Others as mirrors

Gwen Randall-Young

It has been said that each person in our lives is a mirror of some aspect of ourselves. Those whom we admire and respect reflect those qualities within us that we would like to develop further. Qualities which upset us or annoy us in others are aspects of ourselves which we do not like, or which we also share, but do not see.

Children are very profound mirrors. Often, we tell them to be one way, while we ourselves act in another way. They will reflect what they see, rather than what we say.

A common example is when children are fighting or being mean to one another. The parents may yell, scream, put down the children, or employ other mean behaviors to make the point that the children should be nice. Parents may ‘lose it’ when they are upset, and then wonder why the children lose it (i.e. have tantrums etc.) when they are upset.

Parents may be very closed to their teenager’s point of view, insisting that their broader experience makes them know better, or be right. The teenager then reflects a similar block towards the parent’s point of view, feeling that their youth gives them a direct connection to the pulse of the world, and how things should be now. Hence, a stalemate. But the teenager is simply directly reflecting the closed attitude that the parents are presenting.

It is important to clarify that the teenager is not doing this simply to be stubborn or confrontational. It is the only way they have been shown to deal with differences. The parents are doing what they think is right, and do not see that they are coming across to the teenager as stubborn and confrontational as well.

This mirroring also occurs in relationships with partners. Often when one person sees a partner as uncompassionate or inflexible, they are unaware of how uncompassionate and inflexible they are being as well!

We relate on many different levels, and while we may present as being a “nice person”, and wanting what is best for our partner, on a deeper level we may be missing what it is the other really needs. We may be unconsciously trying to turn them into someone who will fulfill the needs that we feel, rather than supporting them in being who they need to be.

If we do not like what we are seeing in others as they relate to us, and if there is a possibility that they are reflecting some aspect of our treatment of them, there is something we can do. We simply change what we are doing, so that we begin to mirror the behaviors we want to see.

Kindness, understanding, gentleness, flexibility, unconditional love and acceptance, patience, being a good listener, trusting, appreciating, and seeing the best in the other are good things to start with.

If we bring these qualities consistently into our dealings with others, amazing transformations are possible.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.