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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

Would you prefer that mirror or a mirror that showed your shadow side, the things about yourself that you need to confront because they’re holding you back and making you unhappy – the things you’re hiding from other people, and yourself?

I suppose most people would prefer the mirror that reflected their beauty and goodness which resides in all of us to greater or lesser degrees. But, the mirror can deceive us.

At 80, I’m making peace with the mirror. In my late 40’s, I was seriously into body building and working toward a body building contest. I had the 6-pack abs and muscle definition. I looked in the mirror a lot, and I liked what I saw. Not so much at 80. I’m embarrassed to say that I have stepped out of the shower and practiced some of my old body building contest moves.

The more I try to imagine the person I used to be, the more I avoid confronting the person I am today. The person I am today doesn’t have the muscles that I had, but nature establishes an equilibrium that keeps things in balance. My muscles have been replaced by wisdom and a love of learning which are actually more satisfying than the narcissistic practice of admiring myself in the mirror.

Carl Jung said that everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. I’ve taken Carl Jung’s advice and adopted an unlikely mirror to help me understand myself and my shadow side. A well-know celebrity, who dominates the news every day, reflects all of my dysfunctional behaviors, fears, insecurities, and pathologies magnified so greatly that I can see them in myself. I don’t like it. I would prefer to hate this person and feel superior to him, but that only hurts me.

The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. The truth is:

  • I can be narcissistic.
  • I get angry and petulant when I don’t get what I want.
  • I have been known to get even with people who have hurt me.
  • I don’t take criticism very well.
  • I can be very judgmental about others.
  • I can be committed to being right . . . all of the time.
  • I don’t like to listen to what I don’t want to hear.
  • I am capable of hate.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you any more of my confessions. Fortunately, I’ve tamed many of these, but it helps to see them magnified so greatly. It helps me see what this looks like on another human being and strengthens my commitment to continue my inner journey.

Our shadows are running rampant in so many organizations today. Too much training is outsourced to technology and is only focused on techniques and strategies. Many of the problems in organizations are human problems. Process problems are easy. People problems are hard.

I was a Human Resource manager for a medical management company for 3 years. Most of my time was spent refereeing petty conflicts between nurses that could have been handled privately between the two of them if they didn’t allow themselves to be controlled by their shadow sides. I could tell them what to do, but I couldn’t rid them of the resentment, envy, and prejudice that they held in their hearts. These are spiritual problems . . . not religious problems – spiritual problems.

So what do we do about that? Am I suggesting that we send people to church? No we all know that wouldn’t work either. I’m suggesting that we might adopt practices in our organization that connect to that place in all of us where love resides. In some people it’s a very small place because it’s been crowded out by hate, resentment, grudges, and a perceived sense of unfairness, but I do believe that it’s still there and most people resonate with conversations that focus on the commonality of the human experience which almost always lead to love and caring for other people.

So the question we should ask is, what can we do to create more transformative and human conversations in our organization?

Oh, one last thing. Don’t ruin a good question with an answer.

 

If this topic resonates with you, join my Learning Community – Outsmarting Time and Culture

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Pat Whitty

Pat Whitty

Life Transition Coach

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