Once when I was going through customs at the airport in Winnipeg, Canada to visit Rachelle, I got pulled aside for extra questioning. The suspicious young agent somehow convinced himself that I was on an errand of ill intent and interrogated me about my reasons for visiting. He went through the files on my laptop, searching for evidence of illegal activity. He read through the recent text messages on my cell phone. Much to his chagrin, I wasn’t actually crossing the border to destroy Canadian society, so he came up empty handed and grudgingly waved me through, although for good measure he gave me a bonus lecture about the risks of doing anything illegal while visiting Canada.

I felt mostly creeped out afterwards, as if I someone had just vomited fear into my personal energy matrix. It took me several hours to slough off those feelings. Fortunately hanging out with Rachelle and the other nice people of Winnipeg was all it took to bring me back up again.

At the time I blamed that event on the overzealous agent, but if I look back on it now, I can interpret the whole experience as a reflection – and perhaps an amplification – of my own thoughts and beliefs at the time.

Even before I got to that agent, I approached the customs area with a suspicious vibe. I didn’t trust the agents, so when I was asked about the reasons for my visit, I gave a vague answer – “tourism” – which of course made the guy suspicious that I was hiding something. Who travels from Las Vegas to Winnipeg for tourism?

If I’d been a tad less suspicious and a bit more open with the agents, I probably wouldn’t have been subjected to the extra grilling.

I’ve seen similar patterns echoed back to me through blogging as well. When I’d write about a topic while feeling guarded about getting a negative reaction, my posts would attract plenty of criticism and judgmental responses. But when I fully owned what I was writing about, and I felt unattached to how people would react, there usually weren’t any negative responses to speak of.

I’m reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the ship is being shaken by energy waves of increasing magnitude, and the waves are getting so strong that they’re about to tear the ship apart. But it turned out that the ship’s own shields were causing these violent waves. The waves were proportionate reflections of the shield energy. Once the shields were dropped, the waves stopped, and the ship was no longer in danger.

One important zone of clarity is your relationship with reality. Reality will often reflect back to you what you put out, even when you’re unaware of this relationship. I think it would be an exaggeration to say that this happens with a magical degree of perfect balance, but the effect is there nonetheless.

Occasional missteps aren’t usually such a big deal, but if you see recurring patterns in what reality seems to be reflecting back to you, consider that you may actually be creating these effects more powerfully than you previously realized.

When you identify a recurring result in your life that you don’t feel aligned with, pause now and then to ask yourself, How am I creating this? Don’t ask this question with an attitude of blame but rather with an attitude of curiosity. Consider the possibility that your own thoughts or actions are causing or contributing to these outcomes.

Suppose, for instance, that you keep encountering a significant lack of social support in your life. Maybe everyone around you seems indifferent to your goals, and no one seems to lift a finger to help you. You may believe that you’re taking positive actions such as behaving gregariously and generously with other people. You may believe that you’re a good person, that you have worthy goals, and that you deserve some help. But if you privately feel distrustful of people, if you’re pretending to care about helping others but you don’t really care that much, or if your thoughts are otherwise out of alignment with the outcome you seek, then you can expect that people will subtly pick up on your true intentions, and they may respond with some resistance in return.

You’ll likely find it easier to spot these waves of reflection in other people. Perhaps someone tells you about a persistent problem they’re having, and it’s abundantly obvious to you how this person is creating that very problem. You may think to yourself, Well… duh! Of course that’s what you’re going to experience. Meanwhile the person remains completely oblivious to the causal links between thoughts, actions, and results.

You may also know that if you share your honest impressions with the person, they’ll probably be surprised, insulted, or defensive. They’re unlikely to see what you’re seeing. They’re too close to the situation to see it through the lens of self-created reflections coming back to them. So you may offer up a polite response instead.

I think it’s wise to assume that you’re also blind to many of your own self-created reflections. What you’re experiencing from life is in many ways just basic feedback regarding what you’re putting out.

Now the mistake people make here is to attempt to alter the reflections by doing even more of what caused them in the first place.

As I dealt with the overzealous border agent, I became increasingly annoyed with him. I asked if he could speed up the process, suggesting that I had more important things to do (like hang out with friends). I made facial expressions and shifted my body language to overtly communicate my irritation with his behavior. I did even more of what invited these reflections in the first place. Did this help my situation? Of course not. It simply motivated the agent to hold me up longer as he searched in vain for evidence of increasingly far-fetched breeches of Canadian law.

Have you ever done something similar by doubling down on an approach that clearly isn’t working?

When life threatens you with a financial problem, do you tighten up and go even deeper into the scarcity mindset that gave rise to this problem in the first place? Or do you use the challenge as an invitation to shift into abundance mode, such as by being more generous than usual?

When you’re stressed at work, do you procrastinate even more, thereby amplifying the stress? Or do you turn towards relaxation and find a way to play your way through the work instead?

If you go deeper into the thoughts, feelings, and energy patterns that give rise to your problems, you’ll attract more and bigger versions of those same problems. You’ll be like the character in that Star Trek episode who keeps calling “more shields, more shields, more shields” till the ship is about to be torn apart, never realizing that the shields are causing the problem.

Which persistent problems in your life might you actually be creating? Is it possible that you’re creating financial scarcity by acting like a financially scarce person would? Is it possible you’re creating social disconnection? Is it possible you’re creating the health status of your body? Again I’m not suggesting 100% perfect causality here, but can you entertain the possibility that your own thoughts and behaviors may be contributing to your results?

You may not learn the real truth until you deliberately shift your patterns of thought and behavior and give yourself the opportunity to see different patterns being reflected back. That’s when it will finally dawn on you that you’ve been playing a major role in creating your experiences all along. It’s when you break the old patterns and try something incongruent with your previous mindset that you can finally see the causal links that were previously hidden to you.

I suggest that you start small here. Test this idea when it doesn’t feel super critical. When you’re experiencing scarcity, try donating a small amount of money online to a cause you like. When you’re bored at work, play one of your favorite songs, shake out your body, and take a dance break for a few minutes. When you’re feeling angry, try sending someone a thank you note. If you don’t like the outcomes you’ve been experiencing, try setting a radically different cause in motion, and see how it affects your results.

Turn towards the patterns that feel more loving and more powerful to you, even if you can only manage this for a short time. When you disrupt your previous patterns, you’ll also raise your awareness of the old reflections you’ve been serving up unconsciously. And this will help you step into a zone of power that lets you change those patterns – and improve your results too.