Take a moment to pause and reflect on this statement…
Other people are mirrors of ourselves. “We can only see things in others that we see within ourselves”.
What comes up for you when you read this? Do you find it confronting or challenging? Do you find yourself wanting to resist it? Or maybe it rings somewhat true to you, but its mixed with feelings of confusion.
I first heard this powerful quote a few years back.
“Your perception of me, is a reflection of you. My reaction to you is an awareness of me.”Unknown
At the time it didn’t really click for me, I remember thinking “Wow that’s interesting.” But shortly after, it slipped my mind. Until recently, when a confronting situation surfaced in my life, at a place I least expected it.
How I began exploring this concept
Two months ago, I moved to a meditation centre in England. I’ll be in the UK for six months volunteering and I wanted to base myself in a spiritual, healing community surrounded by like-minded people. I researched online and found a beautiful centre surrounded by nature in the English countryside, so that’s where I ended up.
I fell in love with this place as soon as I arrived. The sense of community, the spiritual practices available to me daily and the natural landscape. I knew that I’d discovered something special. I started volunteering in the cafe and working alongside many different people from all over the world. After a month I was asked to take on more responsibilities, filling in for the cafe manager while she was away on holidays.
During this time, I noticed a shift in my perception of the centre, and those around me. I arrived with the expectation that everyone living there would possess a peaceful mind. That conflict would be non-existent, and that everyone would get along all the time.
When my unrealistic expectations were challenged, I became frustrated and reactive. I felt a cloud of negativity coming over me, and found myself blaming others for the uncomfortable emotions I was experiencing.
One week in particular, I was feeling extremely irritable and frustrated just being in the company of others. When people came to talk to me or ask me questions about work, I would respond in short and make little effort to engage with them. I acknowledged that I wasn’t feeling myself, and that the energy I was projecting around me was less than pleasant.
But I didn’t care, I felt like others were being difficult and that I had a right to feel frustrated by them. As the days went on my frustration continued to grow and I felt a slight shift in energy between myself and others. But I chose to ignore it and continue to project my frustrations outwardly, paying little attention to my inner struggles.
Towards the end of the week, everything came to a head. There was some tension been between myself another girl at the centre. A person I genuinely like and consider a friend. But over the past week there had been some unspoken conflict and we were both aware that the energy between us was slightly off.
I personally hate confrontation, and many times in the past have chosen to avoid it. But on this particular occasion she decided to confront me on our unspoken conflict.
My first reaction was to be defensive, thinking “How dare she confront me on this! I haven’t done anything wrong!” We were both reactive, attempting to get our points across to one another.
I found myself feeling like I was being attacked and looking for the negatives within her. Focusing on what I believed she had done wrong, and how she was responsible for triggering this anger in me. I hated being caught up in this situation of conflict. Afterwards, my response was to turn straight to the victim mindset, poor me.
This was my go-to response, I knew the victim mindset well from my past experiences. It seemed like an easy space to exist in as I could continue to blame her for my suffering, and hide behind excuses and self-justifications. After all, my belief that conflict wouldn’t arise at a meditation centre was now well and truly shattered into a million pieces. So why not play the victim right?
As I began to comfortably settle myself into the victim mindset, and justify why my friend was wrong. Something quite profound shifted inside of me. A message came to me, it told me to look inside. It asked me to look at my own reflection, and identify what I had been projecting over the past week.
In an instant my mindset completely transformed, and I was forced to look into the mirror of myself. To reflect on what triggers I had been fighting within myself for the past week. And I was faced with identifying how other people are mirrors of ourselves.
How we are all reflections of one another
As humans, we naturally judge and blame others for our misfortunes. We contribute much of our suffering to external influences, rather than looking inwards at our own faults and delusions. Carl Jung once said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.
The mirror of Dharma is a Buddhist teaching that explores the idea that we must look inwards to explore the root cause of our suffering. And that our attachments, anger and self-grasping ignorance are the cause of all our external problems and suffering.
Realizing that other people are mirrors of ourselves can feel quite uncomfortable and confronting at first. It may seem easier just to blame others for our problems rather than taking responsibility for ourselves. But the truth is, if we continue to project our blame outwardly, we are only choosing to prolong our own suffering.
When you are triggered or challenged by someone, they are simply just mirroring a past experience of your own. If you discover displeasing traits in another individual they tend to be similar traits that you dislike, or have rejected about yourself. When someone does or says something that triggers one of those traits in you. Your immediate response is to typically react and defend yourself.
These triggers are unresolved issues from your past, suppressed memories or trauma that you have buried deep within your subconscious. When a challenging situation arises, and you are triggered, something is surfacing that is asking to be acknowledged and healed. But it is not possible to heal these old wounds if you choose to project your frustrations outwardly.
For example, one of my triggers is when people talk over the top of me. And when I feel like people are being dismissive of what I have to say. My instant reaction is to feel disrespected and unvalued. I blame others for not making me feel important and not acknowledging what I have to say. And I feel frustrated and hurt by them.
But what I am really experiencing, is a manifestation of a painful belief that I am not worthy, that my opinion does not matter. It triggers uncomfortable emotions inside of me from my past experiences and I regress to a place of fear and wanting to be seen and heard.
Another common example is when you experience rejection. This is a common trigger for many people because most of us can relate to a time when we felt rejected by another. When someone does something that triggers the feeling of rejection, it takes a big hit to your self-esteem. Your first response is to protect and defend yourself. Because rejection brings up feelings of shame and isolation.
When someone rejects you, it triggers the parts of yourself that you have rejected. The parts you supress or dislike about yourself. This is why rejection feels so deeply painful. But it is important to remember that by going inwards, you can learn to heal and nurture those parts of yourself.
If we can learn to apply the understanding that other people are mirrors of ourselves. We begin to grow and appreciate that others can help us learn important lessons, especially in times of challenges. It is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of ourselves and work towards healing old wounds.
Practical steps towards identifying the reflection of ourselves in others
Challenging your beliefs and familiar patterns always feels uncomfortable at first. Personally, when I make the decision to challenge and break an old belief, I feel a strong familiar and comforting pull back towards the negative action. I know it’s wrong but it feels ‘safe’ and somewhat comforting.
Forming new patterns always feels very foreign. It is unknown territory, at first choosing that route feels somewhat scary and uncertain. The little voice inside our head is calling us to step up. But taking action feels kind of wobbly, like walking along a tightrope.
But the more we practice going inwards and identifying our own reflection, the easier it becomes to identify when we are projecting our suffering outwardly.
Here are some practical steps to help you identify your reflection in the ‘mirror’
When I began to implement changes in my own life, towards identifying my reflection in others. I developed the acronym PRIDE. Pause, Reflect, Identify, Deepen and Empower. Its a process towards self-healing, through identifying your triggers which are mirrored in others.
When you notice yourself judging or finding faults in others, pause.
Acknowledge what is coming up for you at this time. What emotions are arising? Maybe you feel anger or sadness. Or perhaps they are triggering painful feelings, or you sense yourself becoming irritable.
Look inside yourself.
How is this trigger reflecting back at you from your internal mirror? Ask yourself “What is this person saying or doing that is triggering something within me?”
What traits are you noticing in them that you can identify in yourself?
This will help you to investigate what the trigger may be. Maybe you see a similarity in the way they are reacting to a certain situation. Or you might be feeling irritated by something they have said or done.
Deepen your awareness, see if you can pinpoint an origin for this trigger.
It could be a past experience that may have been painful or difficult. If you feel safe to do so, allow it to arise and acknowledge it. Spend some time meditating or writing about it. Ask yourself “What is asking to be healed at this time”.
Allow yourself to feel empowered.
Know that you have the ability to heal yourself through identifying your own reflection in others. Begin to nurture the parts of yourself that are asking to be healed.
By uncovering your own truth through identifying how other people are mirrors of ourselves, you can unlock the immense power of healing within you. As well as improve your relationships with those around you.
What have you identified in others that mirror yourself? Leave comments below.
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