything like my friend, people tell you that you should immediately stop watching tv before bed and try something like mediation instead. It’s shit advice. As your thoughts taunt you, how can you suddenly change your relationship with them without knowing anything about how you might do that? Sure, you could start a mediation practice and slowly learn to need something different to get to sleep. It would probably be great for you - why not get started today? But in the meantime, you’ll continue to need what you need until you don’t need it anymore.


This month I’ll be exploring the concept of need. If you want to follow along, sign up below to get my monthly journal and a sneak peak of the idea I’ll be exploring next month.

Restful Creation

If you’re constantly bringing in information and not processing, you’re not taking action and the information is pointless. Information is addictive. We crave it. Lack of information isn’t the problem anymore. There’s always more to read, more to do, more to learn.

Think about what you do when you’re trying to get some down time - it’s looking at Facebook, watching a movie, or reading articles. Funny that you seem to ‘rest’ by taking in more information.

aaron-burden-123584.jpg

Try sitting down with pen and paper and writing for a few minutes when you’re tired. Or you could draw. Or play a musical instrument. Whatever! Create something. I’m not talking about quality here - just see what it feels like to switch the information flow the other way when you’re tired.

It’s a different kind of rest. You have so much inside you, let some of it out.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash