The Secret Mirror
Those closest to us, like our spouses, our children and our co-workers seem to find their way under our skin unlike anyone else. Yet, our escalated anger, frustration and disappointment could be a hidden reflection of some of our own unrecognized or repressed emotions. From childhood on, we subconsciously transfer onto other people what we have learned to believe is unacceptable or unrecognized in ourselves.
Whatever we deeply believe about ourselves determines how we judge ourselves; the same is also true for the way we judge others. This belief system is formed during childhood, when our minds are completely malleable, like soft clay. Up to age 7, we are simply too young and innocent to know any better, and so we accept as complete truth whatever we are told; we learn what makes our caregivers smile, get angry, accept us or reject us, and how to please them as best we can. Just like clay hardens over time, the beliefs we have formed by age 7 become fixed in our minds as our primary values and perspectives. They become our own personal belief system.
As children, we absorbed beliefs from authority figures around us. By making emotional adjustments to fit into our environment, we learn to deny certain characteristics about ourselves; we subconsciously repress them. If we were taught not to speak our minds, we learned not to express ourselves. If we were given too much responsibility for others, we learned to take care of everyone but ourselves. If we were often criticized, we learned not to express whatever quality was criticized, be it positive or negative, in order not to feel rejected. In other words, to feel accepted and safe, our young minds began suppressing personal qualities, emotions and impulses, all in the quest to feel loved.
These repressed feelings carry with them a great deal of emotional energy, and if not allowed expression, must surface in some other way. Like a volcano which releases energy through its crater, humans transfer these subconscious, pent-up emotions onto other people; in psychology, this is called projection.
As we get older, we have no conscious awareness of the fact that what we harshly judge in others is often something we subconsciously cannot bear to feel about ourselves. So what bugs us about them is actually a reflection of long-ago suppressed feelings; this is sometimes referred to as the “secret mirror”.
The moral of the story is that when other’s actions or words push our buttons, we might look a little closer—it could be the reflection of a quality we have been denying about ourselves.
What we judge as someone's pushiness may mirror our own need to be more assertive. We may find others to be overly critical, yet it may be a reflection of our own critical nature. On the other hand, we could see wonderful qualities in others, but believe ourselves to be lacking. This too is a mirror, a reflection of our own gifts which remain unrecognized. The mirror is a powerful tool, a path that teaches us forgiveness and acceptance for others and ourself, yet, expands our capacity to love.
Maia Rizzi is a clinical hypnotherapist and provides free workshops at Ever’man Education Center. For more information, call 850-291-8041 or visit Everman.org/events.