I'm a firm believer in mirrors. That is to say, I believe that people 'mirror' back at us. And vice versa. That is, if we're not acutely conscious of our behaviors, our feelings and/or our responses. When someone throws a bunch of crap at you, one of two things may be happening:
They're projecting their own issues
They're projecting your emotional reactions to their issues
Okay. It's quite possible there's more going on, but for the sake of simplicity, let's just roll with this for now. Here's the scenario:
Sister calls up to get some ease; she's had a huge fight with one of her closest friends. This friend has some kind of issue with the man she's chosen for her lover. But rather than take up his issues with her lover, he's constantly talking shit about said lover to her. He will not confront the man himself as he is quite the Passive/Aggressive type. In her words: "he's too chicken-shit to talk to my lover. He'd rather whine to me about him. And I HATE it!"
So she's telling me the story, in great detail, and I can feel her angst growing. The more detail she gives, the more the angst rises. Until, finally, I interrupt her and say, "Are you breathing?"
This makes her laugh (it always does, which is why I ask) and then she says, "I'm just so tired of hearing it. I'm so tired of his judgments and his criticisms and his cowardly behavior. I just don't know what to do about it."
Door is now open.
To give a little background: Sister has always been quite judgmental herself. More recently she has begun to 'see' this and head it off at the path before it gets outta control. She's doing quite a good job at it too. But what she hasn't yet seen is that even though she isn't making those judgments aloud, she's still making them. She notices things about everybody around her, and takes little mental notes. Then when the moment is "right", she'll shoot that stuff out with the force of a .45 caliber. Not pretty. Not easy to watch. And certainly not to her benefit. But....she's trying.
So now the door is open and I have a choice to make. Do I tell her what I 'feel' about all this or do I prompt her to look with different eyes? Let her figure it out or give it to her 'straight'?
I choose to "prompt". I start asking all kinds of questions that I think will lead her 'round to figuring it out. This works well with her because she's as stubborn a little cuss as I am. We do NOT like to be told what to do. We like the process of working it out ourselves.
After a very short while, she suddenly has her "WOW" moment. She sees what I'm seeing, and says, "I never looked at it that way. I always just assume it's their shit, not mine. The more I judge, the more I am judged. Gee. What a concept."
Together we laugh long and loud. We giggle over the simplicity of it all. We congratulate each other for being so brilliant. More laughter. More ease. More breathing. The angst she had grown so large is completely gone. The resentment toward her friend is gone. The fear she would not speak about comes to the fore...and she sees it for what it is. She sees her judgments of others as the judgments she refuses to make on herself. I remind her that ANY judgment, whether it is of someone else or of Self, serves very little good. Judgments are best used for things like the food we eat. Does it taste good? Yep. Good. Well...eat it! Other than that, I see judgments as a means to mask our own fear. A way to hide behind what everybody else is doing "wrong" so we don't have to go stand in the mirror and see who WE are. For some people, that's just wayyyyy too scary a prospect. But, if we will muster the courage to do it, to stand there and really look at ourselves, (with great kindness, NOT with a critical eye) we can peel away the layers of junk we've built around ourselves and unveil the beauty that is "Me".
I say let go the judgments. Let go the criticisms. Let go worrying about who thinks what about us. True freedom comes when we see our authentic Self and love that Self, flaws and all. What anyone else "thinks" has no merit whatsoever. As a wise man once said:
"What anybody else thinks about me is none of my business."