Jack Colwell, Director of Law Enforcement, EMS and Corrections Services
Can a blatant reality really be so difficult to see? Perhaps you’ve seen the Muller-Lyer illusion: two lines of the exact same length look different, because each has opposite fins on the end. When you look at the illusion, one line looks longer than the other does. When you measure them, you know that they are equal in length. Why is something you measure and know to be true so difficult to actually see?
Arbinger prompts us to ask the question, “How am I a problem for others?” There are times when this question brings to mind the Muller-Lyer illusion. We know there are likely ways in which we could be a problem for others, but given whatever conflict we’re in, we just cannot see it. All we can see is how others are a problem for us.
This type of personal dissonance can be frustrating. Given the obvious conflict you’re in, you know it’s likely that you have something you need to change. When you are focused on others’ impact on you, you feel trapped. When you let go and focus on your impact on them, your burden is lifted. It’s as though you’ve measured the Muller-Lyer lines with a ruler once again. Not only do you know that there are ways in which you can be a problem for others, now you can actually see it. Yes, the lines are equal.
It may be difficult for you to express the sensation of finally seeing how you might be a problem for others. The stress and anxiety of being someone else’s victim evaporates and you may feel energized and boosted, with a sudden sense of clarity. Simple solutions to very complex problems often appear, almost of out thin air.
In my work with law enforcement agencies, it is thrilling to see this clarity in situations of extreme and seemingly unsolvable conflict. For months, years, or even decades, complex problems, both within the agency and within the communities they serve, burden members of a police force. They feel stressed and victimized by others. Then one day they are able to see how they might have been inviting the very problems to which they felt tethered. Once they do, they feel revitalized, buoyant, and have a sudden sense of clarity. Simple solutions to very complex, intractable problems appear almost as if out of thin air.