Even though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.
by Andrea Chilcote
What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.
This past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”
The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.
Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.
Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.
Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.
There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.