Daffodils are in full bloom now....
Another name for Daffodil is Narcissus which derived its name from Greek mythology. The story goes that the young man, Narcissus, lost awareness of himself and fell in love with his reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away for it, which, of course, was not real. The flower that grew up in the spot where he died was named after him. Narcissism--"a mental disorder characterized by extreme self-absorption"--is another word that comes from this mythological story.
Alan Cohen feels the story about Narcissus has a deeper implication than one of vanity, though. He says, "All that we see are reflections, or mirror images of our own self" because in essence we are all one. When we react negatively to people it's because we are seeing ourselves in them, and therefore "have been mesmerized by our own reflections, like Narcissus." He goes on to say, "Most of the time, the trait against which we are reacting to in another is something within ourselves that we do not accept." Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst, called it the "Shadow." It's where we project onto others what we do not want to see in ourselves. Cohen says that anytime we create separation between ourselves and others by thinking in terms of 'us' and 'them' and 'good guys' and 'bad guys' there is a shadow." He has found a sure-fire method to help him to quit passing judgment on other people or feel annoyed by their actions. He says he asks himself, "Do I do that myself?" and the answer is always "Yes."
The way to get rid of this shadow is to accept that part of ourselves which we do not like. You'll quit being irritated with the other person which will greatly improve your relationship with them. I think for myself, even though I've known about this phenomena for a long time, I find myself getting irritated anyway because the encounter makes me see that trait in myself that I don't like. If they would just behave perfectly, then I can feel OK about myself! This shows me I have not accepted that facet of myself or have not wanted to do the work to become what I want to become. Cohen says this is why reform movements always fail. The people who "wage them are only reacting to an aspect of themselves." The only way you can truly change another is to change yourself.
Cohen says this can also be applied to people we admire. Cohen calls this the "white shadow." It's where you idolize someone and thereby feel inferior and wish to be like them. Cohen says when you do this you are denying your own value and gifts.
Jesus spoke to this when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to do unto others as we'd want to be done unto. What He is saying is when you love and accept yourself you are loving and accepting others at the same time, and by loving them you are reflecting back to them the love they are capable of ("All that we see are reflections, or mirror images of our own self"). We all experience this sense of well-being when we are around confident, caring people. It's because they are comfortable with who they are and thereby able to see and respond to others.
This whole concept was brought home to me this morning while I was reading scripture. It wasn't the scripture itself, but what I found myself doing while reading it--my mind started wandering, and I started thinking about the novel I'd been reading the night before. When I realized I was doing this I heard in my head "It's only a story, Cathy" meaning that I shouldn't get so caught up in the novel that it distracts me from being present in what I was doing since the story wasn't real. Later when I read the chapter in Cohen's book I realized that what happens in life is also "only a story". My story--my experiences--often distracts me from being present in my own life because I get caught up in defending myself and needing to be right because I've labeled them "me" and "them" by separating myself. I'm no longer observing the people around me, but instead am absorbed in my own reflection, like Narcissus. Reality is "the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined." If I'm to be real I must claim who I am. If people don't like that, it's because they are seeing themselves in me and it's themselves they don't like. Sometimes we don't even realize we have that particular trait because we are so deep into denial about it.
I feel Cohen wraps it all up very neatly with this statement, "Our purpose in life is to make the unconscious conscious, and to grow into loving it all." When Jesus paid the price for our sin, He made the Way for us to cleanse our consciences so that guilt no longer separates us from God. We are all one now, in Him. And as we grow into this new awareness with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will find the peace denied so long to us. Those who have not found it are pining away.
Father, I want to be love because that is the only thing that is real. Everything else is just a story.
Link to scripture: 1 Timothy 6:19