I had a cat who compulsively pawed at her own shadow on the wall. Sometimes this habit seemed to entertain her. Sometimes it seemed to frighten her. The thing was, however frantically she pawed at that shadow, it pawed back just as frantically. My cat never seemed to figure out that the only way to truly “capture” her shadow was to recognize it was her shadow.
People as Mirrors
Most individuals never realize that the other people in their life are mirrors. You are instinctively drawn to people who somehow reflect your own best qualities back to you. You are strongly repelled by people who somehow reflect your own worst qualities. But like my cat and her complex relationship with her shadow, you likely don’t consciously experience other people as mirrors. So you try to influence these other people to behave in ways that make you feel better, that feed your ego, that reinforce your long-held ideas about yourself. You compulsively seek approval, acceptance, permission. Or you try to win an argument, prove a point, teach someone a lesson. If only these other people in your life would behave properly, life would be so much easier!
Recognizing Your Reflection
Think of someone you long to impress, or to get closer to. What are this person’s most admirable qualities? Consider that you are drawn to this person as a way of uncovering or maximizing your own best traits. Granted, maybe this person has certain qualities in great abundance that you only have in smaller amounts. The key to contentment is not gaining this other person’s favor. Rather, it’s learning to use your relationship with this person to bring out, to strengthen your own best qualities.
Now think of someone you long to avoid, prove wrong, or somehow “put in his place.” What are this person’s most off-putting qualities? Consider that you are repelled by this person as a way of hiding from or downplaying your own worst traits. Granted, maybe this person has a lot of certain negative traits, whereas you only have a little. The key to greater peacefulness in your life is not avoiding or “fixing” this other person. Rather, it’s learning to use your relationship with this person to become more aware of, and to loosen your grip on, your own worst qualities.