We humans all have lots of things in common. It seems to me one thing we don’t seem to think others share with us is the fact that we ALL suffer. Painful things happen in every single life, no one escapes the commonality if you are human.
People who are loving or compassionate, ornery or sad, awful things come to everyone and for some pain comes many times in a lifetime. I’m starting to think those who get the opportunity and gift of suffering several times in a lifetime are those who are really here for a very special reason.
I sort of see myself as a kind of human science experiment. I find myself in pain, I seek ways and tools to help me sort it out. Then what I try to do is “make my mess my message”. I share what I learn in the hope that it might be of service to someone else who comes up against the same kind of suffering.
So rather than asking “Why the hell is this happening to me!?!?” I try to remind myself to reframe it… “Why is this happening FOR me?” or “What is being made of me? What is this here to teach me about ME?” Sometimes it takes a few days of suffering before I get myself to that reframe, yet the more I practice, the faster I seem to be able to get myself there. Learning what the suffering is here to teach me is where the magic happens.
In a recent bout of painful thinking, I stumbled across several articles, inspirational e-mails, and just flat out signs that had a theme: Your relationships are mirrors – reflecting YOU back to you, over and over again. As Byron Katie says: “To think the person you are in relationship with is anything but a mirror is painful.” I think the reason it’s painful to think that it’s all THEM and not you, is because we are so quick to blame and find flaws in the other person. Yet if you look closely, you can be sure that any flaw you see in another is also in you – it just may manifest a little differently. By blaming and pointing fingers we dis-empower ourselves and become victims. This is ALWAYS painful. To become the victim is to dim yourself and that always feels like crap BECAUSE IT’S NOT TRUE. When you dim the light from within yourself, it’s a lie, and that’s why it causes us to suffer.
A very recent installment of the Daily Flame went like this…
So when we can pause, and notice what irritates us about others or causes us pain, and rather than blaming them or going on and on about their faults we see it as information that can help us become who we are meant to be, I gotta say at least for me – I feel a zillion percent better when I go the route of learning vs. blaming. And the second part of this work is to also drop blame of YOURSELF.
Ken Wilbur in “Meeting The Shadow” said this: “Projection on the ego is easily identified: if a person or thing in the environment informs us, we probably aren’t projecting.” So let’s say you see someone being rude and you merely receive that as information without judging it, you’re probably not projecting. “On the other hand, if it affects us, chances are that we are a victim of our own projections.” So if you are upset or angry or feel you must point the finger of blame – you are probably projecting an unhealed aspect of yourself.
If you are willing to see that what irritates you about someone else, is also in you, then the next step is NOT to eliminate that part of yourself – but to accept it. The goal is not to get rid of some part of yourself, it’s to merge those unhealed places in yourself with those parts you DO accept so you can become whole. As long as we won’t accept our negative qualities, we will continue to project them on to others. Seeing them in everyone else but ourselves. If we work to integrate and befriend those parts of ourselves we’ve deemed “bad”, we can become whole. All it takes to do this is to treat ourselves with the same kindness and understanding we give to pretty much everyone else we come in contact with.
Taking back our own projections and taking responsibility for them empowers us to come to a new place in the present. Whether we want to see it or believe it or not, the parts of ourselves that we hate the most in ourselves (and others) are running the show in our lives.
I’ve been so quick to accuse of those I love of poor behavior in some way. “If only he would _____.” “Why can’t he see that he’s being ___________.” The list goes on and on. Then I received this gift in the past week. An awareness that I hadn’t seen before. EVERYTHING the people I love were doing… (the stuff I blamed them for and was angry or frustrated about with them) I do the same damn thing – it’s just packaged a little differently, OR their behavior that I don’t like is something I don’t accept about myself, but I do it in some way that looks a bit different. Sometimes it’s hard to see that we are doing the same things that drive us nuts in other people. Let’s say someone lies to you and this infuriates you. You think “I would never lie!” Yet, it’s very likely that you are lying somewhere in your life and it may be that you are lying to yourself.
Debbie Ford had a great tool for making peace with ourselves in her book “Spiritual Divorce”. (Which is a great book by the way!) The first step is to identify what you like and don’t like in your partner. She says in order to do this, you must distinguish between qualities and behaviors. Let’s say your partner is distant and grouchy and you dislike this. You must go a step further and ask yourself what KIND of person would be distant and grouchy? Everyone will come up with a different set of words. You may come up with “mean”, “insecure”, “angry”, “closed”, “fearful”, “self-protecting”, “hurting”. List all the words you can come up with that describe what you are seeing.
It’s vital that you keep asking yourself what KIND of person would engage in the behavior that you dislike so that you’ll be able to see beneath the behavior. The next step is to look for where WE OURSELVES are not owning that we too have these same qualities in ourselves. Amazingly enough, most of us find a partner who demonstrates the very qualities we’ve tried so desperately to stay away from. With this awareness, we are at a crossroads – a chance to heal ourselves and embrace our whole selves, shadow and all. If we choose to turn our backs on this opportunity, we have to live with the fear that it will show up again, in another place. And it will.
This awareness that I can learn MY lesson by noticing what triggers me in the behavior of others has flipped a switch in me from suffering, to being excited about what I am learning about MYSELF. I have these glimpses that are lasting longer and longer that I am 100 percent responsible for my own happiness. And this is great news! I don’t proclaim that I will be able to maintain this awareness at all times, yet now that I have found my way there by looking for my own lesson about myself in the things that trigger me about others, I know how to find the path at least. I have come to understand that pain in my life is inevitable. When I use the circumstance that I see as causing my pain as a tool to heal myself in some way, I grow and things get better for me. When I use the circumstance to blame something outside of me, I keep pouring salt in my own wounds.
We all go through really tough times. Things that challenge how we feel about ourselves and we can easily be tempted to buy into what others are saying about us. If we can remember that what others say about us is a reflection of THEM, maybe we can think of ourselves as providing a service! Showing others who THEY are through what they project onto us.
The really great news is that you also contain in you the things that you admire in others as well. All you that you see and conceive is a reflection of our inner world. When you see qualities in others that you admire and love, you are seeing aspects of yourself that are wanting and ready to come forth in you.
As Robert Holden says “your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every relationship you have.” If this is true, when we are hard on others, blaming, unforgiving, finding fault, there is a good chance that this is also how we feel about ourselves. If you can’t let yourself off the hook, there is no chance that you can do that for anyone else in your life. If you’re hard on yourself, it’s incredibly likely that you will also be hard on those you have relationships with.
Let me be clear, once you realize that you too have the same things in you that you can’t stand in your partner or others, it’s crucial that you not go into blaming yourself. Taking responsibility for your whole self means NOT blaming yourself. If you kick your own butt, for kicking your own butt, you just keep the storyline going by judging yourself instead of your partner. It’s the same thing in a different pair for shoes.
Are you willing to look in the mirror of the people in your life you are in relationship with? They are there for a reason, a gift to help you heal and become whole if we are open to receiving the gift.
We all suffer. We all go through painful things. Sometimes it’s a sudden event, sometimes it’s a dull river of misery that we live with and become numb to over time. Either way, we have a choice to make – what will this condition make of me?
Martha Beck has a great six minute video on the idea of how suffering transforms us - when we allow it to. Invest 6 minutes in yourself or pass this on to someone who is going through something tough right now. I think you'll find it helpful.
Sandy Edie Hansen
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