The tools I share are really effective in helping you shift your energy in one way or the other. Some are really handy (many of my meditation tools can be used while you’re out walking to the train or are actually riding the subway), while others require more quiet and reflection. Other as Mirror of Self falls into the latter category. It is worth the work, however, because in my opinion (and from experience bringing it repeatedly into Dreamers & Schemers), this is one of the most incisive ways to identify your growth edge (which is another way to say “your issues”), and work through your issues from an angle that goes beyond the usual fodder of talk therapy.
In other words, this is not just about identifying your wounded inner child and blaming it on some external cause, but taking for your ALL emotional reactions. This might sound hard or yucky because it’s a lot easier to blame other people for how you’re feeling, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find this to be a tremendously useful and empowering life skill!
To be perfectly honest, learning this process was no cake walk, and I experienced a lot of tough love from my Akashic Records learning to do this. I spent months in resistance, clinging to my anger and self-righteousness, until one day something shifted in me and I experienced the transformative power of this habit of mind. This is a habit, so it gets stronger with practice. When it becomes second nature, you will ask yourself why you spent so much time suffering over something you actually had control over: your own emotional reactions.
If you’re feeling resistance now, take a moment to soften and open yourself to something new. Yes, we’ve all heard some variation of the old chestnut that you can’t control others, you can only control your reaction to them. Sure, you’re thinking, easier said than done. But let me break down the process into manageable steps so you can see that this is actually easier than you think.
STEP 1: Identify your “growth edge.” (Know thyself.)
One quick way of identifying your issues is to notice your triggers.
A trigger is something that trips you up emotionally when it enters your space, and you may be able to justify it, but often times it may make little sense to you. As an example, I used to have a big problem with people who over-promised and under-delivered.
STEP 2: Identify how you feel when you encounter that trigger. (Own your feelings.)
What do you experience in your body, and can you give that emotion a name? What are the thoughts that cross your mind when you experience this feeling?
To return to my example, I would get so angry. I’d feel a rage build up, which felt like heat rising from my chest to my head. I’d get a knot in my throat and feel my hands want to clench into fists. My jaw would also tighten. Beneath the anger I felt disappointed, let down, abandoned. I’d ask, “Why me?” because it made me feel small, victimized, and powerless.
This step depends on you being able to become fully aware of everything going on for you in these moments, so don’t censor yourself. This is not the time to say, Well, it’s silly of me to feel X because Y. This is not the time to brush these feelings off, but to sink into them. By the same token, however, this is not the time to focus on the other person. We are not here to wag our fingers at the other person’s lack of integrity, good sense, moral fiber, etc. In the example above, I would never have gotten stuck in my anger if I kept my attention focused on the other. To really get to the deeper issues, I had to stay focused on the feeling anger (not the external “cause” of it) and let it open up for me.
This may cause a great deal of discomfort, but keep breathing into it and stay with yourself. Write down everything you feel. (You’ll see why writing is a critical part of this process in the next step.)
STEP 3: Find the core issue and turn it around into a self-reflective question. (Take responsibility.)
This is the most challenging part of the exercise, because the ego wants to protect, and our habit is to get into our head about things. Remember to keep dropping into your heart when you hear your monkey mind start to chatter.
The clues are in the language we use to describe the process. What sticks out in what you have described? Feel into this instead of trying to parse this through your critical mind. For me, the word “abandoned” stuck out.
The question for me to reflect on, then, could be something like, “In what ways do I abandon myself?”
STEP 3.1: Take back your power. (Everything happens for you.)
You may be kicking and screaming at this point. If step 2 was tough because it asks us to step into discomfort, step 3 is even tougher because it asks us to take responsibility for those feelings. So let me say this: Yes, whoever tripped your trigger could very well be an asshole, but now is not the time for condemnation because it won’t make you feel better. (Be honest, it hasn’t right?)
This is where we start TAKING BACK OUR POWER by owning our feelings and our hand in our own misery.
A lot of people hit a wall in talk therapy (or in their rants and complaints to sympathetic audiences) at the part where we learn that it has to do with our “mother/daddy issues” or is rooted in some other betrayal or violence done to us by another. To be clear, we are not condoning or pardoning the other person’s behavior. We are just turning our focus around simply because doing the same old thing keeps us miserable.
This might help you change your perspective: Imagine that everything is happening FOR you. Instead of taking the position of the victim and lamenting that these things keep happening to you, imagine your trigger as a gift that can teach you something about yourself if you are open to it.
Feel yourself soften and open yet?
Good. So return to step 3 above and remember to drop into your heart. You will know when you’ve hit the right question because your body will feel it even more strongly. You will recognize the key to relief from suffering when you have your question for self-reflection. When we’ve done this in group, it visibly and audibly gives people pause. You might hear yourself go, “Ohhh…” Or it might stop your mental chatter in its tracks. Or (and this is what happened in the room last month), you might feel chills / get goosebumps.
If you pay attention, you can viscerally sense when someone has shifted into her heart space. The whole room will just feel different.
I will share the example that caused a huge shift in the room because it was so powerful. Someone had been complaining about someone’s rudeness and was not finding a way to step back from that energy to focus on her heart space. Instead of entering into discussion from my intellect (though my mind was keen to offer its perspective), I kept listening from my heart. During her rant I heard her say something to the effect of, “She just isn’t considerate of how anyone else’s day may have gone. I try to be really mindful of the fact that someone may have had a bad day so I try to be really respectful.” At that moment, I knew the question(s): “Why don’t you ever let yourself off the hook?”
She stopped talking, and in a totally different tone of voice said, “That’s it. Wow, I just got the chills!” After everyone felt the energy shift, I asked it a bit differently: “How do you try to take responsibility for the feelings of everyone around you?”
The first question was a product of my intuition, while the second came from my mind. Both hit the core issue, but you can see how the language differs, and maybe even feel that difference. Be cautioned that it’s really easy to let our mind take over this step (especially since we are working with language, and the mind will want to grab on and “figure it out”). That is perfectly fine as long as we make sure that the heart remains engaged. The heart is the part of you that knows if the mind has hit upon the right question. You might even feel a joy of discovery because you’ll have taken a major step toward understanding yourself at a deeper level. Even hitting upon unpleasant truths can be a strangely wonderful thing.
STEP 4: Choose a different reaction. (Make a change!)
Now it is time to take action. What constructive step can you take based on what you learned about yourself in step 3?
Returning to my personal example, I had to a) catch myself each time I abandoned myself, and then b) intentionally show up for myself on a daily basis. I started to notice that whenever I thought I’d messed up (e.g., in the middle of a flying trapeze trick), a part of myself just fled the scene. I’m still working on finishing my tricks even when I something goes wrong, but I find myself staying by my side in almost all other parts of my life. It’s as if flying is the “last frontier” for me in this battle!
Have my parents changed? Not really. But I can tell you that I’ve managed to disarm a great many triggers around my feelings of abandonment and everything else that was bundled up with my “inner child issues.”
This stuff works, you guys. Change won’t happen overnight, and it might be really unpleasant at first, but one day you’ll look back on all of this with utter wonder, I promise!