Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Relationships As Mirrors
Have you heard that what you don’t like in others is actually what you don’t like about yourself? Ouch!! I remember when I first read about this several years ago in Debbie Ford's book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams.I was taken aback, but also felt like I had stumbled across something that had huge potential to change my life and my relationships (romantic and otherwise).
When people first hear this, typically their reaction is something along the lines of: “There’s no way that’s possible. I can’t stand that person, so how can it possibly mean I am just like that person?!” If you dig deep enough and really look within yourself, though, eventually you can always see that whatever you are disliking in someone else can also be found somewhere within you. In fact, it is actually a part of yourself that you have disowned or not accepted, maybe years ago without your conscious awareness, and it is now trying to gain your approval and acceptance. Because you have not owned it within yourself, you have projected it onto someone else where it is more “acceptable.”
Here’s how this works: Say you have a boss or colleague at work that is SERIOUSLY getting on your nerves. This is probably not too hard for many of us to imagine! You probably know every last thing about them that annoys you on a regular basis. Instead of letting them get to you and giving them power over you, though, I encourage you to take back power over yourself!
The next time they irritate you, rather than just automatically getting annoyed and muttering to yourself how x, y, or z they are, identify what it is you don’t like about them and turn the mirror to look within yourself. Can you see within yourself that sometimes, in certain situations, you have a tendency to act like they act when they are being especially annoying? Can you think back to an occasion where you exhibited the same sort of behavior that they are currently exhibiting? Even just one time?
Once you’ve found that quality or characteristic within yourself (and it's there!), the next step of the process is to begin accepting yourself, in spite of having that characteristic. Hey, we are all human so there’s no use beating yourself up for it anymore! Begin to accept and own that quality within yourself, regardless of whether or not you think that particular aspect of yourself is a good or bad. Self-love is the name of the game folks, so just make a commitment to owning all the different parts of yourself, no matter what judgments you may have about them! Even if you ultimately want to change that aspect of yourself, you first have to accept it before you can ever truly change it.
What happens next is really amazing! Don’t be surprised if all of a sudden the person disappears from your life completely or just drops the behavior that was bothering you, sometimes instantly. The minute you accept that quality within yourself, either a) it won’t bother you so much in the other person because you realize that you have the same capacity to act in the same way at times or b) they will literally just stop exhibiting the behavior all together or will simply cease to exist in your life! It seems truly magical when this happens, but in fact it’s not magic at all. It's a process that works time and time again if you let it. Sometimes it may take owning and accepting those qualities within yourself a few times before you notice results in the outside world, but stick with it and things *will* change!
I recently read another book that I highly recommend, which reminded me of this “relationships as mirrors” phenomenon: John English's The Little Book on Relationship: How to Guide Your Life With Meaning, Purpose and Power.This book reminded me that using relationships as mirrors is not only helpful in mending relationships with others, but also as a tool for more deeply knowing ourselves. By taking back and owning the various parts of ourselves we have projected onto others through the years, we get to know ourselves as whole and complete human beings who have a variety of qualities that make each of us unique!
This phenomenon also works in reverse, i.e. if we notice positive characteristics in others, we get to take ownership of those as well! For example, say you have a friend or even a public figure that you admire to no end. They are successful, sophisticated, poised, gracious, etc. Guess what? The reason you are so drawn to those specific characteristics in them is because they exist within you!! You admire that person because you know you have the same potential as they do; you just haven't fully tapped into it yet. In the same way as described above, if you notice yourself admiring or praising someone else, shine the mirror within to see where you exhibit those traits as well. Trust me, they're there!