Even good change comes hard. We commit to change and see the path to get there, yet our subconscious mind fights for the status quo.
I wanted to change my critical, judging thoughts, and was told that the things we dislike in other people are all things within ourselves. I resisted that for a long time. How could the behaviors and characteristics I most despise in others exist in me?
The idea that the people and events in your life are a mirror of you is not new. The Law of Attraction has become almost cliché. But knowing it and internalizing it are very different things.
Internalizing it exposes self-hate. The more judgmental I was, the more often I felt offended or “triggered” by others, the more I had to admit to disliking in myself.
But, I write this as a message of hope! I recently spent ten days on a vacation with … (wait for it) … my Mom! We shared a small space, all our meals, and constant activity for more than a week. I’ve rarely been able to keep a cool head around her for even a day since I was thirteen.
We spent a joyful ten days together. I wasn’t “triggered” every hour. I wasn’t even bothered by things I probably had a right to be bothered by. I enjoyed her for the awesome, imperfect person she is. The internal work I’ve done (and do) proved itself. But what I really want to share is how I managed myself in a weak moment.
It came when she said something utterly inert in a neutral context. Unobjectionable as it was, it inflamed me. My head and heart felt hot and raced. And then I remembered that I don’t like to feel that way now; it’s not my “normal” anymore. So I dialed it back and asked myself: “Okay, Maria. What is Mom doing that shows you something you don’t like about yourself?”
And then I laughed. “Oh! You think she’s being a control freak, you hate that about yourself,” came the answer. And then: “But you’ve worked hard and you’ve made a ton of progress on that, Maria – give yourself a break.”
And that was it. Not five minutes had passed and the flames were gone. I got back to enjoying her – and me – and the vacation and everything wonderful the experience had to offer.
Dial it back
Try this next time you feel angered by someone. Or, try it in retrospect by recalling an incident in the recent past.
Ask yourself what part of YOU that other person’s behavior mirrors. If you’re new to this, you’ll resist the idea. When that happens, let the question sit with you. In a few days, the answer may come.
When the answer does come, be happy about it. If the real trouble you’re having is with yourself, you can fix it.
*Title adapted from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43