Vail Daily Open Bar column: Our own worst enemies
May 8, 2017
Mirrors as a physical entity are predictable; a given mirror will reflect the same way every time. But our perception of the reflection is constantly shifting, our neurological systems distorting the image like a funhouse mirror depending on our internal emotional state at the time of viewing.
Our psyches exhibit fragility and fortitude, breakable as crystal on some occasions, impenetrable as bulletproof glass on others. But we do not always match the mind to the mission; sometimes, we bring Waterford to Waterloo, try to hug with Plexiglas. Instead of correcting these mismatches, we push on, and that's when we find ourselves in real trouble. Humans, blessed and cursed by intellect and emotion, are so often our own worst enemies.
Most of the people who find themselves deep in litigation possess a faith in their cause that often fails to account for the vagaries and imbalances that characterize life as a homo sapiens. Introspection is a trait that serves one well in escaping the abyss of conflict. Instead of falling down the hole of a lawsuit, circular reasoning being your guide, it would be infinitely more beneficial to embrace the variability of your internal machinations.
Knowing that our psyches are subject to variation, we nonetheless let ourselves act when on the lesser end of the spectrum. Whether irritable because hungry or sleep-deprived, or just plain in a poor mood, we don't take a deep breath and chill out. We don't eat a snack or take a nap or go for a walk. Instead, we lash out at family, co-workers or strangers and, in the process, make them adversaries or at least adversarial. On a smaller level, the only consequences are acrimony, hurt feelings or a bit of friction. But these actions can be more lastingly consequential: business deals ruined, loss of customers, the sharp end of a lawsuit.
Alcohol and other psychoactive substances only exacerbate these tendencies and heighten the repercussions. Surely, we have low moments when we feel frustrated and seek a little respite with a beer. But when we allow our baser instincts to take over and one beer becomes 10, the ability to recognize that we are in the nadir and not at the zenith is essentially zero.
Our sober minds can distort the world; alcohol turns black skies blue, makes the coming thunderstorm seem like a sun shower. It's bad enough to act a buffoon, still worse to stand in front of a keyboard and launch that email attack, absolutely life-altering if we assume control of a car. Capable of so much good, we can erase all of that with one turn of the key. That visage you see in the mirror is your mortal enemy in that moment.
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Previously chided for this viewpoint, I will repeat it in a slightly different context: Not only is truth a relative concept as between different people, it is subject to discrepancy within the same corpus. I do not refer to the deep truths, the fundamental beliefs, although those can change: People are born again; people leave the church. I am talking about the more quotidian thoughts, the things that inform how we go through our personal and business lives.
We may have an idea for our company that seems unassailable one week, but which becomes pockmarked in the next, as our conception evolves and as we receive input. Or, to put it in a pop-culture perspective: Limp Bizkit, JNCO jeans and "The Rachel" haircut were once the epitome of cool. Yikes.
Building an absolute viewpoint on the seesaw of reality is an impossible task. It may balance for a bit, but when the portly kid gets off his side, the whole thing comes crashing down. This suggests that a flexible approach is the best way to avoid being caught out by the swings of our internal and external inputs.
I never preach perfection; I know from a lifetime of striving that there is no more foolish endeavor. But, we can always be better. To be able to recognize the times when we are a self-ally and when we are self-antagonists is a powerful skill. Even more beneficial is to train ourselves to only act when in the proper mindset.
Of course, this is easy to say and brutally difficult to do. When I see myself in the mirror wearing a bowtie, perhaps I fancy myself more erudite than in actuality. I should probably have a headshot that is a more accurate reflection: Me with bedhead in my pajamas, wildly pontificating about the great mysteries of the law and life — a pictorial representation of my own best friend and enemy.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.