If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

Photo © Jenn Shallvey 2015

I saw this truck go by the other day with a sign that said: 

“If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.”  

Before you read this post take a moment to reflect on this statement. Pay attention to what you notice and read into the sentence.

Do you read this message from the perspective of the truck driver or the person behind the truck?  Can you also see this message applies to most on the road who rely on mirrors to navigate?

Two perspectives

There are also two perspectives here. This is one way communication that is clearly verified with an observable result.  There is no guarantee the other will respond.  Though both can see each other when they do.  

Let’s be the truck driver for a moment.  On the surface the message is about safety. He might say ‘keep a reasonable distance behind me so I know you are there. If I don’t know you are there I might stop or do something suddenly that creates a problem for you. Also when I make turns and don’t know you are there I might cut you off.  Be safe on the roads we share together.’

Let’s be the driver or cyclist on the road behind the truck.  On the surface the message is a fun and courteous one.  This person behind the truck gets the reminder that there is a choice to heed or not. Of course there may be consequences if not done so best to stay alert.  Again if choose to do then the mirror is the validation.

So on the surface the sign promotes safe driving between two people sharing the same road. Simple.

Wait, there's more, of course...

But as always I see another layer in the message. If you read my writing or know me this will not surprise you!

For me the message is multi layered about how we live our lives.  Like the truck driver, some of us know our boundaries and communicate these to others. It is up to others to respect these boundaries.  We give people respect by sharing information about what is right for us.  The boundaries however can be wide or close, it is your decision about what works.

Like the person behind the truck we have choices about whether we respect another person’s boundaries.  We can choose to get too close or maintain a safe distance.  Mostly this choice is unconscious. There is a zone of safety that also is a zone of mutual respect.  When in this zone we each can see each other.

This truck situation is not a direct exchange. The driver and the person behind see each other via a mirror. They each see each other only when the person behind chooses to be at the safe distance and reflect back to truck driver.   One position tells the other where to be and then uses something to see. It is not about you seeing self. Instead there is a projected image towards another with one reflected back.

The hidden safety of mirrors

We put out there what we want others to see.  On a simple level the message is about not being able to ‘SEE’ each other.  We create masks, personas, images and personalities that we present for others. We hide behind these. They keep us safe. 

We want not only to hide behind a mask we reflect back what other’s show us.  If I keep you at a reasonable distance in my life then you won’t surprise me. Even better if I project back to you what you want to see then you will be comfortable and not disrupt my life. I get double safety. Do you see? If I mirror what you want to see then I maintain your world the way you want it but I also get to hide. It is almost like an unconscious codependency. 

Vulnerability still exists.  Deep inside is still this person who is afraid. Each person in this exchange feels it. Yet neither dare reveal it. Or there may even be an authentic person craving expression.

Changing boundaries

What happens then when one gets too close or can’t be seen. Is their fear? Worry? Or care and concern. What happens when the two people seen in the mirror eventually connect for real.  Now that would be interesting. Would the boundaries change?

This is what I wonder. I wonder what would happen if we could trust more and not need to see each other in a mirror. What if just by default we respected each other’s boundaries, their privacy, their life. What if we could see each other fully and accept each other fully rather than play the dancing games we do about perception and projection.

I am not proposing that we disregard safety on the roads.  However off the road I think we could consider taking a few more risks to break down conventional perception, especially if based on fear. 

No mirrors then what?

Let me throw in another factor. Imagine that the vehicles of each driver didn’t need mirrors or signs. Imagine if there were automatic detectors that would warn you when too close - like rear parking sensors.  Would this make you more unconscious about your interaction, exchange or free you up to pay more attention to what matters?  A question I wonder about but don’t have the answer for.

Then imagine another scenario. What if you were at the stoplight next to the truck rather than being behind the truck?  You now have a chance to look at each other eye to eye, no more mirrors involved. What then would happen?  If thinking about this analogy what would it look like in real life?

And so over to you

So now I make a suggestion. Forget about trucks, cars and bicycles for a moment. Consider the spaces you work in and live in. Consider the way you negotiate shared space both physical and non physical and how this affects the way you relate to each other. What are your boundaries? How do you respectfully communicate your boundaries?  Where are you motivated by safety? Where do you trust? Where do you step past the barriers of perception to see the real person?

All to ponder.







Jenn Shallvey