Happiness Lies in the Law of the Mirror

25th May 2015

John Maxwell’s Law of the Mirror suggests that what we like or dislike in others is really a reflection of ourselves. We’ll only find contentment within us. Isn’t it empowering to think that our happiness doesn’t depend upon others?

This Mirror Law may provide valuable tools if you’re looking for relationship solutions. It can help you to better understand and relate to family members, friends and colleagues. Let’s have a look at its basic tenets.

What’s bothering you?

No matter how even-tempered you are, there will be things that get under your skin. Maybe your father-in-law is a know-it-all or your partner always has to have the last word. Do you feel undervalued and unappreciated by your parents or workmates? Perhaps you feel as though your friends take advantage of your sympathetic nature. Everyone’s problems are different and many of us expect others to act in a certain way or feel the way that we do. We can feel let down and disappointed when they don’t. Compounding things is the idea that we’re also probably letting others down with our behaviour but we’re just as oblivious as those who are doing it to us.

To try to create more self-awareness, this first exercise proposes that you list everything that bothers you – large or small – about the people around you.

List of problems

Things about you that annoy others

So now the shoe’s on the other foot. It’s time to make a list of the things that you do or the habits that you have that might irritate other people – or may have done so in the past. Honesty is the best policy. You’ll need to delve deeply and be both sincere and self-critical. As a mere mortal (and a human being), you’re not perfect. Who is? Sometimes, your perceived imperfections turn out to be strengths. You’re no different to anyone else and we’ve all made mistakes. It’s helpful to acknowledge this, but it’s also vital to remember to be empathetic. Put yourself in someone else’s place and try to feel as the other person might.

The Law of the Mirror says…

Maxwell’s Law tells us that your negative feelings towards someone else are often based on how you see yourself and what lies in your own heart. They’re very rarely rooted in someone else’s behaviour. For instance, it may be that when you’re feeling affronted or offended by someone’s remarks to you, it’s likely that you’ve offended someone in that way. Chances are, it’s not the person who’s caused offence to you, but think about who else it might have been. The trick learning to realise – and avoid – repeating these patterns so that you might stop offending others. It’s helpful, as well, to bear in mind that no two people will react the same way to the very same set of circumstances. That’s because we’re all different!

Practically perfect

For the purposes of this exercise, choose two people who really grind your gears, offend you, anger you or hurt your feelings. Make a list of reasons you’d like to thank them. Think of times that this behaviour of theirs has surprised or even annoyed you. It will require some effort, but the end result is so very worth it. As you ponder why you’d possibly want to thank them, instances will surface. You’ll begin to remember times when they’ve really helped you or someone you love out of a bit of a pickle. Details will emerge about a situation in your life when their presence was beneficial. Take your time. It’s important that you give this task the attention and focus that it merits.

Once you’ve got your list, it’s time for something even more tricky. Draw up a list of the things for which you’d like to ask their forgiveness. These can be minor or major. Maybe you smirked at them once or told tales about them behind their backs. Perhaps you spoke rashly or forgot to thank them for services rendered. It can be anything like this, really. Be honest with yourself and let your humility guide you. This will take you to the third part of this exercise – the bit where your emotional bravery will be put to the test.

Now it’s time to get in touch with that person either in person, by telephone or through the written word. When you do, give them your thanks for all the things you’ve listed and then ask their forgiveness for the things on your second list.

Telephone call

The results are in!

Though the previous exercise may feel awkward or absurd, try not to let your pride stand in the way of its liberating potential. You might have these niggling thoughts that you’re the one who deserves thanks or forgiveness, but try to let those go. Once you’ve pushed through the fear, you’ll see some awe-inspiring results. The people you contact won’t be expecting such kindness and they’re likely to be excited, reciprocal – and just possibly a bit overwhelmed.

The who, what and where

The beauty of the Law of the Mirror is that it can be put into practice whenever you like and you can try the exercises with whomever you wish. They’re practical and are almost always guaranteed to pleasantly surprise you. If you can surmount the hurdles of your emotional pain, you’ll find the tasks easier to do – especially if there are several people with whom you’d like to have healthier relationships. All in all, it’s more than worth it to try if you want to mend a harmful situation or overcome a troublesome situation.

Photos courtesy of kiwanja and M Car.
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