by Jacquie Wise
They say that whatever you like or dislike in someone else is a reflection of some aspect of yourself. The circumstances you experience, they say, reflect your attitudes and character. Whatever you dish out, you get back. Really?
As with many other principles—by the time they are handed down word-of-mouth several times, they can get badly distorted and misunderstood. Yet the concept is a useful tool for gaining insights about ourselves.
Amanda was totally flummoxed. One of her staff members had lost her wallet and was accusing another employee of having stolen it. There was no proof. She could just as easily have lost it on her way to work. But this staff member had turned the incident into a major production.
She was accusing Amanda of bad management for not taking action—(what action could Amanda take, when there was no proof?) She had complained to the Board of Directors, she was creating all kinds of disruption in the office, she was threatening to go to the union, the press—she just would not let it go.
‘I know everyone in your life is supposed to mirror your own behaviour,’ wailed Amanda. ‘But if that’s true, then does it mean I am just as much of a drama queen as this woman? I’ve tried so hard to let things go over my head, and not take it personally and not over-react—I’ve no idea what I’m missing!’
Sure, life’s a mirror. Aside from the concept that we subconsciously attract into our lives people and situations that best help us grow, the mirror idea is a useful tool to help us identify any projections we might be making.
When you see behaviour you don’t like,
the first question to ask is ‘Do I ever do this?’
It takes guts, because sometimes the answer is a resounding YES! You are exactly the same. Ouch!
Because Amanda had read that the precise characteristic or behaviour you dislike is what you must be exhibiting yourself, she’d taken the mirror concept very literally. She thought she must be missing some crucial clue.
But what if you’re faced with a lot of aggression from everyone around you, yet you are a gentle, passive person who’s never said boo to anyone? How does the mirror work then? It’s the same with any principle—by the time it’s handed down word-of-mouth several times, it can get badly distorted and misunderstood.
Let’s not forget that mirrors give reverse images!
There are three steps to take to figure out what you need to learn through any situation. First, it helps if you brainstorm descriptions for the behaviour you are facing. The more you can come up with, the more likely you are to hit the spot. Second, in an adjoining column, list opposite behaviours. Amanda’s list looked like this:
The woman’s behavior was / The reverse image would be:
obsessive too easy going / tolerating too much
aggressive/bully tactics passive / not taking enough control
making unreasonable demands no boundaries / too submissive
attention-seeking / too retiring
defensive, over-anxious / too laid back, manipulative not direct enough
over-the-top drama queen / not allowing myself to react and denying my right to feel frustrated and angry
Looking at the reverse image, Amanda could see exactly where she’d gone wrong. In trying too hard not to mirror this woman’s behaviour, she’d gone too far the other way.
But hold it! You could be distorting the truth to protect that fragile ego. It’s so easy to justify our own behaviour and see ourselves as self-righteous victims…That’s where the third step comes in. Look for proof—check the facts—who said and did what and when, including how often.
Only then can you decide what action you’re going to take. In particular, what you are going to do differently, to deal with the current situation, or in future. And voila! The ‘mirror’ has served its purpose. You’ve taken a good, hard look at yourself and have gained insight and awareness.
Just remember, awareness becomes wisdom only if we act on it.
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