I hate to admit it, but people annoy me pretty regularly. Not only strangers and acquaintances, but those dear to me, as well! What’s wrong with everyone?! That’s what I used to wonder – what’s their problem?
Now I know better. When something that someone is doing annoys or irritates us, it is actually something about ourselves that we are not fully aware of. This is the concept of “mirroring”. Psychology calls this projection. We are projecting that which we need to see about ourselves onto someone else so that we are able to see it. When we see that behavior in ourselves, it is called projection recall. Think of it like an actual mirror, where other people are the mirror. We cannot see ourselves clearly until we look in the mirror. The mirror does not get personal or have an agenda. It simply and truthfully reflects back.
Let’s give it a try.
1) Write down or think of something that someone did that annoyed or irritated you. Be specific. What exactly did he or she do that bothered you?
A personal example involved a co-worker interrupting me before I could formulate my point. She did not understand the task at hand but would never let me explain it fully before she would come up with another inappropriate solution.
When I asked myself what actually bothered me about that situation – the underlying issue – the answer was that she was not listening.
2) To clearly see this as the mirror that it is, replace his/her name or pronoun with your own. For instance, in my example I would write: I am not listening. Ask yourself if this rings true. Be honest with yourself and tell your ego to step aside! Right off the bat, I clearly saw how I had not been a good listener recently.
3) Next ask yourself why you do this. If no answer comes to mind, keep asking. You will become aware of the answer eventually. I realized that, while people are talking, I often drift off to start formulating a coherent, intelligent response. This is because I fear that I will sound stupid. Ego stuff. (Good to note is that fear is usually part of this answer. So you could also ask yourself, what am I fearing?)
4) Just as it is easier to see ourselves in others, it is often easier to help someone other than ourselves. So, imagine what you would say to a friend or dear relative pertaining to this behavior. Then, say that to yourself. In my example, I imagined telling a friend, “You do not need to worry how you will appear to others even if you say the “wrong” thing or sound “stupid”. And, if you truly hear the other person in a loving and sincere way, then you will naturally respond with the best words.” Then, I told that to myself.
5) Next, create an affirmation to re-affirm what you just learned about yourself. You do not have to be a great or experienced writer to create your own affirmations. A few rules of thumb – Keep the affirmation simple, positive, and in the present tense. Be sure to include the “why” (Step #3) in your affirmation. For this example I wrote, “I give my full attention to the person I am having a conversation with. I give the best response I can.” Then say the affirmation, aloud or in your head, many times each day.
6) Finally, we thank the person (silently) for helping us to clearly see in ourselves what we would like to change. When we do this, we turn our negative ego-driven feelings of annoyance – or even anger – into a positive feeling of gratitude.
The miraculous part of mirroring is that after we put the attention back on ourselves, usually the annoyance with the other person is no longer there. Not only will we no longer be irritated with him or her, but we will naturally be grateful. I have come to be genuinely and deeply thankful to the “annoying” person for helping me to see myself and giving me an amazing gift.
An important part of this exercise to remember is that there are no exceptions. If there were, it would be too easy to dismiss a particularly difficult situation by telling ourselves, “This is the one exception. Therefore, it’s nothing about me; he or she really is the one being a jerk. I will bask in feeling annoyed with them and, consequently, superior.” No. Every time we are annoyed with someone it is a mirror for ourselves. No exceptions! At first, some situations may seem too painful to accept that we are the ones doing the very thing that is bothering us. But very soon, the pain will dissipate and empowerment will take its place. We realize that no matter what others are doing we no longer are victims because we can turn these situations around to promote our personal and spiritual growth.
Now when we are in the midst of our annoyance with a co-worker, friend or even our significant other, we can simmer down and remember they are just mirroring to us what we want to change in ourselves. We rejoice knowing this “annoyance” can bring us happiness, if we choose it.
Author: Karen Eller
Karen Eller is the creator of the Keys to Joy blog: keystojoy.wordpress.com She has a Master’s degree in Sociology and is a Reiki Master.