Have you ever noticed that your partners, family members, or friends have the tendency to reflect back aspects of your self? Sometimes those reflections are difficult to see. Many of us tend to focus on what is not working in someone else. What needs to change about them so that we can be happy. This is a very common complaint in my office, “If only he/she would do ___ then I would be happy.” However, I wonder what would happen if you contemplated that the very aspect of the “other” that irritates or repels you the most, may be the very shadowed aspect(s) of yourself that need some attending to? This illuminates the idea that relationships serve as mirrors to create opportunities for growth.
Every relationship is a learning experience. You attract people into your life to grow and heal yourself. Fortunately or unfortunately, you attract someone from your current level of functioning emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. With every relationship in your life, ask yourself, why are they here? What are they here to teach me? What can I learn about and see in myself? There is always something to learn, and when you shift your focus off of the other and onto yourself, you will be amazed at how quickly defensiveness, resistance, and dissatisfaction dissolve.
Let’s take a look at a few different types of relationships and how they serve the purpose of reflection.
Your significant intimate relationships are the most obvious places to learn about yourself. As mentioned above, the easiest way to identify the parts of yourself that are being reflected to you in the mirror your partner provides, is to look at the parts of your partner that irritate, hurt, abandon, annoy, and/or betray you. Many times, those very aspects of your partner already exist within yourself. In other words, you irritate, hurt, abandon, annoy and betray yourself in similar ways that are externally demonstrated in the dynamics between you.
For example, you continue to attract partners who lie to you. What do you see in the mirror? This may provide an opportunity for you to reflect on how you lie to yourself. Do you tend to say everything is “okay” or “fine” when it really isn’t? Do you deny your true feelings about a relationship, work situation, or physical illness telling yourself “its no big deal.” Maybe you get yourself into relationships where you always tell your partner what you think they want to hear, say anything to avoid an argument, or sacrifice yourself to please them? When you are able to conduct an honest inventory of how often you surrender your own truth, it may become more clear as to why you tend to attract partners who do the same.
Our families provide a wonderful incubator for growth. Some spiritual teachings inform that you choose your family and create contracts that are again opportunities to learn and evolve into a more advanced version of your Self. Notice a pattern here? This gives new meaning to the purpose of relationships. Rather than exist to make you “happy” they exist to help you learn, grow, evolve, and develop on all levels. Let’s explore this from the vantage point of both parents and children.
- Parents: As much as you are here to teach your children, they are your greatest teachers and, especially as they grow up and mature into adolescents, they will become your toughest mirrors. Your children will push every button you have and serve to help you to see any fractures in your foundation as a person. They challenge you to do your inner work, and if you choose not to, they will act it all out right in front of you. Allow your children to open your eyes to the aspects of yourself you neglect. As you model for them a parent who takes care of and nurtures themselves, you give them permission to do the same. Cherish the gifts your children give you, many times they are here to help break generational patterns of abuse, betrayal, abandonment, or addiction. Allow them to illuminate for you the parts of yourself that need healing.
- Children: Early on in a healthy parent/child relationship, parents reflect love, playfulness, compassion, and forgiveness. Children are innately born with these qualities. Children are not born with many of the wounds accumulated by adults, so what reflects back to them is their true nature. Where it becomes damaging is when a mirror turns into a one way stream that is taken in by the child through their absorbent nature. Children absorb the shame, guilt, fear, etc. from their parents in whatever form is necessary for them to learn the life lessons they are here for. Remember they chose you and you chose them.
So, continuing on with the theme of growth and learning opportunities, take a look at your inner circle of friends. What qualities do they possess? What parts nurture you and your relationship, and what aspects are common themes in your friendships, or aspects that annoy you? Do you have friends that gossip a lot? This may help you to see how critically you judge yourself. How about friends who all drink heavily? Does this reflect some part of you that tends to escape, numb, or disconnect in some way? Are all of your friendships one-way where you are constantly giving to those who have never-ending needs or crises? What part of you is craving attention but has been shut down because of an early decision to ignore or discount your own needs?
In all of these relationship scenarios, there is a different way for you to see yourself. Experiment with this new lens as you interact with all of your close relationships and see yourself and your world in a whole new light. I would love to hear about your insights, awarenesses, or new perspectives. Feel free to comment below or share this with a friend on Facebook!