What I react to is a mirror to my own learning. If I pay attention, my reaction gives me the opportunity to see myself.
Ram Dass, a wise spiritual teacher from whose writings I’ve learned so much, tell us, “What you see in another being is a projection of your own reality.” This means I see my impatience, my reactivity, as well as my kindness and compassion reflected in others. This is a heavy idea to grasp. It took me some time. It is easier to identify the positive aspects of myself in those I love. For example, my lover’s tenderness toward me is a reflection of the tenderness I extend to him and others. My mother’s generosity is my own desire to be seen in this way.
Where I have trouble is in looking at the not so attractive parts of myself. The neighbor who pisses me off because he speaks so cruelly to his dog. The driver who pulls in front of me during rush hour. I am not cruel! I am a conscientious driver! Well, maybe not always.
The incidents I react to are potential lessons about myself. We all have parts of ourselves that we cannot or will not look at. These parts stay in the shadows, often forever. When we have the courage to look at the dark parts of our personalities, we can integrate them into the lighter parts. This may sound paradoxical. Why would I want to look at my negative qualities? Of what benefit is it?
I believe we are more complete and satisfactory humans being when we can integrate, or bring together, all sides of ourselves, including the opposites (Example: my generous self and my stingy self). Another way to look at opposites is to consider nature. We would not know dark without light, day without night, sunlight without rain. It is the contrast that makes each meaningful. When I acknowledge my dark side, it makes my bright side so much more precious. Most of us are socially conditioned not to look at, never mind accept, the dark parts of ourselves. Yet they are parts of us. And as we know ourselves completely, we have the power to change that which does not work. By noticing the dark, we let the light shine brighter.
If you want some guidance looking in the mirror and exploring all the parts of yourself, give me a call or write me an email.
Melanie Somerville, MA, LPC