Thursday, February 27, 2014

Relationships Are Mirrors (Whether we like it or not!)

Being in "relationship" with friends, family, and lovers, is an essential element of a deeply satisfying life. One of the most basic human needs is to be in close community with others, to feel that we "belong". This stems from physiological needs for safety and survival, but there is also a great emotional need in most of us to share our life experiences with others. Being in a close relationship with another human can be immensely rewarding, extremely challenging, and sometimes both simultaneously!

All relationships are mirrors, reflecting back to us the positive, loving, wonderful things about ourselves, and if we're willing, helping us to see where our wounds are, and where we need healing. The people we attract and are attracted to mirror back to us our deeply-rooted beliefs about relationships, and for better or worse, the qualities we ourselves have.

I believe that life is a classroom and relationships are like the "lab" portion, where we get to practice what we are learning. We attract and are attracted to interact with certain people because of things we need to see or learn about our lives and ourselves. When someones behavior "pushes our buttons", they are mirroring some deep, negative self-belief back to us, which is uncomfortable for us to look at. So our initial instinct and ego-based defense mechanism is to judge them guilty and push them away, or in extreme cases to lash out so they will leave the relationship.

When someone does something that "drives us crazy", or that we find ourselves judging them for, instead of pointing our finger we need to look within ourselves to see why this behavior bothers us so much. (Like the old saying goes "When I point a finger at you, there are three more pointing back at me!") Instead of focusing our attention on the other person, we need to ask ourselves "What is it about me that finds your behavior so irritating?" When we look inward and honestly assess our own emotional state, we usually find that the negative feelings are actually about our "shadow side". We discover that what is being "irritated" or causing our feeling of discomfort, is our dislike of our own possession of the quality or behavior that's being reflected. If we're willing to do the work, this is in fact a huge opportunity for our own healing and emotional growth!

When we learn to forgive ourselves for being human and therefore imperfect, it becomes much easier to forgive others for the same. When we find compassion for ourselves, letting ourselves "off the hook" for mistakes and imperfections, we are able to be compassionate with others. Once we learn to love and accept all parts of ourselves, it becomes much easier to love and accept others exactly as they are. Their faults and flaws will no longer annoy us, interacting with them will no longer be irritating, and life becomes much more peaceful. So the next time someone "pushes your buttons", remember to look in the mirror!

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