Songwriter Joni Mitchell once wrote, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.” As you become more present-moment focused, life’s illusions start to make more and more sense.
What I’ve noticed is a phenomenon that I call The Opposite Effect. It seems sort of obvious on the surface. But the deeper you drill, the more true it remains!
Here’s a simple example. You are driving your car and get stuck behind a slow driver. You start to pull up closer behind, peaking out to pass or hoping the other guy will get the hint. What does he do? He slows down even more! After awhile, you back off several car lengths. Without warning, he speeds up. How strange! When you wanted him to speed up, he refused. When you stopped pressing, he sped up. Try it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s a present-moment experience where your action causes a reaction in others- the OPPOSITE reaction of what you want.
The same is true in relationships. You press someone to take action, and they do the opposite. Not always but often. The pressure might get a result for awhile but eventually the other person is likely to snarl at you or resent your pressure. My ex-wife used to pressure me to do the dishes within minutes after we finished eating. I stubbornly refused to do so – for ten years! In the first two months of living on my own, I caught myself cleaning up the dishes right after eating, without giving it a second thought!
If you’ve read my book, The Non-Judgmental Christian, you will be familiar with the terms “Near” and “Far”. Near is emotionally needy and likes to control others. Far is emotionally distant and shuts other people out in order to remain tightly in control of themselves. Near and Far marry each other. Near and Far are the root cause of most marital headaches.
Near wants Far to come nearer. However, Near’s actions push Far away – even farther! Similarly, Far wants Near to back off. However, Far’s actions pull Near in even nearer! They are both getting the opposite of what they want. Far feels threatened by Near’s critical eye. In turn, Near feels abandoned by Far’s indifferent and isolating behaviour. These events happen in the present moment as the behaviour of each person “triggers” the exact opposite response from what they want.
If you want to more love and less conflict or disengagement, you need to do the opposite of your normal habits. In theory, shifting from Near to Far is not difficult. In practice, it’s requires significant self-awareness and self-discipline. Self-awareness comes from being present – noticing the words and actions you use when someone is either Near or Far.
I have developed this for use in the work world under the name, “The 7 Performance Drivers.” Interestingly, my research is showing that people who are Near at home are often Far at work and people who are Far at home are often Near at work. Once again, the opposite effect reveals itself.
More to come…Until then, God bless you and yours this year and remember, most of Jesus’ words and deeds were the opposite of what people normally do. I don’t think that is a coincidence.