Winter, for those of us living in the North Country with below zero temperatures, is an invitation to cozy up by the fire, have a cup of tea with a friend, and sink into reverie. I cherish this season as a time for reflection. I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between self-reflection and the reflection received by, or given to, others.
Last night I saw the movie, Boyhood. It reminded me of how impactful the reflections of family members can be in our childhood. In the movie, Mason receives messages from his father, successive stepfathers, a teacher and his boss, of how he is not as good as his older sister; is a bad student, unhelpful, undisciplined and not good enough. Despite his mother’s love, his shoulders slump progressively over time with feelings of shame.
Self-image is initially comprised of the reflections of what others see in us. The problem is that others don’t always see us accurately. Often what they reflect is a mirror of them selves. This is called “projection. It can take years to unbraid that which we know to be true about ourselves from what was untrue.
Years ago I read an article on child development speaking to the importance of reflection. It reported that children who do not receive adequate reflection often resort to journal writing as a way of validating their existence. This helped me understand why I have always enjoyed and, until recently, needed to keep a journal.
Today I belong to a supportive community dedicated to personal and spiritual growth. Its value to me is the many opportunities for mirroring. I see community as a multifaceted mirror. Each piece I pick up and look at from the floor of my subconscious represents a different part of myself as seen in another.
To see ourselves we need to be seen; to understand ourselves we need a community to reflect back what is true in us. The picture I took above depicts for me the beauty of the light we can each shed upon each other.
What messages reflected to you from others, feel inaccurate?
What reflections feel true?
Wonderful message, Eileen. What a rich moment it is when each of us reaches the maturity to find our self reflection is stronger than outside reflection/projection. In most cases, this happens with age.
Hi Wanda. What a good point about how it takes time to find our own self-reflection is stronger than the outside reflection. Thanks for putting it that way. All best, Eileen
Hi Eileen, You are very smart and strong– admirable qualities. “Projection” is a concept that slept in my thoughts for years. I thought it was a weaving of characteristics set in a person. Thanks for clarifying. I find that my day has to be understood by “me” every day. For example how am I using up my time in life, I ask? Am I being true to the values and standards that I was brought up with and have thought through, repeatedly? I try to keep my thoughts uncomplicated and mostly, to myself. Often, if I share my ruminations with my husband, he disagrees because he enjoys a god debate!
My cousin called the other day and we chatted about life– she lives in sunny California; I was cold and under covers in Pennsylvania. “I am flying to visit you,” I said “and we can go to the sea at S.Monica and sit and breathe the salt air and have lunch from a gourmet food truck. Another day we can visit the Getty Museum, The Los Angeles Museum of Art and gardens. Maybe, we can drive out to the Maloof Foundation, too,” I said. “Yes, I have a yearning for the sunshine and warm weather, too!”
What bothers me in my thoughts is that I, continually, return to what went wrong and the reasons.I know I was never at fault. I think I was, deeply, hurt by my “reading” of things. Perhaps, I have tried too many times to pack up these thoughts and mark them “Oh, Well.”
I have been so lucky in life, so lucky.
It’s amazing how old feelings, when given attention, can actually re-traumatize us. I have had this happen too, Elaine. The greatest challenge is to find new meaning for old stories. I’m working on it too, and it takes a lot of hard work not to collapse under a memory, but instead stand back, look at it from a different angle, and then repeat the new meaning over and over. May this help all of us. — Eileen
my childhood was marked by strong support and expectations , but my sister tho loved never felt the same paternal warmth/support. I didn’t see it clearly but she carried those feelings well into adult life long after the parents were gone. Siblings are sometimes out for themselves and fail to read each others pain.
It’s so hard to be there for others if we come from a place of emotional or physical scarcity. What an irony for the country who prides itself in all its “stuff” to be so afflicted. I admire you for looking at the difference between you and your sister’s experience, John. I believe that it helps the world when we have these realizations, even if the person who we’re thinking about is no longer living. It’s something about contributing to good karma. Thanks for writing. Warmly, Eileen
Eileen, a wonderful comment on an excellent movie. Yours is powerful message about our need for supported reflection as a child. Certainly not something I was exposed to. Like learning a sport, or developing a good habit, self reflection is easier as an adult if we have been taught it as a child. -Randy
So true, Randy. Yet so many of us don’t get taught the real stuff of getting along in life. That’s why I’m glad there are social and emotional programs being taught at schools across America. We have a long ways to go, but it’s a beginning. Warmly, Eileen
I read your most personal tale today – first once, then twice — amazed and applauding your abilties, so often seen in your writings, that result from the deep introspection that is part and parcel of the essential Eileen. I am sure that others see – as I do — that in earlier life you may have been a tightly closed bud — a person who has kept the inner thoughts to yourself as so many do, but — and you know I could be wrong — but we are watching a woman right now come out into full bloom. By not just journaling — but sharing now as fully as you do — your words have mirrored so many others who have yet to share, have yet to fully believe in themselves, and writing in such an open fashion.
Only much later in life can we truly look back fully and see the influence of our younger years in the person we have become. Somehow, implanted within myself, was the belief: to thine own self be true. I have no idea how it was done – not with words or particular praise — but belief in self was there.
I have NOW found that life is short — too short!! And I intend to continue to live it to the fullest — and in as many wonderful ways as I can. I am not harming anyone I know in so doing, so I am not going to be concerned with preceived inadequacies others may feel I have. Eileen, you too are “being Eileen” — and I can think of nothing so wonderful — and “blooming” — as the woman you project to us. All we can do is admire you — and I mean that from my deepest heart.! Joan
From my experience of you you certainly don’t harm anyone, and I think the world is better off because of the positive energy you bring to it. Thanks for sharing. Actually I was always pretty “out there” with my emotions, even as a child. I guess i was just born that way! But there are many ways to bloom in this world. Warmly, Eileen
Hymn loved” boyhood” thought the biological Dad was a positive influence
Especially later in life. Guess I ll watch if again and probably get a lit more out of it
Yes, I thought the dad got better as he ages too. I like to think most of us do!
Wow, what an inspiring blog! Not only was I moved (and enhanced) by your beautiful words of wisdom on a very important subject, “self-reflection”, but by your readers’ wisdom, as well. You draw quite a gathering of wise souls. I especially resonated with Elaine, John and Joanee’s comments. Thank you all!
As a child, I received very supportive reflective messages from my parents. My sisters, on the other hand. . . not as warm or positive as Mom and Dad—is that par for the course, I wonder, I mean, with/from siblings?
No matter, because as grew up I began to go more inward. Got more Self-reflective, began to journal, meditate, took carriage driving classes (which changed my life) and gathered my pets close. And, guess what? Through THEIR eyes, touch, feel, and bonds, I began to truly SEE myself. For, animals don’t deceive, project, or have any agenda. And, I began to truly grow into my skin. Sweetly, caringly, authentically. My mews are my muse. My pony, my prophet.
In their eyes I am whole. Our love reflects the real story.
I love that you reflect on the comments from other readers, Phyll. This is starting to feel like a real community now! I love how you also receive support from your animals. It’s true that animals don’t judge. We are all so lucky to have exposure to them – just like trees and plants! Here’s to the whole of life! xo, Eileen
Something I read a long time ago—from an interview with Katharine Hepburn—feels relevant here. I can’t remember exactly what she said, so I’ll have to paraphrase:
“What do children want and need? To be loved and listened to.”
Listening is a good form of mirroring that can help a person feel understood and thus stronger. Projection is so distorted a form of mirroring that it can make a person feel misunderstood and thus weaker—and definitely frustrated.
Oh, I’ve just remembered something else that, I believe, Hepburn she said and that I like. Another paraphrase:
“In life there are certain doors you should not open.”
(Of course, I’m thinking that the doors you should not open are not always clearly marked.)
Thanks for sharing the wisdom Richard. There’s another quote I like, from Lilly Tomlin: “Forgiveness is letting go of a different past.” Maybe it was not Tomlin, but it’s a quote I refer to quite a lot. So, when we haven’t been listened to enough or felt loved enough, we come to the place of forgiveness anyway, as that seems to be the best way through to the place of self-acceptance and belonging.
Eileen, I love what you say about coming “to the place of forgiveness anyway, as that seem to be the best way through to the place of self-acceptance and belonging.” I find that I become freer in spirit when I forgive someone for not forgiving me. Resentment feels “right” for, at most, 24 hours whereas the end of resentment feels right from 24 hours to forever.
Even though it’s about 10 degrees F outside, it’s warm inside. And why not? It’s Valentine’s Day!
Hi Richard, I hope you are having a Happy Valentine’s day, despite the weather there. Thanks for your continued thoughts. Warmly, Eileen