Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mirror, Mirror...

Just about every one of us looks in the bathroom mirror every day. Whether it's checking to see if your hair is sticking out weird or food is in your teeth, you probably check your reflection.

Some of us like what we see staring back at us and others among us cringe.

Did you know that every single person and situation in your life can also be viewed as a big, ever-changing mirror? You can learn and grow in ways you might not have thought possible when you do so.

You are being presented with a mirror at virtually every moment-- especially when you feel uncomfortable, irritated or even enraged by someone or something in your experience.

Me and My Shadow
The mirrors in your life can be understood as a reflection of your “shadow” side. Theorist Carl Jung developed a series of archetypes; among them is the “shadow.” To put it simply, Jung suggests that humans project onto others aspects of ourselves that we do not want to acknowledge.

It might be the greediness of corrupt company CEOs. It could be the vanity of the celebrities we love to hate. It might even be the ineptness of a co-worker whose mistakes we always seem to have to clean up after.

As painful as it might be to recognize a mirror in the undesirable aspects of another person, you can more easily identify and make changes when you see and own those same tendencies.

The shadow is a powerful teacher-- a valuable resource when it comes to personal growth.

I honor and respect the theoretical contributions made by Jung. At the same time, I don't think we need to relegate the mirror imagings in our lives to being just “shadows.”

I think it is possible and detrimental to get caught up in a dichotomous “good/bad” “self/shadow” view of human nature. You can lose sight of the wonderful lessons being offered to you when you become entrenched in such a mind trap.

Beyond the Shadow
You can expand when you start to pay closer attention to the mirrors in your life-- and your growth can be even more expansive when you move past the tendency to label what you're seeing as “good or bad.”

When you are faced with someone who is rude, for example, you can end up being one who responds with more grace and kindness. But these shifts cannot happen easily, or at all, if you merely dismiss the mirror as “not you” and as “bad.”

You can focus your attention on labeling this person as “rude” and even notice that you harbor similar tendencies and then label yourself as “just as bad.” But neither of these reactions will allow you to move closer to what you want-- which is to feel better and be the person you want to be.

A different approach might be to recognize in the mirror your own possibly hidden tendencies or potential. After seeing this, you can know more clearly that you want to be a person who is kind, patient and considerate.

From that point, your focus is not on the “rude” behavior you've just witnessed, but instead on how you want to treat others and be treated. The mirror has allowed you to become more mindful of what you want and has helped you move closer to the person you want to be.

Mirrors, Mirrors Everywhere
Not only can you learn valuable lessons from the mirrors in your life, you can actually deepen your appreciation for life itself as a result. Just as you see that you can make changes that are more in alignment with what you want, those people you are observing (and possibly feeling annoyed by) can also do this.

Isn't it amazing that we all have the capacity to be the best we can be?

And it's not just shadows or points of contrast that are being shown to you in mirrors.

Every single day you are being shown reflections of inspiration. It is up to you to see and embrace those images.

When you see a person act heroically or tenderly, appreciate this mirror of your own ability to be a hero and a tender person.

You are being shown what is possible when you look at the mirrors in your life and from there you get to choose your next step. So thank that irritating person-- he or she is helping you to move closer to wholeness, happiness and joy!

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