Part III: Immature projection-based coping mechanisms

Read Part II – Neurotic defense mechanisms

projection

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While pathological and neurotic defense mechanisms are in the realm of mental illness, immature defense and coping mechanisms are considered “normal” while not optimal. The fact is that 98% of us still have a hurt inner child that is still running the show. We call these coping mechanisms immature because we expect children to display these behaviors. When they are observed in grown-up adults, we may raise our eyebrows and recognize them as a weakness or an eccentricity. We would however never put them in the category of mental illness, or requiring therapeutic intervention as they are so common in every day life. When I meditated on that topic, I found 23 of them so I split them in 4 separate categories to make this blog series more digestible:

  1. Projection-based
  2. Fear-based
  3. Impulsion-based
  4. Ego-based

Projection-based immature coping mechanisms

Projection is a defense mechanism where a person projects his/her impulses, feelings, habits, and/or traits onto someone else and begins to identify his own traits in that ‘someone else’. Projection is so common that it is everywhere. We see in others what we resist to see in ourselves. Most judgments have some level of projection. The closer the relationship, the more likely the projection is, and this is why there are so many projections in intimate relationships. When we receive constructive feedback, it is healthy to see to what extent the person is right about their observation so that we may learn and grow from it. If we do not understand their critique then we can ask questions until we are able to see what they saw in us. This is why brutal personal honesty is so important in this work. However, it is important to see what projection may be in their feedback too. There is no need to share back what we observed unless we feel the person will be able to receive it and learn from it. I talked sbout the philosophical aspect of projection in a previous article.

  • Projective identification
projective identification

Projective identification is a type of projection that involves both people. The one person does not use the other merely as a hook to hang projections on. He/she strives to find in the other, or to induce the other to become willingly, the very embodiment of projection. Throughout our relationship, I had a partner who kept repeating a number of complaints she had against me. First, she said that I had duped her into the relationship, promising her a dream that never came to fruition. I accepted this feedback because I was so much in love with her that I displayed unconsciously (and in a codependent way) what she wanted to see to win her over. Also, there were a number of unfortunate hardships that came our way. However, I got to realize that her insistence on being “duped” was projective identification. She suffered from severe separation anxiety and needed her partner to be with her all the time, always focusing on her, basically becoming an object in her reality. She did not know how to function otherwise but carried deep shame about this aspect of herself so felt that she had no other way than “duping” her partners to become her crutch. Additionally, she kept accusing me of putting my needs over hers. I am clear now that it was projective identification. As a recovering codependent, I was learning about my authentic needs and I was starting to set healthy boundaries. In her perspective, her needs were most important than mine so they had to come first. I was not allowed to have needs that would conflict with hers. She was not interested in an equal partnership and she carried some shame about it so projected it on me. She also complained that I had not put any energy into being a stepparent. While I made some efforts and committed to spend one day a week with him, my relationship with her son was not ideal because he felt her mum preferred to spend time with me rather than him (while this came from her separation anxiety) so he saw me as a rival. Also my own trauma in missing my own children lost through parental alienation created a difficult emotional dynamic to attach to my partner’s son. There was also a level of projective identification because she perceived my children as the biggest threat to our relationship so she felt a lot of guilt for not being able to support me through this ordeal. Generally speaking, narcissists will have a lot of projective identifications on codependents who gladly accept all the faults because of their low esteem. Narcissists carry too much shame to see these flaws within themselves so need to project them externally.

  • Tanking
tanking

The concept of emotional tanking may be a bit complex to understand at first. When two people are in an intimate relationship, they are closely connected emotionally. We can visualize that each one of them is represented by a tank with emotions inside connected together by a pipe. So if one of them is repressing emotions, the pressure will be pushed back to the partner who is more emotional, empathic and less repressed. This pattern is typical with repressed brain-centered men married with an emotional woman. Let’s imagine the man is having difficulty with his supervisor and is afraid to lose his job. He does not want his wife to worry so says nothing. She notices something is not quite right so she asks him if everything is all right. He responds he is fine and starts watching TV. All his repressed anxiety « tanks » his empathic wife who suddenly feels very anxious without understanding why. She starts crying feeling sorry for herself. The man gets frustrated thinking « I have enough problems at work and now my wife is acting neurotic for no reason ! ». He asks her with an irritated voice « what’s wrong now ? » which does not help his wife’s state. He is not realizing that his wife is perfectly mirroring his repressed emotions, but because he is unwilling to see this aspect of himself, he is scolding his wife for something he created in the first place. Anyone married to an empath needs to be aware of the concept of tanking. When I was married to Teal, I made that mistake many times. I was trying to protect her from my children custody court case because this was making her very anxious but I repressed my own nervousness in the process which would erupt in her unexpectedly. This is another (selfish) reason why it is so important that we care for our loved ones’ state whether it is our spouse or children. If they are not doing well, they will tank us, especially if we are empathic.

  • Deflection
deflection

In general, deflection means that we are passing something over to someone else in an attempt to draw the attention away from ourselves. I have written about my unfortunate bad habit of deflecting in a previous article. We deflect when we feel ashamed so our ego will deflect the shame back typically to the person who made us uncomfortable in the first place. Because we understand well the insecurities of our partner, it is easy for us to trigger their shame, and get them on the defensive so that we stop being in the spotlight. Our biggest ego fear resides in seeing our own shadows. In order to resist deflection, we need to remember that when our shame is triggered, we have an opportunity for personal growth so we are actually winning. We learn to sit with our emotion, and we take advantage of the trigger to start the process of healing. If our partner is supportive, we do it with them otherwise we isolate to take care of it on our own. If we feel there was an element of projection in our partner that triggered our shame, we let 24 hours pass and find a suitable moment to share our observation consciously with them in a way that does not trigger their shame and benefit their own inner growth. Deflection is often responsible for the quick escalation of argument between people. Taking time for self-reflection will neutralize this unhealthy habit and will require our letting go of the need to be right. For example, let’s say you are at a party and you spend most of the evening talking a pretty girl rather than being with your partner. Your partner then tells you “I really did not feel we were a couple tonight. You were all over this girl” and you respond “What are talking about? I saw how John could not stop following you all evening. Is there something going on between the two of you? Also, the dress you wore is way too provocative!”. When the deflector cannot find an argument, he can always use your own reaction against you. So in this situation, he could also say “Why are you so negative all the time? I am really tired of your constant jealousy. I feel I am suffocating!”

  • Labeling
labeling

While useful in communication for our thinking process, labeling can become a coping mechanism to avoid feeling some unpleasant emotions triggered by other people. In cases of parental alienation, the alienating parent labels the targeted parent as bad, dangerous, irresponsible, hurtful and unreliable so as to encourage the children to abandon and hurt him/her. Because of morality and personal values, a person has to be made bad before we can hurt them. This is a well-known fact in the world of politics. The nazis called the Slavic people underman and the Jews filthy contagious rats so as to dehumanize their opponents before exterminating them. The far right French government of Vichy that was an ally of the nazis during the second World War treated the French resistance as terrorists. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US government made up a story that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction ready to use against the US and that he had ties with al-Qaeda terrorists to justify their invasion of Irak to the American public. However the real motive was to keep control over Middle East oil and preserve the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. These are extreme examples but labeling creates distance between us and the person we label and prevents connection at a basic human level. When we label someone, we shield ourselves from the uncomfortable reflection they provide to us. It is another way to avoid seeing our shadow. It is another attempt by the mind to shut itself from feeling. We can label someone as young to imply they are too inexperienced for us to learn anything from them. We can label someone as irresponsible and lazy so that we do not feel the guilt that we are not helping them. We can also use labels to put people on a pedestal whether they are a celebrity, a successful businessperson, or a spiritual teacher. We idealize them and we cease to see them as a person too. We use the connection to boost our self-esteem by association or to extract valuable information from them. This is why celebrities avoid associating with fans as they feel objectified. Only equal partnerships with a balance of giving and receiving feel nurturing. So we use labeling to connect and disconnect from people independently of how we truly feel about them. Instead we can make an effort to feel the essence of anyone or anything we come into contact whether it is a prince, a beggar, a child, an animal, a tree or even a crystal.

Read part IV – Fear-based immature coping mechanisms

Moving from a dysfunctional codependent relationship to a conscious one – Part I

View the video – Read by Britany

premature baby

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We were born dependent. First, we were one with our mother in her womb. Then birth separated us from her. We had to start breathing on our own.  As we grow up, we learn to move on our own, to feed ourselves, to make our own decisions and live our own destiny. Little by little, we are learning autonomy however we still long for the primordial desire of fusion with our own mother. Our parents did the best they could but they passed onto us their own deficiencies so we arrive to adulthood in a state of incompleteness.  Love acts as a powerful spell because we feel incomplete and we are desperately looking for a better half to fill our void.

Falling in love is the subconscious drive towards completeness. Without this incentive, most of us will simply not have the courage to work on our shadows (mostly transgenerational). This is why intimate relationships are so difficult but also so rewarding. Shadow, more than light, is the foundation for the powerful attraction between lovers. Because we are all so afraid to change, nature gave us the perk of sex to incentivize us towards evolution. Nature gave us the ability to experience the ecstasy of integration at a physical level so that we may want to experience it at an emotional, mental and spiritual level.

Orpheus

I re-read recently the story of Orpheus. He was a demi-God, a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion. Even he could not bear the loss of his wife Eurydice. After he failed to retrieve her from the kingdom of Hades, he wandered randomly as a hermit and inconsolable, he fell prey to the Thracian Maenads. Romantic love is by far the most fulfilling experience here on earth, but it is also the most fragile. It is dependent on the free will of another human being because without genuine reciprocity, it is not a relationship. Even when both lovers are connected, many external events or people may disrupt their passion: parents, status or financial issues, visa issues, ex partners or children, illness. When it is not something external, even if they love each other very much, they may face incompatibilities that they may be unable to solve such as a different attachment style, power struggles, ineffective communication, different vision for life or preferences,  or children conflict for recomposed families. And even when everything aligns, death may take away one of the lovers leaving the other one in utter despair.

Until we are able to love ourselves and experience autonomy, we are limited to be in codependent relationships. These relationships will still help us to grow and develop but a great deal of suffering is typically associated with them. The great attraction between the lovers is proportional to their own lack and incompleteness. These relationships have amazing potential as the partners commit to grow and to do their inner work. But they will feel miserable if they resist their own expansion. They both need to realize their own incompleteness with humility, and support each other personal growth.

From my personal experience, I would like to describe the characteristics of such relationships.

At the base of the dysfunction is always the lack of SELF-LOVE. Because we do not love ourselves, we feel dependent on our romantic partner to experience love. This weak sense of self will manifest in the following forms:

self love
  • Inability or unwillingness to give space

Even the most compatible partners will have some areas where they diverge. They may not like the same type of food, enjoy different set of activities or may want spend time with different people. People who are insecure will interpret mistakenly the unwillingness to join in an activity as a sign that they are unlovable so they will put pressure on the partner to stick together even if this means that one of them will miss out on something important for him/her. This will build resentment on both sides. Other times, we may not be in an emotional state to provide adequate support to our loved one. In this case, it is best to recommend that they see a good friend or a therapist. Unfortunately, the partner will interpret this as rejection or abandonment. Of course, giving space should be more the exception than the rule otherwise there may not be enough compatibility to hold the relationship together. At the same time, it is natural for conflicting needs to arise in the course of a relationship; so giving space to each others to meet these needs separately will release considerable pressure.

  • Distrust

We all have weaknesses so we cannot be trusted in all areas. If you do not trust your partner to take the garbage out every Monday night because he is often distracted, then it is fine to give him a gentle reminder because history has proven that he is likely to forget. However, if we cannot trust our partner in aspects that are fundamental to us in the relationship, we should either work on our trust issues or exit the relationship. Without this underlying trust, there cannot be a relationship. Here are some examples of what could be a deal breaker for a couple but it varies from relationship to relationship and I highly recommend that the lovers discuss them clearly before fully committing to each other: sexual infidelity, emotional infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, circumcision of the children, caring for aging parents or stepchildren, providing financial support, regular sexual intercourse, emotional intimacy & affection. What may be a deal breaker for one couple may be insignificant for another so communication is key. The first step however is to know your own boundaries and love yourself enough not to violate them, even if this means letting go of the relationship. We can only trust our partner if we can trust ourselves.

false persona
  • Projecting a false persona

Because we believe we are unlovable, we create a false persona in order to get that love we are desperately starving for. This however is a recipe for disaster. This is very common with men.  Where they are in the courting mode, they perform lots of actions that they would simply not do in an established relationship: offering thoughtful gifts, organizing breathtaking dates, spending more money than they can afford on their beloved, being ultra gentle and considerate. Then, once their object of desire gets attached to their false persona, they relax and a less attractive personality surfaces. Inevitably, the lady feels duped and this is not a healthy foundation for a relationship. Being yourself from the start will limit the number of dates you may be able to get however what is important is the quality of the relationship and not the quantity. Here are some examples of not so innocent white lies.  We may pretend we like some activities or food we dislike, or we exaggerate our wealth, success or sexual performance. It is just a question of time for your mate to know you intimately. If she or he fell in love with a false persona, she or he will surely leave once she or he discovers your true self because this is not what she or he signed up for. Ensure to only display behaviors or attentions in your courting phase that are sustainable over the long run not to disappoint your loved one down the road.

  • Over reliance on the relationship for important needs

A mistake that many men providers do after getting married is to rely solely on their wife to organize their social life while all their energy is focused on work. If for any reason, their wife leaves them or even dies; they are left alone or completely unable to take care of themselves emotionally. The same applies for financial needs if one partner gets used to a certain lifestyle with the inability to earn money on their own. Too much dependency creates insecurity and a tendency to compromise oneself for the benefit of the relationship because we feel incapable of sustaining ourselves outside the relationship. It is healthy to be attached to someone special and it is natural to grieve when this person disappears from our life but we need to know that we have the ability, resourcefulness and the resilience to bounce back given enough time to heal. This certainty takes self-love. Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and tragedy can strike inadvertently. A certain level of dependency is healthy in a relationship so that both partners can focus on their strengths however not to a point where a person is unable to function at all without their other half. Where there is too much dependency, breakups end up being much more difficult than necessary and the abandoned partner may become revengeful and obsessed with terrible consequences.

annoying husband
  • Fixing the other person

People with lower self-esteem may feel ashamed about who they are but do not have the strength to face it. It is less dreadful to keep focusing on other people’s flaws and keep fixing them. As they focus on their partner’s weaknesses, they get distracted so that they may not see their own flaws. They resent aspects of themselves but their ego cannot admit it. So they keep projecting their deficiencies onto others. They find compliant tormented souls that are well too aware of their imperfection and actually enjoy the constant reproaches because this reminds them of their early abusive family environment where they were repeatedly put down. Constant nagging is a relationship killer. We have to put at least ten times more pressure on ourselves for positive change than our partner. Let us inspire them with our own example. And when we share constructive feedback, it is best to address it vulnerably in the first person (i.e. I feel unloved and taken for granted when you make plans without including me)

self promotion
  • Constant self-promotion

People who believe something is wrong with them have an ego that needs to hide and repress their perceived imperfections at any cost. They do not believe their value can speak for itself so they use every opportunity to express how good they are, how much they are doing for the other person, how successful they are, how much money they have, how educated they are, how good of a parent they are, how good of a cook they are, etc… When you are certain of your own value, you are happy just being and there is no need for self-advocacy. And if people are unable to see your value unless you are claiming it, you may have an inflated sense of self or it may be time to renew your circle of friends.

In the second category of characteristics of codependent relationships, we do not trust the universe to bring someone even more special after we complete the healing of a painful breakup. So we resort to manipulation to keep our partner chained to us at any cost and there are many forms of CONTROL we can exercise:

  • Deprecation

If we keep denigrating or criticizing our partner, it will lower their self-esteem. They will lose their self-confidence and they will not believe that anyone else will be able to love and appreciate them. They should just be comforted that we stick around for them. This is one of the favorite tools used by narcissists. The recipient of such abuse needs to remember that if there is genuine love & attraction, there is mutuality so one partner is not entitled to feel superior. It is likely that the two partners are replaying the abuse of their childhood whether as a victim or a perpetrator, which are two sides of the same coin.

jealousy
  • Jealousy

This is one of the indications of possessive love.  While it is natural to have sensible expectations on one’s partner, jealousy is the irrational fear of losing the object of love of which we have become dependent. So we need to limit them  (as well as their well-being and personal growth) when we should be the ones working on our limited beliefs and insecurities. We forbid them to interact or even to appreciate beauty from people of the opposite gender. We punish them emotionally through stonewalling, anger or withdrawing affection when our jealousy is triggered.

  • Power play and emotional blackmail

Every partner in a relationship typically has assets that are desired by their significant other. It may be money, beauty, sex, fame or skills. It is natural for lovers to benefit each other as long as giving comes from the heart. Manipulation comes from our transactional mind.  This is the type of actions that the transactional mind will take. We purchase a nice bag for our wife before we ask her to go to a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas with our best friend. We give her a nice massage to get sex afterwards. We buy her beautiful flowers because she is suspecting that we are having an affair with a colleague. We let our husband have sex with us so that he will stop stonewalling us. It is best to express one’s needs and concerns directly instead of resorting to manipulation. When the relationship stops feeling fair, we can communicate about it in a vulnerable way rather than punishing them without any explanation. They will probably not understand, and it will make things worse. When we do something in a transactional way, it would feel off from our partner’s perspective. She or he would feel objectified and then resentful. We will then feel unloved, confused or rejected, not understanding why our partner is always dissatisfied. It is a no win situation.

peer pressure
  • Peer pressure

We are wired to accept as truth what the majority thinks. A manipulator will often draw family members, colleagues or friends that are already loyal to them to prove a point and show they are right. Someone who is sincere will be patient with their loved ones and use logic to share their perspective, or draw from experts’ neutral opinions. For this reason, a couple should be weary to live with family or community members especially if they will automatically side with one party in case of a conflict.

A good relationship takes maturity, experience and SELF-AWARENESS. Here are some of the difficulties that couples may face unintentionally because of their lack of wisdom and personal development

  • Projection

Our intimate partner is our closest mirror. As such, we often interact with the person in the mirror, which is ourselves, instead of our lover. If we make a list of what annoys us in our partner, we will find undoubtedly aspects of us that we have repressed and judged severely. A lot of the attraction we feel for our partner comes from the fact that they express naturally what we have repressed in us. Unfortunately, instead of bringing these aspects back to the conscious mind for positive manifestation, we irrevocably repress or shame these aspects in them, reproducing in them our own fragmentation. Never forget that your intimate partner is for the most part your repressed self, and as such they have invaluable lessons to share with you if you can pay close attention.

projection
  • Needs’ conflict

We may have a tendency to impose our needs over our partner’s needs or on the opposite, put their needs before our own. Both approaches are not sustainable. People can only repress their important needs for so long. First, it takes a commitment for spouses to understand their important needs and communicate them clearly to each other. Then they should creatively think on how to meet all of their needs creatively. Partners are intimately connected so dissatisfaction in one will immediately surface in the relationship  to impact the other. By helping your significant other to get their genuine needs met, you are helping yourself to enjoy a more harmonious relationship. And an affectionate relationship will dramatically improve your quality of life and personal happiness.

double standards
  • Double standards

“Do as I say but not as I do” is the opposite of positive inspiration. It does not work with children and works even less with our partners. In a relationship, double standards can be allowed and will not build resentment only if both partners are consciously aware of them, and it feels fair to them. There are some double standards that may be customary, such as a woman waxing but not her husband. It may be accepted for one spouse not to contribute in cleaning the household if they are the one that brings in all the income. All these agreements have to be made consciously and not assumed because this is the way we were raised. There are some other double standards that may be more problematic. In recomposed families, one spouse may want a lot of focus and attention on his/her own children while feeling very uneasy around his/her partner’s children.  They may want to be the center of attention of his/her partner while providing little care for him/her. Or they may want all of their social time to be spent with his/her friends and not their significant other’s comrades. This is the fastest way to lose credibility. The Golden Rule of treating others as oneself is found in many religions and cultures for a reason.

  • Idealization followed by demonization

This is unfortunately common to so many relationships. At the beginning of a relationship, we can only see the positive in our beloved but give it a couple of years, and we can only see the negative. Then the break-up happens, and we make them literal monsters. People do not change that much and chances are that the person we adored is the same one that we now detest. We just applied a different filter. We shifted from the awareness of our own inner greatness revealed by this person to the projection of our own ugliness. The person you love is just as imperfect as you are. If you were with them, it means they were your match for the time being so demonizing them is nothing different than criticizing yourself. It is best to acknowledge with humility and truth their qualities and shortcomings, and realize that they have a lot to say about you too. Let all feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness and betrayal run inside of you because this is important for your healing, but once these emotions have run their course, strive for objectivity and truth. Forgive them in order to find peace within yourself.

splitting
  • Expectations

Expectation is the other relationship killer. As an example, we have had a long day and we expect our spouse to take care of us when we come home. It is likely that your spouse will have had the same hard day and has the same expectation. This inevitably will lead to a dispute. We always need to come back to the relationship with the intent of giving. If we are unable and we need to receive, let’s express it authentically and vulnerably. Let your partner have the freedom to not support you if they are too drained and not in the right state of mind to do it. As a general rule, you should have 10 times more expectations of yourself than your partner. This will help you receive with gratitude all the little things they do to improve your life. 

don't leave me

It is now easy to see why these types of relationships are the source of so much struggle and suffering. Love feels like a curse. Our loved one drives us insane but we cannot live without them. We are so afraid to be abandoned, or of their emotional reactions that we make a lot of compromises that hurt our personal integrity. As life’s pressures increase with children, financial & professional challenges, or illness, the dysfunctions in the relationship appear even more clearly. The relationship acts as a magnifying glass for our traumas, and our own shortcomings. The only solution is to be introspective, evolve, improve and grow in self-love and self-awareness. Then we will be able to transform our relationship or attract a new one that feels good.

Read part II

Multiplicity and finding one’s way home towards integration

We are a multiplicity of selves

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I was looking to go to the movies recently with a friend, and I noticed that all movie theaters were playing the latest Captain Marvel movie. A reason why this type of movies attracts such big crowds is because most of us have a powerless inner child that we have buried. Super heroes movies are an enjoyable fantasy for our powerless young selves. This is how it works. We come to this plane of existence as a divine child with no limitation, and no negative imprints. But because of our previous karma, our soul may have decided to come into a family and society environment that is challenging (to say the least for some of us). Our soul has not made the decision to punish us because we are bad. It simply wants us to learn love, joy, faith, celebration, compassion or any other higher vibrational states by first experiencing its opposite. Our soul will then select an environment with a negative imprint that we are meant to transform, and our life purpose is typically the opposite vibration of this negative imprint. This is how our inner child finds itself initially in a traumatic environment. From this place of darkness, a new desire is born, and the first split occurs.

Child playing super heroe

As a baby, we are completely dependent on our primary caregivers. If they are not able to meet our physical and emotional needs, there is very little we can do besides crying or being sick to signal them something is not quite right. It is a very powerless state. In order to survive, we need to adapt to our environment and figure out which strategies will help us best meet our needs and feel the love we are desperately starving for. This process is mostly unconscious. It could be crying, developing an ailment, being quiet, being funny, ignoring one’s needs to the benefit of others (common in big families), being angry, becoming the golden child, not bothering the parents and staying alone, and so on, so forth… When we start going to school, the same process occurs but this time with peers and authority figures such as teachers. So by the time we have become adults, we have already created a whole arborescence of different personalities, and aspects of the selves that live within us. They were all born from the same process of desire and splitting. Some of these parts are repressed in the subconscious while others live in the conscious mind.  These parts may or may not be conscious of each other. These parts may be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual in nature. As a result, all of us are a multiplicity of personalities.

For example, one part may decide to wake up at 6 AM the next morning to go to the gym and start shedding these extra pounds. Unfortunately, when the alarm clock rings the next morning, there is another part that just wants to rest and it shuts off the alarm clock. As a result, we stay in bed until 7:30 AM, the time to get to work in a hurry. Or while we are at a conference, we find this girl super attractive and we decide to talk to her. She is talking with other people. As we come closer, another inner part of us jumps in. It tells us we do not have the time, that she is not that attractive after all, that she is busy with other people, that she will not be interested in us anyway, that she is probably with another guy. So we change our mind and we do not talk to her. This part was probably connected with a fragile aspect of us that got hurt through rejection. The list is endless and this is why we have so much difficulty manifesting a life that feels good. Our parts are constantly fighting each other, having contradictory opinions, sabotaging each other. Basically, it just feels like the US congress 🙂

If we had a traumatic childhood, our state of multiplicity and inner division is often a source of intense suffering. We may have repressed angry, desperate, lonely, suicidal, or bitter parts. They may show up uninvited under pressure or with our intimate partner. Because we have not done the work of inner integration, we are like a big overpopulated house where anarchy reigns. The person in that house with the most energy at a given moment takes control, but then may be replaced with someone else with completely different ideas. In that house, everyone is leaving a mess, it is a cacophony where no one can hear each other, where there is little concern for other house members and actions are only taken when survival is at stake. There are some good people there but they feel powerless to get anyone to listen to them.

Mob representing the different aspects within the self

Whether we are aware of this or not, we have the desire for better integration and this playground that we call life is simply a perfect reflection of our inner parts and how they interact with each other. It takes immense bravery to see that all the close people in our life are a perfect mirror of our internal parts. How is that possible? How could this authoritarian boss, this crazy ex wife, these rude teenagers, this friend that just betrayed us be all a part of me? They are everything what we cannot stand, and want to push away because they hurt us. Yes, this is why they represent parts of us that are repressed because they were deemed unacceptable by the conscious mind. But they keep manifesting in our physical reality to torment us because they are desperate to come into the light of awareness too. Our soul always attempts to bring light into darkness, or awareness into unconsciousness so this is why these hidden aspects keep manifesting externally. This is why someone on the spiritual path will look inwardly when s/he is triggered. They know that this is an opportunity to heal by bringing a repressed hurt aspect of their past into the light of consciousness for integration.

The first important thing to realize is that we can work on our own internal parts with the way we treat people. So working with other people to develop more collaborative, loving, harmonious relationships is doing the same internally with our own inner parts. This is one of the big secrets of life. This is why the quality of our life is first the quality of our relationships. Our relationships never lie and act as the most accurate mirror of our internal world. So the more strongly we feel about a person (whether positive or negative), the closer mirror s/he is. People we dislike represent aspects of us that we repress and people we like or admire represent aspects of us that we want to develop. Someone in your acquaintances may attract a lot of attention, but you may be mostly indifferent to him/her. This means that s/he is not presently mirroring you so you are ignoring it because this is not important for your personal growth. People that used to be very important to our life may disappear naturally as we keep changing and evolving. And because we live in an efficient universe, many of our immediate relationships would be typically close mirrors of our inner parts, and the relationships that do not provide this mirroring would eventually fade away from our life.

Osho's quote about relationship mirrors

There are people working in highly hierarchical and even dictatorial organizations. It means they may have one or more internal parts that are tyrannizing the rest of them. Most healers are wounded healers because they are healing their parts by healing other people. You will actually not find a healer without a traumatic childhood. The judges and lawyers are people with many critical parts that they need to constantly punish or save. The engineer thinks that his parts have a problem and needs fixing. The professions we have chosen are a very good indicator of our inner world. When a professional occupation ceases to be interesting, it means that it has stopped to be a good mirror to our inner world. Life is not what it appears to be. Many professions that are seen as successful and well paid are actually reflective of deep inner torment such as judges and lawyers. A doctor that sees sick people all day long is not in a much better place. This statement should not be perceived as a judgment. In order to be happy, we need to feel we are growing and healing and these environments are very rewarding so some people.

Judge

There are often two sides to these professions. From a karmic standpoint, a policeman is often someone who graduated from being a criminal (same as a criminal lawyer), a doctor from being a patient, a psychiatrist from someone with mental health concerns, a spiritual leader from a follower, a victim from being a perpetrator. The soul desires to understand both sides of the perspective. Actually, it is well documented that many of the Nazi officers during WWII developed very serious mental illnesses.  As they followed orders and killed their stated enemies, they were killing aspects of them at the same time. Scholars also speculate that Hitler suffered from schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, syphilis, severe headaches, dizziness, insomnia, monorchism and Parkinson’s disease. So was Hitler the most powerful man on earth in 1941 or the most powerless one?

Let me repeat this very important shortcut for your spiritual growth. By working on external relationships, we work on ourselves. The hardest reflection is often our own children. For example, a conservative and righteous Christian father with a gay son is often indicative of his own homosexual desires that he had to repress earlier on to fit society model. A fearful ex wife doing protective gatekeeping with her children may prevent at all cost any contact between the father and their children. To be a mirror of this situation, the alienated father may have a strong protector personality that may have shut down his own hurt traumatized inner children in order to survive his own childhood. It is interesting to look at the challenges that children are facing, and how this may just be the reflection of aspects that one or both parents may have repressed.

Many people want fame but to become a star, one needs to be or become a reflector. Basically, s/he needs to project a persona that most people can identify with. A famous person is someone that can mirror the parts of millions of people. Ideally, this star is able to mirror a positive potential to inspire people such as Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Roger Federer, the Dalaï Lama or Jackie Chan. But otherwise, one can become just as famous by projecting the repressed darker parts of the collective. Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s political advisor, knew that very well when he said “it’s better to be infamous than never be famous at all. And, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. Fame, however, is a double-edged sword. If fame does not come as a natural consequence of who you are as a person from your core, then it is easy to get lost in the process of being famous and appealing to the masses. The projections of these millions of people will destroy the famous person who is desperately looking for that attention to have a sense of self. This is the paradox: to be famous and stay mentally healthy at the same time, it is critical to be unattached to fame.

Taylor Swift in concert

From my perspective, kindness is an underrated quality in our society however we all know that being kind and helpful makes us feel better about ourselves even (or especially) when we do not get anything in exchange. Kindness creates safety, trust, and positive relationships within us too. Loving-kindness is therefore one of the most effective approach towards true integration and this is why so many spiritual practices include it. This is the platform on which the most sustainable collective organizations are built. It is also the most effective way to share constructive feedback with someone. If someone feels shamed, judged or criticized, his or her ego will reject the observation as an attempt for self-preservation. However, it is true that kindness needs to be balanced with firmness so that other people or inner parts may not abuse it.

The kindness of children

So if life continues to mirror our inner world to help us grow and heal, what is our ultimate destination?  As we experience life in an introspective way, we learn to recognize what feels the best. What feels the best simply resonates at a higher frequency. We are naturally compelled to look for higher vibrational experiences, emotions & relationships. David Hawkins in Power vs Force made his own hierarchy of emotions and every individual need to feel it, experience it within themselves and build their own graph.

Power vs Force emotions ranking from David Hawkins

Theory without experience is counter-productive. The more wisdom we acquire, the more we are able to affect our reality in a positive way. When we have nothing more to learn from this hologram-based reality, which means when we have integrated all aspects of the self, shadow and light, our spirit graduates to another world or dimension to continue its progression towards oneness because evolution is infinite. Awakening is nothing else than the integration of all of our parts. First by becoming conscious of them and then making them work harmoniously with each other.