Forgive typos and odd grammatical mistakes—this was transcribed using the magic of AI, and while it’s insanely awesome, it’s not perfect.
[00:00:00] Welcome back to the I Hear You podcast. Today we discuss a topic that’s absolutely essential to understand if you want to live a powerful, connected and joy filled life. Now, I know it sounds like I say that on just about every principle that I talk about on here, and that’s all true, because there’s more than just one thing you have to understand to live a powerful, connected life, there’s a lot of things at play here. We all go through life facing hundreds of little situations, thoughts, struggles and opportunities each and every day. Our brain does a fantastic job of automating many of the more mundane task, things like driving to work each morning, brushing our teeth, taking care of tasks, etc. because it frees us up to focus our energy on more difficult items, and that’s fantastic, I appreciate that. This can get us into trouble, however, when we develop harmful habits and / or are looking at life through distorted lenses. Unfortunately we all have at least some level of distorted thinking in our minds.
[00:01:07] So on today’s episode, we’re going to explore this concept of distortion. We’ll talk about how to identify it, how to get out of it, and how to use this heightened awareness to help you more effectively manage any situation. Because, again, you’re dealing with this hundreds of times each day, whether you’re even aware of it or not. Which means that if you take to heart what we talk about today, it will truly help you in every area of your life. Enough with the intro, let’s get to it.
What is Truth?
[00:01:58] Okay. Let’s start things off here with a question, what is truth? The dictionary defines truth as something that is, “in accordance with fact or reality.” Truth is. It’s not subjective. It doesn’t change with one’s perception. At least not the truth that we’re talking about in today’s episode. Something that we consider to be true is factually accurate. It’s there. Multiple people can corroborate the witness. They can see it, they say it, yes this is exactly how it is.
[00:02:37] So if I pick up a stick off the ground, the truth or the fact is I’m holding something. If I snap that stick and half the truth is that stick is now separated into two pieces. To most people, that’s indisputable, right? Now, I know we could get into some kind of physics or metaphysics and all kinds of things and say, well, maybe it’s molecules and maybe it was never one stick, maybe it’s always one stick.. Push all that aside for a moment if that’s where your mind goes, what we’re talking about today and how I’m defining truth on this episode here is something that is factually accurate, something that ‘is.’ It is in accordance with fact or reality. And that’s important because certain things are true in this world, whether you like it or not. You know, every now and then I’ll talk with somebody and they say, well, truth is just your perception, something can be true to you and it can be untrue to someone else. And while there are certain principles where that’s absolutely the case, I’m not talking about that kind of subjective truth. We’re talking about the facts, things that actually are the way they are, regardless of our perception. Are you with me so far? Maybe it helps to take a quick example here. Let’s say that you lend your friend your car and they take it out driving and you get a call with them telling you that they crashed your car into a telephone pole. Now, the truth here is they crashed your car into a telephone pole, right?
[00:04:16] You show up at the scene. You can see it. The police can see it. Your friend sees it. You all acknowledge that’s the truth. The truth is the car is currently smashed into the telephone pole. Now, if your friend tells you that they were driving and that they drove it in, that’s truth, too. Now, in that situation, depending on where you’re at emotionally and what this relationship is with your friend, you might respond in a number of different situations. But let’s say here for a moment that you jumped to some conclusions. So you know the truth, the fact that your friend crashed the car into the telephone pole and that sucks.
[00:04:51] What you typically do, though, what we typically do is we start then filling in the blanks of the how and the why and the when with our own assumptions. So, you know, we might lash out at them, we might get angry at them, we might think, how could they? They were so careless. They probably were texting and driving. They probably weren’t paying attention and I let them have my car!
[00:05:10] We go into this whole story now inside of our mind as to why they did it, how they did it, how they should have shown up, how they didn’t show up. All these different things oftentimes before we have the full story. And if we choose to react in that way, we are in what is known as distortion.
What is Distortion?
Now, what do I mean by distortion? This is a principle that I was actually taught by my therapist, Jody Hildebrandt. I think it’s a fantastic word to describe what we’re talking about here. Distortion is the opposite of truth. It comes from an inaccurate assumption or inaccurate beliefs about something or someone.
[00:05:54] So if you’ve ever been to a haunted house or maybe one of those old school fun houses, you’ve probably seen those mirrors that are warped and bent out of shape. When you stand in front of them it makes your reflection look all goofy, right? You’re all wavy and bent weird and your face looks funny. In a normal mirror, you see an accurate image of yourself, you see truth, you see how you actually look. In a warped, twisted, messed up mirror, you see a distorted image of yourself. You follow?
[00:06:29] So distortion starts with truth, it’s reflecting your image, that is you in the mirror. But then it bends it, it twists it, it warps it colors or otherwise changes it into something that is no longer accurate. A fun house mirror, a bent, twisted, messed up mirror is no longer reflecting an accurate, truthful reflection of an image. It’s reflecting a distorted image, something that is no longer accurate.
[00:06:57] Now, the problem is because it often starts out with truth, we often believe distortion to be truth. So we might look at ourselves in the mirror and say, well, yeah, that’s obviously me, so the rest of what I’m seeing must be true too. And that’s false. At least in the case of distortion, at least in the case of these fun house mirrors that are reflecting back images of us, but not accurate images of us.
[00:07:25] Can you imagine doing your hair or makeup every morning in front of one of these fun house mirrors? How would that play out? If what you’re doing, if you’re making decisions, if you’re taking action off of a distorted view of reality and then you walk out into actual reality, you’re probably going to get some funny looks. You’re probably going to get some people thinking, what’s going on? You say, what do you mean what’s going on? I did my a perfectly this morning. I styled my hair just the way I like it this morning. And it might not look anything at all like you think it does because you were looking at a distorted image of reality. And can you imagine putting on a pair of glasses that distorts what you see in a similar manner and then being asked to drive to work, or to write a letter or play catch with your kids or cook dinner?
[00:08:16] You can’t do it, at least not well. And you certainly can’t do it without doing some real damage or likely hurting yourself or others. Similarly, we can’t go through life living in distortion and expect things to go smoothly. If I’m in distortion, meaning again, if I’m not living in truth, if I’m instead accepting as truth these wrong images or these these false beliefs, I may say or do things to my loved ones that hurt them. I may not take responsibility for certain actions that are mine and mine alone.
[00:08:54] I will likely embrace the drama triangle and live my life feeling like I’m a victim and blaming everyone else. The list goes on and on, all because I’m not seeing things clearly. So if you want more happiness in life, if you want deeper connection with your partner, with your children, with your friends, with your colleagues or siblings, you need to learn to recognize distortion and then learn how to get back into truth.
[00:09:22] Let’s look at a few examples here. The first comes from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. Fantastic book. And truth be told, I don’t remember everything from it, but I do remember this story. It made a very strong impression on my mind and I want to relate that story here. So Covey talks in the book, he shares an experience about a time on a Sunday morning when he was riding the subway in New York. He hopped on the train and people were sitting quietly, some were reading newspapers, some were lost in thought, others resting. It was a pretty calm, peaceful scene, which is kind of hard to believe nowadays with New York City subways, but I digress.
[00:10:06] Picture that calm, serene subway ride. Suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car and he said that the children were so loud and rambunctious that it instantly changed the whole climate of that subway car. And Covey said, well, this man sat down next to me and he closed his eyes and he was apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth. They were throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. And it was pretty disturbing, it really kind of broke the calm of the subway car and Covey was talking about it, he said, I couldn’t believe how this man could be so insensitive to all of this. How could he let his children run around like this and not do anything about it, taking no responsibility at all? I mean, come on. And he said it was easy to see that other people were irritated just as well. And so he said, ultimately, what I felt like was unusual patients and restraint. I turned to him and said, sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you could control them a little more? And the man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said, Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t think I know what to do and I don’t think they know how to handle it either.
[00:11:35] Woah.. Can you imagine how he felt at that moment? Suddenly, he saw things very differently. Suddenly he turned from judging, or resenting, or feeling anger at or towards this man to being filled with compassion, to being filled with sympathy.
[00:11:55] A very valuable lesson to learn. Realizing the danger of assumptions and really the danger of distortion. So let’s unpack what happened here for a moment. So Covey had an experience, let’s start in truth. It was a quiet subway, he had time to think so, on and so forth. Man and child enter and start causing all sorts of ruckus, the quiet goes away. So all of that is truth, all of that is factual. Covey now sees what’s happening and he knows he’s being affected by it. And he is uncomfortable, he doesn’t love the fact that these kids are now yelling and screaming. All of that is truth. Next, Covey fills in details of what he doesn’t know with his own assumptions.
[00:12:43] This is where the distortion comes in, do you see it? Covey handled the situation very calmly and respectfully. I’m impressed, frankly, that he was able to still be respectful to this man. Many of us probably wouldn’t have been that respectful. Many of us would probably make kind of a snarky or passive aggressive comment and say, “Gee, I really wish someone would quiet these kids down” instead of addressing it directly.
[00:13:08] Nevertheless, we know that Covey was still in distortion here because his thoughts were judgmental. He is saying in his mind, how can you just sit there and take no responsibility?
[00:13:19] The unspoken thought there is, he’s being a poor father. He’s not being respectful to everybody else on this train. But then, lo and behold, once he actually gets truth around the situation, he actually discovers why this father is oblivious to everything his children are doing, well, everything shifts and suddenly it’s perfectly understandable why he’s acting that way here, why he’s stuck in a daze and why his kids are acting that way.
[00:13:45] And it’s much, much easier to connect with those people and to help instead of judge. So I think that’s a prime example, it’s really stuck with me. It’s helped me catch myself when I am jumping to conclusions, when I’m making assumptions and when I’m judging people without knowing the full story.
[00:14:06] Example number two, however, is a prime example of how Michael still not perfect, because even though I knew that Covey story, this was actually quite funny because I’m still not great at always catching myself.
[00:14:19] So literally this morning, I had a podcast interview scheduled with another individual for 9:00 a.m. my time, and I was there, logged on, waited for about five minutes, I figured, OK, it takes a little while to get set up, sometimes I’m late, but I messaged her just making sure I was in the right place. Nothing. Ten minutes go by, fifteen minutes go by, and then 20. Eventually I log out of the video call because she apparently forgot or, you know, something happened.
[00:14:48] And guess what started going through my mind? These were my thoughts. I’m not proud of this, but this is what went through my mind. Huh. Well, that was unprofessional. Doesn’t she realize that I’m busy? She probably didn’t even think to put it on her calendar when we rescheduled. I held back going to the gym because of this interview. The unspoken feeling in my mind was I’m a victim here. I wanted to go to the gym, but I couldn’t because of this interview that we had, that she missed.
[00:15:16] Now, I don’t even like admitting those prideful thoughts because that’s not usually how I show up. But in the spirit of complete transparency, complete honesty, that’s what I thought. And then I suddenly saw the irony of the situation. Here I am literally writing an outline for an episode on truth and distortion, and I go right on into distortion over that very experience. So let’s unpack that there for a moment.
[00:15:43] What was the truth there? Well, the truth is that we had a call scheduled and she didn’t show up. Although if you want to know another little bit of truth here, I assumed that she didn’t put that time on her calendar and judged her for it, but guess who also didn’t put the time on their calendar? Yours truly. Literally last night at about 11 o’clock, I felt like it was divine guidance or just plain luck, I realized, oh, shoot, I have an interview tomorrow at 9:00 and it wasn’t on my calendar. So I was grateful that I averted that disaster there and put it on my calendar. But then here I am not twelve hours later judging her, assuming that she didn’t put it on her calendar, but then be judging her on that assumption there.
[00:16:29] You see how messed up that is? And yet it happens so often and oftentimes without our awareness, which is why we have a podcast episode on it today. To invite you to bring awareness around distortion. To get in the habit of catching it and identifying it and then changing it, because it’s not a it’s not a fun spot to be in. And and I didn’t want to go into the interview. We did reschedule it for later, I didn’t want to go into the interview with that negative energy with feeling like I’m a victim or resenting her.
[00:17:02] So how did I get out of it? Well, the antidote to distortion is surprise, surprise: more truth. So in this particular situation, I had to counter my distorted thoughts with truthful ones. So the distortion in my mind was she is disrespectful and disorganized. Truth? I don’t know why she missed the call, period. I don’t get to go anywhere else with that. That’s the truth. And it takes away the judgment, the second distorted thought that went through my mind was: I’m doing this interview for her. She should be more respectful. The truth around that is, this interview benefits us both I willingly accepted and I’m grateful for the opportunity. It will help boost more exposure for me and for my book and my work that I’m doing. That’s the truth. Period.
[00:17:56] And then to really round it out or finish it up, there’s a few more bits of truth there that I used to get myself out of the distortion. One of them is the fact that I’ve missed countless calls and meetings in my life. I am no better than her or anyone else and I’m grateful when people are patient with me. And the other truth? That experience gave me an excellent example for today’s episode. So you see how quickly, how easily it can slide in, but also how relatively easily we can get out of it. Now it’s not always that easy. Oftentimes, if it’s a tricky or more emotional situation, you’re going to require some outside help and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. But in general, I’m giving you several examples here to hopefully help retrain your mind, bring some awareness around this principle.
[00:18:45] The final example I’ll share is another example of what not to do from Michael’s own life. But I share it because it provides one other avenue, one other illustration of how this plays out in your romantic relationships or really any relationship.
[00:19:02] So just this last week, I was messaging back and forth with my wife and she had an appointment that I didn’t feel she was taking seriously. And it was something that was important to me. And I started feeling resentful around it and I started thinking, oh, my gosh, I’m worried about this or I feel like she’s taking advantage of me here, or this or that. Whatever the thoughts were, they weren’t positive and it wasn’t the head space that I wanted to be in.
[00:19:32] So striving to practice what I preach on this podcast, I recognize that the resentment raised a red flag in my mind that said, uh-oh Michael, this is something you have to clean up. This is your responsibility, not your wife’s. And so in that moment, I thought, well, the obvious fix here is setting a boundary. You know, I haven’t been clear with her and I want to be clear with her about what I need, what my expectations are and what I’m gonna have to do if she doesn’t take this thing seriously. And so I took some time and I kind of wrote out how I was gonna say in a way that is still respectful and it was still kind, while also preserving my own integrity and being direct.
[00:19:32] And I sent it off in a text message, which I’m not super thrilled, you know, super proud of that either. Generally, I recommend calling people or talking in person. But as you’ll see in a moment here, I wasn’t in as centered of a mind space as I thought I was. So I sent the message off and it was a busy day at work for her so I didn’t hear back from her for a couple of hours. But sure enough, 2-3 hours later, I get a phone call from her.
[00:20:35] My heart sunk a little bit because I was already regretting sending it as a text message rather than a phone call. So I step out of my meeting and I answer the call and she says, Hey, I’m calling about your message. I appreciate you sending that. And I was taking it seriously, I want you to know that basically, Michael, your assumptions were wrong.
[00:20:56] It was a humbling moment for me because I realized that I had jumped to a conclusion, I had made an assumption and in a somewhat hasty attempt to try to fix things, I set a boundary that actually didn’t need to be set because she was taking it seriously and I just didn’t know that. And so in that particular moment, if we unpack that situation, there was some truth that I was seeing, I was seeing the messages that she had sent. I was reading them accurately, but I was filling in the gaps with my own assumptions again. In hindsight, the healthier approach would have been for me either via text on this particular one, or via phone call,just get curious around it. Simply ask her what she intends to do. Ask her questions that will tell me whether or not she is taking it seriously. And if I had done that, I would have found out very quickly. Oh, OK. She is. I just misread the situation. Good to know.
[00:21:59] But because I didn’t, I was buying into a distorted view of reality. I started running with something that was truth, right? I took the truth just like the fun house mirror. I took truth but then I ran with the distorted version of that truth. Does that make sense?
[00:22:18] I hope this is clicking. I hope that you’re at least starting to connect the dots here and see what I mean by all of this. Because that’s nitty gritty stuff, but it is woven throughout our days. It’s woven throughout all of our interactions. And what makes it extra tricky is we’re not just dealing with our own distortion. We’re not just dealing with our own distorted thoughts, but we’re dealing with everyone else’s distorted thoughts as well.
Getting Out of Distortion
[00:22:42] And so that’s where the drama triangle comes back into play here. If you are in a drama triangle with someone, if they’re feeling like the victim and then you’re stepping in as the rescuer, or maybe you’re the victim and you’re persecuting someone, and if you haven’t listened to that, go back and give that a listen. There’s distortion in all of that. You listening to this podcast, hopefully are beginning to see that. Hopefully you’re beginning to internalize these truths that we talk about here of what’s your responsibility and what isn’t. How to connect with people in a healthy way and what unhealthy connection looks like. And it really all comes down to whether or not we’re operating out of a place of truth or out of a place of distortion.
[00:23:31] How do you get out of distortion? Well, we’ve already talked about it a little bit in some of the prior examples. It’s really quite simple, at least in principle, not necessarily in practice. All you have to do to get out of distortion is to label it and then find and label the truth
[00:23:51] What I mean by that is if we go back to these other examples, it’s catching yourself. It’s looking for those common red flags. The consistent red flags, I should say, of resentment, of anger, of fear, of any of those emotions that we would typically call negative. If you start feeling those, you get defensive or whatnot, that’s a good reminder to take a moment, take a breath, step out situation if you can, and examine it. And ask yourself, where’s the truth here and where’s the distortion here? Am I buying into or am I acting out of a distorted mindset?
[00:24:34] And the reason this is so foundational is that taking that first step is critical to making sure you apply the right techniques to the situation. So in my example of talking with my wife, setting a boundary with my wife, I was thinking I was practicing what I preach and taking my own medicine, but realized later on, whoops, that wasn’t a situation where I needed to set a boundary. That was a situation where I needed to clear up my distorted thinking. That was the situation where I just needed to communicate and get more insight before acting.
[00:25:10] So if you’re struggling with taking care of yourself, taking time for yourself, like we talked about in last week’s episode. It’s important first to take a look at any situation before you just immediately shoot back and say, I need time for me. I’m going to take time right now. To first look at and say, OK, am I centered, am I looking at the situation in truth first? Yes. Good. OK, now it’s time to set a boundary, now it’s the time to assert myself.
[00:25:41] If the answer is, oh, whoops, no, I’m actually not seeing things clearly. Well, then good on you because you likely just avoided an awkward situation. You likely just avoided or stopped yourself from saying something that you might regret. So to get out of distortion, you label it, you have to find a way to stop yourself in a heated situation and take a breather. And then you step out and you find and label the truth and the distortion, you basically separate the marbles on the table. OK. This is truth and all these things are distortion. So you really have two ways of doing that.
[00:26:17] The first is to walk through it yourself. If you can. Now, I have two ways that really helped me with this, really three. Oftentimes I can I can do it in my own mind just thinking about it, right. That’s what I did with this interview, but not always. Sometimes you’re dealing with more difficult things and you just need to write it out, at least I do.
[00:26:38] So the first thing I recommend to just about everybody is to do a form of mind mapping. And I typically draw this out and shut them, so you’re gonna have to use your imagination here for a moment. But what I mean by that is that I take a blank sheet of paper and I write out the first thought that’s going through my mind. It might be something like, oh, I’m just so angry at my boss right now. So you write that out on the piece of paper and then you circle it and then you draw a little line from the bottom. You know, maybe down into the left a little bit and ask yourself in your mind, OK, well, why? Or maybe even write out the word “Why?” And then you circle that, put it in little bubble, then draw another little line, say, well, because he won’t let me take this vacation next month. Then you circle that. And then you say, OK, why won’t he let me take the vacation? And you write that. Well, he said this and that. OK. What about that upsets. Right. And you start to walk yourself through a client the other day kind of laughed and said, oh, it’s like self-therapy.
[00:27:41] And it kind of is. I really like that mind mapping technique to help you figure out the distortion. And so if you’re wanted to really hone in on the distortion yourself, you go through that mind mapping exercise and then you can even label the distorted thoughts. So you go through everything, write everything down and as nonjudgmental of a way as you can and then go back with a different colored pencil or marker or pen and circle the distortion circled, the distorted thoughts, the things that are assumptions, the things that are not based on truth, on cold, hard fact. And those are the thoughts, the phrases, the beliefs that you want to counter with truth. So you might then take another line out from that circle if it’s a distorted thought and write out the truth.
[00:28:30] What is the truth about the situation? Well, the truth is, I don’t know what happened. The truth is, I don’t know his motive. I don’t know why she said that. All I know is that it hurt. There’s your truth. And then from there, you get to use the tools that I’ve shared on this podcast series to figure out where to go to have the conversation in a non-threatening way to set boundaries, if that’s what you need to take responsibility to put yourself first. Whatever it is, that is where you then return to the situation and manage it.
[00:29:08] Now, option two, if you’re not into mind mapping or journaling, or if it’s just not working, if it’s a very difficult situation, I strongly recommend calling a trusted, healthy individual. Oftentimes we just need an outside perspective, and it is shockingly easy for people on the outside looking in to see the truth of a situation where we ourselves get so wrapped up in the drama. And so it’s important, though, that you call someone who’s healthy. And what I mean by that is obviously not physically healthy, but emotionally healthy. Somebody who maybe is listening to this podcast series or has been through therapy or someone you just trust and someone you trust to call you out when it’s your fault, when you’re not seeing things clearly. What you don’t want to do is call somebody who will enable you, somebody who will fuel the drama. And would just buy into the distortion that you’re that you’re thinking in your mind. That’s not what you want. So I hope each of you listening to this podcast have somebody in mind. I hope you have somebody that you can turn to.
[00:30:14] If you don’t find a way to find someone, turn someone on to this podcast. You know, talk to a sibling, talk to a parent, talk to a friend, a coworker, somebody, and find a way maybe that you both learn these things together so you can at least speak the same language if you don’t want to go there. But therapy sounds like it might be helpful for you. By all means, get a good therapist, somebody who can help. Call out the reality of the situation.
[00:30:45] So option one, working through your own doing mind mapping or some kind of journaling option to calling a trusted, healthy individual. Now, again, I mentioned earlier that that could take some time, that can take some work. And I don’t expect you to just suddenly the next time you’re in a very difficult situation, immediately find the distortion and the truth self-correct and have a very cordial conversation with somebody that you’re in an argument about. That’s pretty high level stuff. I myself, I’m not great at doing it in the moment like that.
[00:31:20] So my invitation to you today, my recommended way of applying this is to pick a situation that’s already happened or something that you’re in the middle of that’s ongoing, right? So it’s not necessarily you’re yelling at someone or you’re fighting, but maybe there’s an ongoing disagreement or maybe there’s something that just happened like what happened on my podcast interview where you have a few minutes to think about it and look for the distortion. Walk through that situation and identify the truth and the distortion. Figure out what’s fact and what’s accurate and figure out what is assumption based or something that you’re filling in the blanks with and then take the necessary steps to heal it.
[00:32:05] To go back and counter those distorted thoughts with more truth. I promise you, it is freeing, it is powerful. That’s why I’m so passionate about this podcast, about the principles that I teach, is that while the album Art says, better relationships in love and life, really what we’re doing is developing strong personal power here. And I talk over and over about how this stuff applies to the business world and to your social relationships just as much as it does your romantic relationships. And I hope you’re starting to see why, because these are powerful principles, personal power that we’re tuning into here.
[00:32:46] We’re learning how to walk through life again. Like I mentioned in an earlier episode, seeing the matrix, seeing the code, seeing the reality. Seeing past the façades, past the lies, past the lies and shame that we tell ourselves and going, oh. That’s the truth of the situation, which then generally leads us to say. So I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to go into drama. I don’t have to feel horrible. I don’t have to give up all my happiness. What? Why has no one told me this? That’s an amazing way to live life. And again, life’s never not going to just be rainbows and butterflies and everything’s happy. I’m not suggesting that that’s the result of this.
[00:33:29] But the better we get at seeing truth and identifying and catching the distortion, life does get much clearer. We at least can see how better to handle certain situations. And that ultimately does lead to better connection. That does lead to better relationships and it definitely leads to greater personal happiness and just an overall willingness and joy and living life.
[00:33:57] So with that, I wrap up this episode. If you haven’t already left a review on the show, I would of course, much appreciate it if you do so. And if you would like to dive deeper into this and related topics, you can find all sorts of free resources on my Website michaelssorensen.com. Until next time.