What you will find in this article
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If you are on a spiritual path, for sure you’ve heard about the concept of the reflection of others in yourself. You often see quotes such as:
“What you see in others, exists in you.”
“What you see in others is a reflection of yourself.”
“What you hate in others is what you hate about yourself.”
These statements are very dangerous for your personal and spiritual development and can derail you for a very long time if you believe them to be true.
The problem is that most people that try to teach others about this concept, don’t understand it themselves and propagate this misconception, leading countless people to a dead end, and causing a lot of confusion and suffering.
The truth is that it’s simply not true and it’s distracting from what is really important.
In today’s article, I will show you you cannot be what you see in others, you will learn how there is a hidden truth in the concept of reflections in others, how to understand it properly, and how to use it for your personal and spiritual growth and development.
Reality check: You Cannot be What You See in Others
Let’s do a quick reality check. Do you really believe that, if you see someone else who is jealous and it bothers you, the reality is that you are jealous too? And you need to work on that within yourself? Or, when you come across someone who is terribly arrogant, creating a very unpleasant and tense atmosphere whenever he or she is around. Do you really believe you are the one who’s arrogant and needs to look within to heal that part of yourself?
Look, even in the spiritual community true self-reflection is rare. The fear to see our true selves and find what deep inside we’ve always known is too big. It’s too painful for most. Therefore it’s easier to extrapolate our weaknesses to someone else, fooling ourselves, misguiding ourselves, and making ourselves believe a flaw we see in someone else is also our own. Completely misleading ourselves and leading us to a state of confusion and chaos because we can’t seem to figure out how to heal inside of ourselves what we saw in others. All the while our true flaws remain safely buried in the depths of our being.
Everybody has their own path, their own flaws and weaknesses. What you see in them is theirs, what you see in them is not a reflection of who you are, it’s a reflection of who they are.
But, that doesn’t mean there is no hidden truth behind this concept that has been widely misunderstood by so many people. Because what you see in yourself is yours, and how you react to other people’s flaws is a reflection of who you are.
How to Understand the Reflection
You can see it as a mirror. When you look in a mirror, you look at yourself. You don’t look at the frame that keeps the mirror in place. You don’t look at the properties of the frame or the quality of the glass. You look at yourself.
So, when we say that someone else is a reflection of who we are it has nothing to do with the other person. We don’t look at them, we look at ourselves.
When someone upsets us because of what they do or say, it provides us with an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.
“That person is arrogant and I don’t feel comfortable with that.” What can my feelings about this situation teach me about myself? Why am I uncomfortable being around an arrogant person?
You see? It’s what others make you see in and about yourself.
Other people are not a reflection of who we are, they are the mirror that makes us see the reflection of ourselves. That reflection cannot be seen with our eyes. It can only be felt and understood in our minds. So, you look at someone else and whatever they do or say makes you feel something. And that what you feel tells you something about you, not about them.
In that sense, the entire world is your mirror. In your normal physical reality, the world that surrounds you teaches you about the world. And it helps you to navigate this world and you learn and grow and build up a life in the material world.
But, when you want to grow spiritually, the world becomes your mirror. Every interaction with the world around you becomes an opportunity for self-inquiry, an opportunity to learn more about you.
How You Can Use Others for Your Growth and Development
You can apply this in all situations of life. But you probably want to start out with the things that make you feel bad and disrupt your inner peace.
Let me give you an example. It’s Friday afternoon, 30 minutes to go before ending your week at work. And at the last minute, you find out someone else made a mistake that is causing an issue for Monday. So, it needs to be solved before you go, and you are the only one who has the entire picture of what happened and you’re by far the best person to solve the problem before the weekend.
Your first reaction is to be upset with the person who caused the issue. And instead of spending your time and energy on finding a solution you spend it on a rant and looking outside of yourself to blame the other person for your current situation.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a normal human reaction, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But when you take a deep breath and calmly look at the situation, you might find out it was an unfortunate misunderstanding and the other person who you initially blamed actually tried to do the best they could but they lacked information and didn’t have a full overview.
So often there is more to any kind of situation in life than the eyes can see. But even if it were the other person’s fault, even if it was done on purpose. You being upset, hurts you the most. And this is a perfect opportunity to look within, to learn why it makes you feel upset.
Continuing with this example you can ask yourself why, until you reach the core of the problem within yourself:
“Why did I get angry and blame the other person?”
- Because I had to stay longer at work than needed and I only looked at the situation from my perspective.
“Why didn’t I look at the situation from the other person’s perspective?”
- Because it’s easier to give someone else the responsibility.
“The responsibility of what?”
- Of causing the issue at the last minute.
“Am I sure?”
- No, the responsibility of me being upset.
“Why is it easier to blame someone else for my being upset?”
- Because that way I can avoid looking at myself.
“Why do I want to avoid looking at myself?”
- Because I don’t want to face the anger I carry inside.
“Why don’t I want to face the anger inside?”
- Because it makes me feel insecure.
“Why does it make me feel insecure?”
- Because when I was a little boy my dad always blamed me for everything.
You see how quickly, with just a few questions you went from placing the responsibility for how you feel on someone else’s shoulders to a vulnerable place deep within, where you have the opportunity to heal an issue you’ve carried with you since your childhood.
Now, of course, this was a simplified version but you get the idea.
It can be scary to do this on your own but you don’t have to. If you feel you need some help on your journey and you’d like me to guide you on your path of self-inquiry I’d be more than happy to walk beside you for a while. You can check out the available coaching sessions, or maybe you want to pick up a copy of my book.