This month’s newsletter article is about “Picking Up the Mirror Instead of the Magnifying Glass,” where we examine our own behavior and actions instead of judging others. Here is an excerpt to show how it can work from The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love:
Can the mirror save all relationships? Of course not. But even if the relationship ends, the rewards that come from looking into the mirror are always great. Here’s an example. Carole was embroiled in a relationship in which her mate constantly pulled her down. In the beginning, whenever he criticized her, she reacted in a very angry way. In fact, she slapped his face when in one of her out-of-control moments. A definite no-no! Luckily, he didn’t slap her back. She was urged by all her friends to let go of the relationship, but she was having a difficult time doing so.
When she spoke to me about the situation, I suggested that until she was ready to leave, she should use the situation as an opportunity to get to the bottom of, not his putdowns, but of her own inappropriate reactions to his putdowns. Yes, he was a jerk for putting her down, no doubt about it. But her intense anger was not okay. No doubt about that either. I then showed Carole the power of the mirror. I told her that instead of being so angry at his criticism, she should ask herself the question, ‘Why do I get so upset when he criticizes me?’
After some resistance, the light bulb finally went on inside her head. She decided to look within to get to the root of it all. Little by little, as she looked in the mirror instead of the magnifying glass, she saw, among other things:
- her need for approval
- her deep insecurity
- her need to be right.
Yes, she saw what it was that got in the way of responding appropriately to her partner’s constant criticism. As she worked on these various issues, she noticed that her anger began to lessen.
She finally reached the point where she could respond to his criticism without emotional outbursts but with some version of, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m really comfortable with my behavior.’ End of story. No argument. No defensiveness. Just a ‘thank you for sharing, but I don’t agree’ kind of reaction.
Her emotional attachment to his criticisms was broken. What was even more remarkable was that as Carole looked at her own pain, she realized that her partner, too, must be in pain in order to behave so hurtfully. He, too, must be feeling insecure, weak and in need of approval. Her anger disappeared and her compassion came forward.
It took her a little while but she was finally ready to leave the relationship. And she left with love and a silent thank-you to her former partner for being the ‘practice person’ in whose presence she had learned how better to love and respect herself. Lesson learned, she wouldn’t have to repeat this scenario again. And she never did. Today she is happily married to a very respectful and loving man.