Mirrors: Seeing the True Reflection Through a Fog of Emotions
Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to
Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
When stage magicians perform an illusion, it’s often
accomplished with the use of mirrors. The mirrors (and often the
accompanying smoke) fool us by making us think that we’re seeing
something other than what we’re actually seeing. We get caught
up in the moment, we buy into the illusion, and we don’t notice
that what we’re really looking at is our reflection.
Of course, the same thing happens to us on a daily
basis. We get caught up in the illusions of our relationships
and we forget that everything that we see in other people is simply
our own reflection. This is the Universal Law of Relationships:
Our partners in relationship are our mirrors; they reflect our
own issues back to us. It’s often hard to accept this truth, because
when we relate to other people, our reflection is often hidden
through a smoke screen of our emotions.
It’s not that difficult to see our reflection through
the fog of our emotions, but we rarely choose to do so. When we
see our reflection clearly, we’re often confronted with painful
beliefs that we hold about ourselves. Unless we’re prepared to
address these beliefs and upgrade them, it’s much safer to sit
back and enjoy the illusion.
You are invited to take a journey with me, and
explore the true reflections behind some very common emotions:
pity, empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Please know that when
we do encounter the false, negative beliefs and self-judgments,
that we will follow a simple and powerful strategy to heal these
beliefs. As always, we will employ AWARENESS, OWNERSHIP
For me, this journey began shortly after the Tsunami
disaster. In response to this tragedy, the world seemed to experience
a tremendous surge of compassion for those whose lives were uprooted
by the floods. I began to wonder why it was so easy for so many
people to feel compassion for thousands of strangers on the other
side of the globe, and so difficult to feel compassion for individuals
closer to home.
I started to question and explore the nature of
compassion, and how it relates to other emotions. I considered
how Mother Theresa could walk through the streets of Calcutta
and feel nothing but compassion and acceptance for every soul
she encountered, and yet I know that for myself, compassion is
not what I would be feeling. To be completely honest, what I would
be feeling would be pity, not compassion.
This is not a pleasant thought. I like to consider
myself an extremely compassionate individual, and I know that
much of the time, I do express and embody compassion. I also became
aware that I have a judgment about pity. I find it an unpleasant
emotion, because I can sense the belief about myself that lurks
behind the smoke screen.
As I explored these ideas, I began to get a sense
of how these emotions are related. Pity and compassion are almost
identical. The only difference is how we see ourselves. When we
experience pity, we are being made aware of our belief that there
is something wrong with us. When we experience compassion, we
experience unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves (and
others). Mother Theresa embodied compassion because she experienced
the truth that each and every person she encountered is an individualized
aspect of All That Is, and therefore whole, complete, and perfect
exactly as they are.
What pity, empathy, sympathy and compassion have
in common is that they each represent the desire to reach out
and connect with another person and provide support. What differentiates
them is how well we see ourselves reflected in the other person,
and how much we are able to accept that reflection.
When we pity someone, we feel sorry for that person.
But pity carries some rather unsavory undertones. Pity often masks
contempt. We pity people whom we believe are beneath our standards,
who disgust or offend us. When we pity someone, we hold that person
in judgment, and we affirm that there is something fundamentally
wrong with them. Although pity does, in theory, reach out and
form a connection, it also emphasizes separation. We reach out
to those whom we pity out of fear or guilt. We hope that they
will go away grateful for our help, but mainly we hope that they
will just go away.
Since the Universal Law of Relationships reminds
us that it is never about the other person, let’s consider
what pity is telling us about ourselves. ¯First and foremost,
pity makes us aware that we hold the belief that there is something
wrong with us. The fact that we can look at another person and
judge that they have not lived up to an acceptable standard means
that we, ourselves, believe that we have fallen short of some
standard. When we hold another person in contempt, we are holding
ourselves in contempt. We are buying into the illusion that we
are separate, alone, and unworthy. We find it far too painful
to confront this belief directly, so we project it on others.
We can also experience sympathy when we feel sorry
for another person. For the most part, we consider sympathy a
positive, healing response. Certainly, when we feel sympathy for
someone we are far more accepting of them (and of ourselves) than
when we feel pity for them. Of course, sympathy still masks the
belief that there is something wrong with the object of our sympathy—and
therefore, the belief that there is something wrong with us. When
we experience sympathy, however, we begin to acknowledge that
there is no difference between us and the other person. When we
feel sympathy for someone, we recognize on some level that we
could be in their shoes. It’s often a case of “There but for the
grace of God go I.” We want to provide support, but we also want
to distance ourselves, because we don’t want to notice how the
pain that we see so clearly in others is a reflection of our own
Empathy, on the other hand, occurs when we not
only see ourselves reflected in another, but we identify with
what that person is experiencing emotionally. We understand their
pain because we recognize that pain in ourselves. When we experience
empathy, we share the pain and the burden. We suffer along with
our partner. Empathy is a powerful connection, and the experience
of being reminded that we are not alone is tremendously healing.
But empathy only addresses the symptoms, not the cause. Empathy
is simply the awareness that we believe that there is something
wrong with us, and that this belief causes us tremendous pain.
Our awareness of this belief, however, can be the first
step towards healing it and releasing the pain once and for all.
Finally, we have compassion. With compassion, we
experience the deep, accepting, and healing connection with another
individual. But what makes compassion different from empathy is
that when we experience compassion, we know the truth about our
partner—that there is nothing at all wrong with them, that they
are whole, complete, and perfect exactly as they are.
True compassion occurs when we open our hearts
to another individual and experience unconditional love. When
we experience compassion, we know and accept the truth that we
are all connected, there is no separation, and that everything
is unfolding in divine order. True compassion is entirely free
from all judgment. Compassion is the absolute, complete and unconditional
acceptance of another individual.
Of course, the degree that we are able to express
compassion is entirely dependant on the degree that we are able
to love and accept ourselves unconditionally. If we judge ourselves
in any way, we will see that judgment reflected back to us, and
while we may still be able to experience love and support, that
love and support will not be completely unconditional. What we
tell ourselves is compassion may in fact be something else entirely:
empathy, sympathy, or even pity.
So, why is it so much easier for us to experience
compassion on a global scale and so difficult to do so on an individual
basis? I think it has to do with the size of the mirror. When
we relate to other individuals, we instinctively understand that
we’re seeing our own reflection. The larger the mirror, the more
abstract the circumstances, the more distorted our reflection
becomes. It’s very difficult to see ourselves reflected in hundreds
of thousands of faces on the other side of the world, and yet,
since we do accept that we are all connected, we are able to open
our hearts without experiencing our self-judgment.
A good magician never reveals his secrets; he’s
invested in maintaining the illusion. We, on the other hand, are
interested in dispelling the illusion and experiencing the truth
of who we are. Therefore, I can reveal an essential secret about
mirrors: they work both ways.
It’s not always easy for us to address the limiting
and negative beliefs we hold about ourselves directly. Many of
our self-judgments are deeply seated and well protected by our
egos. Just as the mirrors of our relationships can make us aware
of these beliefs, we can also use these mirrors to heal these
beliefs about ourselves. When we choose to love and accept others,
when we choose to release the judgments we carry about others,
we are also loving, accepting and releasing judgments we carry
about ourselves. By holding the truth that our partners in relationship
are whole, complete and perfect exactly as they are, we begin
to claim this truth for ourselves. By expressing unconditional
love, we learn how to accept it as well.
We don’t have to address our negative beliefs directly.
We can use the smoke and mirrors of our relationships to heal
these beliefs without ever triggering our egos. By practicing
compassion for others, we can finally feel compassion for ourselves.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship
Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your
Life. Visit www.EveryRelationship.com
for a FREE report on creating AMAZING Relationships.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every
Relationship in Your Life.
for a FREE Report on creating Amazing Relationships.
B. Burk, all rights reserved. If you would like to reprint
this article in your publication, web page, or eZine (which
you may do for free!), click here for details.