Mirroring and Reflecting: 5 Ways to See What You Are (Part 1)

Revealed Healing Reflecting Peace

You ever look at someone and say “Geez, I’m glad I’m not like that person“? Or, “At least I don’t do the stuff they did. I’m not that bad.” One time, I saw this guy freaking out (seriously, red in the face) about the fact that the waiter forgot to add something special he’d requested to his dish. Sure, I can understand that if your food isn’t right and you’re hangry, you may be upset. In the same way, mistakes happen and no person is exempt from falling short of something. So mercy and grace is highly preferred above anger and judgement. But this guy was just upset. He was raising his voice and talking about how he expected better service and has never had such a hard time and on and on and on. He was talking to this waiter as if the guy messed up his food on purpose. I was getting upset, even though the situation had nothing to do with me. In my head, I started reflecting the same thing that this angry customer was doing. I started saying things like, “This guy is a jerk! Who anointed him King of Food Service?! Oh I guess when everyone else except you screws up, it’s OK to be a moron. That’s great to know.”

But why was I so strong in my reaction towards someone else who was strong in their reaction? I was angry because the guy was being mean to another person, yes. But there’s more to it than that. I was also mirroring this guy’s anger because I was angry at him for expressing his anger. 

Let me explain.

This guy was outwardly speaking and blatantly vocalizing his displeasure. Albeit in an unhealthy way, he was still expressing it. Meanwhile, I chose to inwardly speak and secretly show my displeasure in this guy’s behavior in my own head. Silently. This guy and I were a lot alike in that we have a lot of anger and misplaced feelings to process. The difference is that he was extroverted about it and I was introverted, but either way, multiple people are hurt. Let’s see how this would play out hypothetically:

Extroverted Emotion

Extroverted emotion is emotion that is expressed outwardly. In the case of the restaurant incident, the emotion is anger. There’s a Giver of Emotion (the angry person) and a Receiver of Emotion (the person receiving the angry feelings from the Giver.) In this case at the restaurant, the Giver (the angry man) gets hurt because his blood pressure rises, the stress response is triggered, and his digestion slows down now that he is in “fight mode.” So when he eats this meal he’s flustered over, it will sit like a rock in his stomach because our bodies do not digest food properly when we are in a stressed state.

In the same way, the Receiver (the waiter) gets hurt because he may now think that he’s a failure who can’t do anything right. This may exacerbate his feelings of worthlessness or depression as he allows even more people to stomp on him and bully him. Or, he may also reflect this man’s anger, and carry on the epidemic of passing shame and guilt to others who “mess things up,” because of his own feelings of entitlement. In either scenario, there is pain, misfired feelings of worth, and crushed potential.

Introverted Emotion

Introverted emotion is emotion that is expressed inwardly. This is the form of anger that I was dealing with when I observed the flustered man in the restaurant. Even though it was just me, I was the Giver of Emotion and I was the Receiver of Emotion. I also went into “fight mode” when I saw the angry man encountering the waiter. Like an angry lion in a tiny cage, I wanted to break out of confinement and show this guy what anger really looked like, and how it felt to be yelled at in public. I wanted to be the one to teach him a lesson. But I didn’t do that. Instead I kept my feelings in my own head, amping myself up for a face-to-face confrontation that I knew would never happen. So what happened? Same thing – my blood pressure rises, my stress response is triggered, and my digestion slows down when I’m in “fight mode,” all because of the angry and bitter thoughts I’m reflecting back in the situation.

In the same way I was the Receiver, other people became the Receivers too. This is called misfiring. When I feel trapped in my unexpressed emotions, they will come out at some point. It’s not a matter of “if it happens,” it is “when it happens,” because it will happen. So for example, if I observe this angry guy on a Sunday night, and I don’t process through my anger in a healthy way, I will go to the sales meeting at work on Monday morning and fire off at someone who didn’t do anything to deserve my reaction. Again, there is pain, misfired feelings of worth, and crushed potential. Unreleased negative emotions are like shaking a can of pop nonstop. At some point, you have to stop shaking the can, put it down, and wait for the bubbles to fizzle out before you open it to take a drink.

Whether extroverted or introverted, suppressed feelings of anger, guilt, and shame will hurt multiple people. It becomes an epidemic that is constantly mirroring and reflecting back distortions of reality.

As much as I did not want to admit it at first, I was a lot like that angry man. What was even more shocking was that I was jealous of him because he had the guts to express his dissatisfaction instead of letting it sit in his head. Why couldn’t I do that?! Well, the truth was, I didn’t want to do that either. Once I came to terms with how misdirected my feelings were, I came up with ways to name and deal with my feelings in a healthy, sustainable way.

5 Ways to See What You Are: A process to discovering your triggers.

NOTE: This is not a process to rush through. If you expect to get a quick fix by reading through this, it will not happen. An efficient way to engage in this process is to sit comfortably, without distraction, with a journal, pen, and total honestly. Answer the following questions, in sequence:

1. Look in the Mirror:

You can’t see your reflection if you don’t look in the mirror first.

  • What are you avoiding in your life? What areas of your life, thoughts, and actions bring feelings of shame?
  • What are the things about yourself and others that you hate?
  • What is the risk in facing the thing(s) you have been avoiding all this time?

2. Name Your Reflection:

  • What is it that amps you up or causes an unwanted physical reaction in your body? These can be situations, people, places, or things.
  • What is the physical reaction that arises in your body when you encounter this situation/person/place?

3. Examine Your Reflection:

  • What is it about those situations/people/places that give you unwanted physical reactions?
  • What do you want to feel instead of what you usually feel?

4. Get Curious about Your Reflection:

  • Are your thoughts and actions improving the situation or making it more unhealthy for yourself and others?
  • Is your reflection a distortion of reality or is it an idealized perception of the situation or person?
  • What does this situation/person/place tell you about yourself?

5. Reflecting Differently

  • What is the risk in responding differently when you feel the unwanted physical reaction in your body?

Honesty check: The more honest you are, the more healing will be revealed through you.

Note that if you are suffering from some form of physical abuse, this process is not for you. If you are being abused, seek help immediately

Examining yourself and what you’re reflecting back is not an easy process.

It is confusing and draining and there will be plenty of reasons to not do it at all. As soon as I thought I had it “figured out,” I fell back in to old patterns and had to start the 5 step reflecting process back all over again. I have to be OK with that. Because each time I revert back to things that no longer serve me, I have fuel to reinforce that my previous way of living life was not beneficial. This gives me more passion to continue this process of habit change that brings me a step closer to inviting more love and more peace into my life.

Throughout this journey of reflecting and mirroring, I’ve learned that there are relationships I’ve had to let go of in order to move forward in my own life. This is not an easy process, folks! Losing people is hard, and I haven’t met one person who said they enjoyed the process of leaving people behind as they continued on their healing journey! In the same way, I’ve made room for renewed, fresh relationships that help me progress in my goals.

“Out with the old, in with the new” is not just a cute phrase. It’s real. When you choose to reflect inwardly, and mirror what you want, you open yourself up for “the new.” The new way of living. The new way of loving people, no matter what they have done to you. And the new way of loving yourself that has permanence and meaning.

To your health,

Brandie Nicole

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