We all have the wonderful opportunity to learn something about our self every time we interact with another person. Each person reflects a part of our self, a positive or negative quality, characteristic or behavior, of which we may or may not be aware. Everyone is a mirror for everyone else.

When we notice something about someone else that evokes a negative emotion in our field of conscious awareness to some degree, they are reflecting something in us that is similar; these are our shadow beliefs about our self. Often, it's enough to acknowledge that characteristic and accept that it's part of us, but it is not who we are. But the first thing that usually pops up is the Ego with a case of denial. No, I don't talk that loudly... wear that much make-up... am not that rude... would never treat a friend like that ... am much more considerate... don't ever make mistakes like that... never behave that way in public. It's the I'm OK, you're not OK defense. Instead, we could accelerate our personal growth by exploring those parts of our selves that we notice in others and making conscious choices about whether we want to keep our behavior or change it. This is how we develop our strengths.

If we decide to keep it, we then have to learn to let go of our need to keep it or it can work against us. If you notice another person who always has to be right or have the last word, and you find it annoying, begin to observe your self in different situations to become aware of when you are like that. Think about how it serves you. If you're a trial lawyer that might be a good characteristic and you might decide to keep it, but if you're a tennis player, it might be to your disadvantage not to change. When you become aware that you do the thing or are like that sometimes, to some degree, you can determine whether it's appropriate or not appropriate by the reactions you evoke in others. Then you can accept that it is part of you, but it is not all that you are. Something that's part of you is always part of you, but you have the ability to intensify it or extinguish it. You can still want to express your opinion, but let go of your need to be right. You can still demand to be heard, but if you continue to expect others to believe you or do what you say, then you haven't let go of your attachment to being in control, having it your way.

The mirroring technique is a method to increase self-awareness, which involves paying attention to your physical and emotional reactions during encounters with others. If you feel comfortable with someone, you are mirroring positive parts of your self (e.g. good conversationalist, pleasant smile, confidence). If you feel anger or don't like the person right away or get a bad feeling about the person, they are reflecting something in you that you feel uncomfortable about but would probably deny if confronted with that information. You may choose to put up a wall to avoid seeing yourself in the mirror. The stronger your denial, however, the more likely it is true about you. When you know everything about your self, good and bad, and can still accept your self, you'll find yourself becoming more accepting of other people's eccentricities and less annoyed with the world, in general.

The following exercise will help you learn to use mirroring to learn about your self. It is suggested you pay attention first to negative feelings because we learn the most about ourselves from these. They are our greatest teachers. When you become good at processing this information, don't beat yourself up too badly; you can use the same technique to look at the positive things about yourself to reconstruct your self-image.

1. Next time you interact with someone, notice how you are feeling physically (e.g. knot in your stomach, muscle tension, rigid posture, aggressive stance, inner shaking) and emotionally (e.g. anxious, upset, irritated, annoyed, jealous, impatient).

2. Determine to find out what you can learn from this person by asking yourself-- what is he or she doing that upsets me?

3. Turn the question around to-- what is he or she doing that I am upsetting myself about?

4. Apply that to yourself, ask-- how am I similar to that? Observe yourself in different situations or ask someone you trust if you don't readily see it.

5. Admit that if it bothers you that this person is doing it, it may be something that you need to change about your self.

6. Acceptance and disidentification (this is part of me, but it is not all that I am).

7. Practice with awareness.

8. Transformation

For example, Mary doesn't like the way her friend Peggy always interrupts her when she is talking. Mary might be telling her about an incident she had with a sales clerk and Peggy might suddenly ask, "Are you and Harry going to the PTA meeting Friday night?"

1. Mary notices that every time Peggy interrupts, she grinds her teeth and her stomach muscles tense up. Each time Peggy interrupts, Mary feels angrier. When they have lunch together, Mary always ends ups with a stomachache and a headache.

2. Mary determines to see what she can learn about her self from her teacher, Peggy. What upsets her is that Peggy's interruptions are always about a different subject than Mary is talking about. Mary feels discounted because Peggy doesn't seem to be listening to what she's saying.

3. Mary turns the question around and says-- I'm upsetting my self because Peggy doesn't listen well.

4. Then applies it to her self-- that's like me when I ask my children when they're going to clean their room instead of listening to some story they're telling me about what happened at school.

5. Since it upsets me so much when Peggy does it to me, imagine how my children must feel when I do it to them. With this new self-awareness, Mary chooses to change her own negative behavior.

6. She starts by accepting that this is part of her, and then lets go of her attachment to others listening to her, according to her expectations, and begins to train herself to be a better listener with her family.

7. The next time Peggy interrupted her, she stopped and paid attention to Peggy's new subject. When she didn't immediately continue her story after responding to Peggy's question like she used to do, but instead waited for Peggy to continue hers, Peggy said, "That's all I wanted to know. Go ahead with what you were saying about the sales clerk." It seems Peggy did listen to Mary, only not as intently as Mary expected her to. Mary now recognized that the problem was not Peggy, but her own expectations of how other people should behave. When she let go of her expectations that Peggy hang on her every word, she found herself enjoying her visits with Peggy much more.

8. In addition, her relationships with her children and other people in her life improved as she became a better listener, and she prevented an ulcer and extensive dental work, which would have been the consequence in a few years of her chronic anger.

As your own negative habits begin to fall away, your good points will become more prominent. Begin to look at the people you admire the most or enjoy being with. What is it about them that attracts you? Are they kind, thoughtful, considerate, good listeners? Do they have a good sense of humor? Are they confident, well dressed, congenial, of good character? Do they always have something nice to say about others? Do you feel like you can be your self around them? Whatever it is you like about them, it is because you have those same qualities, perhaps well hidden, in you. All you have to do is choose to bring them out. Now that you've let go of a lot of the negativity you've been carrying around, it is easier to let the light shine through.

So the next time you want to punch somebody in the nose, remember that person is your teacher and you created this situation so you could learn something important about your self and, rather than misdirect your anger, use it as an opportunity to grow.

Excerpted from "Sitting in the Lotus Blossom"

Author's Bio: 

Diane has been a spiritual seeker since her near death experience in 1971 and a spiritual teacher for the past 20 years. She has written several books and has maintained an Internet presence since 1996 with her well-known web site about near death experiences www.BeyondtheVeil.net, which also offers spiritual lessons and resources for seekers. On her newest website, www.TransitionGuideTraining.org she offers a certified online training course for educators and healers who wish to train Transition Guides in the practice of Conscious Dying into the Clear Light.