No matter how often I tell myself that I am constantly reacting to projections of myself in others, I do it again and again. This is so deeply ingrained in all of us that it slumbers in our unconscious selves. We need to remind ourselves, again and again.
This can take interesting forms. Recently I have been entranced by a webcam view of a nest of ospreys in Maine (USA). The osprey mother is beautiful, the fierce, proud glare from her yellow eyes stirs my soul. But the most fascinating thing about this nest, which attracts as many as 1300 viewers at one time, is the amazing, untiring, nurturing attention with which both mother and father osprey take care of their three chicks.
I find myself constantly comparing them to human parents – my parents, myself as a parent. Attributing human characteristics to them like patience, loyalty, and love. Now mind you, there is more to this than instinct. This particular pair has been nesting here for several seasons and their parental skills develop further and further each year. Some other osprey parents, on nests that can be followed, do a poorer job of it than these. But a lot of the awe and tenderness with which I view them is projection of my own desire to be so tender and nurturing.
The topic of nurturing leads me to another way that we can project ourselves on others. Someone came to me who is caught in a highly nurturing and caring role. Everyone sees her as the kindest, most helpful person they know. She started catching on to the fact that, by taking care of others, she was reflecting a deep childhood need to be taken care of herself. Now she’s taking the first steps to learn how to take care of the orphaned child inside.
One of the most striking ways that others can be a mirror to learn from is found with the people who annoy us the most, or make us downright angry. In my earlier articles on our shadow side, I have pointed out that there is always a side to us that we reject to the point of refusing to see that it’s a part of us. Often, people who display the kind of behavior we don’t want to acknowledge, evoke an intense feeling of dislike in us. So, when you find yourself reacting negatively to someone, stop and examine what you might learn about yourself in this interaction!
How wonderful it is to live in a world full of human and non-human mirrors we can learn from!