As I do every day, I called my house one day not too long ago while on the way home from work to let my kids know I had left the office. My teenage son answered, and we had a short (and apparently painful) conversation. He was clearly irritated with me, as my call must have been interrupting something much more interesting. At one point, I asked him if he was even listening to me, and his exasperated response was that he already knows what I am calling to say. I was not happy with his annoyed tone of voice, and I told him this as we hung up. While driving, I reflected upon our conversation. I wanted to know why he always seemed so irritated with me, and seemingly without reason? Then it hit me. The reason he acts so irritated with me on the phone is because I do the exact same thing to him. Because I am usually tired and annoyed when I call, and my tone is frequently irritated and impatient, my son was being my mirror accordingly. I realized that I need to watch what I am putting out there, because whatever I put out there is going to reflect right back at me.
Now I know this sounds a little simplistic, but I believe that thinking of this in this way is even more meaningful than what psychologists would identify as him modeling my behavior, or him simply acting like a teenager. Yes, he was reacting to me in a fashion that he had learned through observing me; however, imagining him as a mirror reflecting back to me made a much bigger impression on me. Thinking of it in this way helped me to internalize the lesson, as it struck me as a clear demonstration of how the mirrors work. From that point on, I made a concerted effort to put out what I want to see reflected back. At first, my loving, patient responses while on my drive home went unnoticed by my son. But then, like a light switch had been turned on, I began to see a shift. His tone began to soften, and we were having normal, peaceful conversations. All I had to do was change what I was putting out there, and the reflection I was getting back began to change. This new understanding led me to imagine everyone I encountered literally with little mirrors on them, reflecting back to me. Right away, I started to notice things that I had never seen before.
I began to monitor my own behavior much more closely and be consciously aware of my moods. I started to interact with people with a whole new understanding, and it was practically effortless. When I was irritated with someone, I identified the quality in them that was irritating me, and then I tried to see how it was something I was putting out there that was reflecting back at me. Once I could identify and own the quality, I could then acknowledge it and put it away. The things that were irritating me did not bother me as much anymore. Amazingly, once I could see that the things other people were doing only irritated me when they struck a chord within me, their behavior no longer affected me in the same way. It was almost like once I forgave the quality within me, it no longer existed in the reflection. Dealing with others became much more peaceful, and now that I truly understand what I am seeing in my relationships is largely a result of the mirror, I have been able to appreciate my interactions with others on a whole new level.
Everyone is a mirror. What do you see in your reflection?