It is a very likely a challenging idea that other people’s anger, hatred and violence are also things that at some level are part of us. It can feel very unsettling to be invited to own for oneself what seems to belong to another. “Surely,” you might think, “it is their stuff.” While that might be true, what they have to teach us has great potential for our own liberation.
For example we might think we are “nice” people, but certain others are definitely not OK. We might firstly present this idea of ourselves to the world at large, but conceal our own inner anger. We might alternatively believe this of ourselves, that we are “nice”, and disown our rage and hurt within. However, we might also keep meeting nasty people in the world.
One classic example of this is the very spiritual person who complains of the evil in the world. If we see evil in the world, at some level it is also mirroring something back to us that we might benefit by looking at.
This is a very important example of where raised self-awareness is very important. Such enhanced awareness can reveal things about ourselves that we miss. Others might observe it in us, but we don’t. This can be very common, and one I frequently find when working with people in organisations. Here where people work together closely, such phenomena can get very clear. Institutions are another example.
The idea that other people serve as mirrors, in effect reflecting back to us parts of ourselves is one many people I think find hard to accept, or at least feel very uncomfortable about. It’s that discomfort however that’s a crucial key in recognising our shadow at work. The concept of the shadow is that what we don’t accept about ourselves, what we disown, occurs in our environment. Thus it is uncomfortable when presented to us in some way. It is also a clue that we need to attend to it.
Yet when we acknowledge our own beast, we can then have a better idea what to work on, and we can then potentially heal it. And when we do this, we then heal others, because the disowned beast is rampant in the world. We’re busy mirroring it to each other all the time. Once we can authentically give our love to others, a love we feel inside as Who we really are, others in turn can be helped to change. It is part of the process of cause and effect. But while we project anger and rage to others they in turn feed it back to us.
So, if we feel anger about the butcher of Srebrenica, it is also worth reminding ourselves, at the same time, of what that person might remind us of in us.