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There are certain parts of becoming more self aware that, well, suck. Really, it’s that way with a lot of things that are good for us. For example, if you don’t exercise regularly, an attempt to set out for a five mile run will seem like a nightmare. But once you get past the initial pain and frustration, you will inevitably find that running makes you feel better in the end; and, if you do it enough, you’ll also learn to love it during the very moments that used to cause you pain. And oh can true self awareness inflict some pain while we’re getting there! It’s well worth the happiness and peace it brings us, but when the process begins, it’s sometimes hard to recognize that that’s where you’ll end up.
Probably one of the biggest pain points for many of my clients is the concept of “mirrors” – an awareness that that which we see in front of us, also shines light on a part of us, whether we like it or not. In addition to pointing out our beauties, mirrors also force us into seeing aspects of ourselves that we would otherwise reject. It’s pretty crummy to be confronted with the behavior of someone or something you can’t stand, and be forced to see how that’s also a part of you. So crummy that I’ve watched a handful of clients become resistant when asked how a situation that was frustrating, angering, or annoying them might be an example of something they needed to work on as well. But that’s how mirrors work – they’re ALL OVER THE PLACE! And they are masters of pointing in multiple directions at once! Just as that client may be confronted with something in them that stretches them to look at themselves in an uncomfortable way, the resistance I was seeing in them was also my OWN mirror to shine light on where I sometimes come up as resistant in my own life and relationships! Ouch. If only I had the simplicity to explain this concept sooner. As luck (or life) would have it, I finally found that simplicity: “If you spot it, you got it.” I recently heard this stated in a book given to me — it’s interesting how life’s little synchronicities more often give us what we didn’t realize we need, rather than what we thought we needed. I say synchronicity because not only did this book helped me to rephrase how I’ve been wording the whole mirror thing, it also helped me to see why it was so hard to work on it with others.
After seeing the concept put that simply, I was compelled to look for it everywhere, and every time I “spotted” something. Anything I noticed that didn’t sit 100% right with me was put to the question “What is the quality or essence of X that bothers me, and how do I still do that/embody that in my life?”. Like I said earlier, it sucks to have to consider the fact that you’re also a perpetrator of something you can’t stand; but there’s always an answer there. For example, my ability to be annoyed by the guy smoking on the street corner next to my home has nothing to do with smoking itself. I’ve never smoked a day in my life, but the quality of what bothers me about his smoking I am just as guilty of. I hate that he’s doing something that infiltrates my safety and affects the quality of my life. How many times have I let my loud voice infiltrate someone else’s space, unknowingly affecting someone else’s quality of life?!
The cool part of engaging in this type of painful self awareness is that, just like deciding to go for that run, there are some serious benefits once you are willing to undertake the practice. The benefits are, in fact, more long term – they may even be permanent if we’re really willing to put in the work on our end first! For example, since I realized that the clients who were showing up as “resistant” were actually a symptom of the areas in communication and relationship where I’m still being resistant, they’ve stopped appearing so resistant to me. Those same clients now show up with more creativity, openness, and surrender to their process than they used to. Because when we can finally spot what it is that we “got” in what we keep “spotting”, what we keep spotting starts to disappear. Once we’ve worked through our end of the mirror, how we play a role in what’s bothering us, it stops showing up! So yes, this self awareness stuff is painful, but it’s worth it, I swear.